Friday, January 29, 2016

AAEA Presents Testimony At EJ Bill Hearing Before New York City Council

          AAEA President Norris McDonald testified before the New York City Council Committee on Environmental Protection on Thursday, January 28, 2015.  According to committee Chairman Costa Constantinides, it was the first time in the history of the committee that someone testified by Skype [McDonald was in California].

McDonald drafted the Environmental Justice Bill for Councilman Charles Barron in 2003 and Councilmember Charles Barron introduced the bill (Int. No. 404) in 2004 with seven cosponsors.  After meeting with Councilwoman Inez Barron in 2014 to request re-introduction of the legislation and after much review and revisions by the Committee on Environmental Protection, Councilwoman Barron introduced the legislation that we are considering today.  The legislation has 37 cosponsors.

Inez Barron & Charles Barron

The New York EJ legislation is patterned after a national EJ bill I drafted that we still need to get passed in the U.S. Congress.  AAEA formed the Environmental Justice Coalition to work for the passage of the national legislation.  The national bill, New York bill, Maryland bill and Mt. Vernon bill are listed in the Environmental Justice Coalition blog.[1]

Costa Constantinides

The Bills

Int. No. 886, sponsored by Councilwoman Inez Barron, is a local law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to identifying and addressing environmental justice issues. Int. No. 886 sets up an interagency task force to develop agency-wide plans to assure that environmental justice in incorporated into the planning and implementation of agency duties. The legislation also creates an associated environmental justice advisory board, reflecting geographic balance, comprised of pertinent committee chairs or their designees, appointments from environmental justice community boards health or environmental committees, at least seven appointees who are directors, members or employees of environmental justice organizations and at least two appointees who are directors, members or employees of organizations engaged in research related to human health.

Int. No. 359, sponsored by Environmental Protection Committee Chairman Costa Constantinides, is a local law to amend the New York City charter and the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to requiring a study of potential environmental justice communities in New York City and the publication of the results of such study on the city’s website. Int. No. 359 calls for a study of potential Environmental Justice communities in New York City, an identification of pollution sources, recommendations to mitigate adverse environmental impacts and a publication of the results of the study on the City’s website.


AAEA supports both bills and McDonald provided specific recommendations that would improve the legislation.  Although we like the Environmental Working Group and the Advisory Board provisions of Int. No. 886, the bill needs additional protections for vulnerable communities.  The additional protections from our national legislation that should be included in Int. No. 886, include:

Providing a citizen lawsuit provision to allow potential victims of environmental race discrimination to enforce the EJA and the regulations promulgated thereunder.

Providing a citizen endorsement provision to allow potential beneficiaries of nonpolluting economic development to enforce the EJA and the regulations promulgated thereunder.

Establishing the criteria for determining potential violations and endorsements based on comparative community health statistics, comparative community pollution sources and comparative community economic development.

Addressing: acts of discrimination and investigating all community complaints and recommendations related to development projects, whether filed before or after issuance of construction and operating permits.

Empowering citizens, and DEP at the request of citizens, to obtain injunctions to prevent construction and operation of discriminatory polluting facilities and operations that violate the EJA regulations.

Empowering citizens, and DEP at the request of citizens, to endorse the construction and operation of nondiscriminatory nonpolluting facilities and operations that do not violate EJA regulations.

Providing a definitive permitting process regarding demographics for citizens, developers, government agencies and investors.

Directing the DEP to develop EJA regulations.

Int. No. 359 should include types and amounts of pollution at the sources called for by the bill.  AAEA produced pollution studies[2] for Washington, DC that included types and amounts of pollution at each facility listed as an emitter.  It will be very helpful to affected citizens to have this sort of information at their disposal.

AAEA Testimony

Committee Report

Committee Hearing Video

[2] Our Unfair Share 3: Race and Pollution In Washington, DC, 2000,

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