New York Missing Out On Millions In Pollution Penalties

January 12, 2009 at 9:13 pm Leave a comment

Environmental Advocates of New York is calling on Governor David Paterson to amend his budget proposal and stop giving some of the state’s biggest polluters a free ride. The Governor’s Executive Budget for 2009-2010 fails to update the fees polluters are required to pay on regulated air contaminants, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides, or move the burden of paying these fees from New York taxpayers to polluters, as mandated by federal law. And as highlighted in the recent report, $aving Green: Addressing New York’s Fiscal Crisis & Protecting the Environment, tax breaks for dirty bunker fuel cost the state millions of dollars during the past several years. Making polluters pick up the tab for these polluters could save the state tens of millions of dollars next year-money that could be used to protect the state’s primary environmental agency from staff cuts that will endanger New York’s air quality and drinking water.

In a letter submitted to the Governor today, Environmental Advocates calls on Governor Paterson to fix the outdated air pollution fees associated with the Title V Operating Permit Program and repeal tax exemptions on dirty bunker fuel. Outdated fees and caps associated with Title V mean that polluters and taxpayers will continue to share responsibility for supporting regulatory oversight of New York’s air pollution permitting program, counter to the requirements of the Clean Air Act. The group is also asking the Governor to update the air pollution permit program by removing the 6,000 ton cap for which a facility can be billed and by raising the $45 per ton fee on pollution to $80 per ton.

According to data from 2006, by maintaining the 6,000 ton cap New York is not billing polluters for nearly 60,000 tons of the pollution that contributes to acid rain and results in a multi-million dollar giveaway to polluters, including AES Westover in Johnson City, AES Greenidge in Dresden, Dunkirk Steam Generating Station, Lovett Generating Station in Stony Point, Northport Power Station on Long Island, Kodak Park Division in Rochester, LaFarge Building Materials, Inc., in Ravena, and Danskammer Generating Station in Newburgh. Such changes are long overdue-it’s been more than 10 years since New York’s Title V permit fees were updated and doing so could mean up to $12 million in new state revenue.

In a letter sent to legislative leaders last March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expressed concerned that New York’s Title V program fees do not adequately cover the cost of running the program, per the requirements federal law. Failure to update the fees could result in sanctions that include loss of the state’s authority to run the program, or monetary sanctions that could hurt New York as the federal economic stimulus package is being discussed.

“Making polluters pay will generate new resources while reinforcing the state’s clean air goals. And discouraging pollution by taxing dirty bunker fuel will net New York millions in new, clean money that could help protect air and water quality statewide,” said Alison Jenkins, Fiscal Policy Program Director, Environmental Advocates of New York.

Under current state law, sales of bunker fuel, a leftover sludge fuel that powers cargo ships and is responsible for 43 percent of port-area air pollution, are tax exempt. Burning this fuel releases harmful gases including sulfate particles, primary particulate matter, sulfur dioxide-one of the main contributors to acid rain-and nitrogen oxides-one of the key contributors to smog. These pollutants are linked to health problems such as asthma, and according to Environmental Advocates’ research, New York’s bunker fuel sales are on the rise, even while other states have made efforts to reduce its use to decrease pollution. Environmental Advocates is calling on the Governor to repeal the bunker fuel tax exemption.

By fixing his Executive Budget Proposal, the Governor could help protect the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) budget and maintain critical programs that safeguard New Yorkers across the state. As the result of the hiring freeze, the agency has lost 241 staff and will continue to struggle to meet its core mission.

For example, this year New York State is subject to new federal air quality requirements such as the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Regulatory requirements like these are resource intensive and will add to staff workloads at the DEC where capacity is already stretched thin. For more information, or to access the complete $aving Green report, visit www.eany.org.

Environmental Advocates of New York is the state’s government watchdog, holding lawmakers and agencies accountable for implementing policy that protects natural resources and safeguards public health. Environmental Advocates works alone and in coalitions, and has more than 7,000 individual and 130 organizational members. The 501(c)(3) is also the New York affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation. For more information call 518.462.5526 or visit www.eany.org.

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80-year-old lobster from local restuarant heading back to the ocean World War II vessel was donated for use as a floating museum

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