Press Releases

Governor Cuomo Signs Mercury Pollution Prevention Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 20, 2013

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: 

Laura Haight (NYPIRG) lhaight@nypirg.org; (518) 588-5481
Dan Hendrick (NYLCV) dhendrick@nylcv.org; (917) 207-8715
Travis Proulx (EANY) tproulx@eany.org; (518) 462-5526 x238
Kathy Curtis (CHNY) Kathy@cleanhealthyny.org; (518) 708-3922
John Sheehan (Adirondack Council) jsheehan@adirondackcouncil.org; (518) 441-1340
Sarah Eckel (CCE), seckel@citizenscampaign.org; (518) 339-2853

(ALBANY, NY) Environmental groups and recycling advocates praised Governor Andrew M. Cuomo for signing the Mercury Thermostat Collection Act into law this week.

This legislation (S.1676A/A.8084), which was sponsored by Senator Mark Grisanti and Assemblyman Bob Sweeney, will require thermostat manufacturers to collect and safely dispose of mercury-containing thermostats, a major source of mercury in the waste stream. 

“This is one of the most significant environmental laws enacted this year in New York,” said Laura Haight, Senior Environmental Associate at the New York Public Interest Research Group.  “Over the years, New York has taken great strides to reduce mercury pollution.  This law addresses one of the largest remaining sources of mercury pollution in New York, the hundreds of thousands of mercury-containing thermostats that are discarded each year.  We applaud Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation and look forward to working with the Department of Environmental Conservation to develop the most effective collection program possible.”

“The Mercury Thermostat Collection Act is another example of how Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation will provide financial relief to local governments, while providing greater environmental protection for New York’s land, water and air resources,” said Andrew Radin, Chair of the New York Product Stewardship Council.

“Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for enacting one of our top legislative priorities of 2014,” said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “This new law will reduce the amount of dangerous mercury in our land, air and water, and will help get New York families and our environment out of harm’s way. This victory has been many years in the making, and we would like to salute state lawmakers, our environmental partners and the many New Yorkers who made this a priority and helped get this law over the finish line.”

“Mercury is toxic – something we’ve known for years. It causes human health and environmental harm and when products containing mercury are not disposed of properly, this potent toxin can leach into ground and surface water supplies. As a result, manufacturers of thermostats that contain mercury should work with New Yorkers to keep it out of our waste stream,” said Saima Anjam of Environmental Advocates of New York. “As New York homeowners switch to newer thermostats, the need for safe disposal increases. Environmental Advocates applauds Governor Cuomo, Assemblyman Sweeney and Senator Grisanti for crafting and enacting this new program.”

“Not only does mercury have a profound effect on the environment, but it also causes severe damage to public health, especially in developing babies and children,” said Kathy Curtis, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York. “We must work tirelessly to eliminate every source of toxic mercury exposure we can, and Governor Cuomo has shown real leadership by signing this bill into law.”

“Mercury pollution makes fish unsafe to eat, and impairs children’s ability to walk, talk, and learn,” said Sarah Eckel, Legislative and Policy Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “By passing legislation to increase safe disposal of mercury thermostats, New York is addressing a significant and lingering source of mercury pollution. CCE commends Governor Cuomo for taking action to protect our environment and public health from dangerous mercury pollution.”

“By signing this bill into law, Governor Cuomo is addressing a significant - and often overlooked - environmental issue in New York,” said Caitlin Pixley, Conservation Associate of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter.  “This law will start to reduce the amount of toxic mercury in our air, water, and natural places.  The Sierra Club applauds the Governor in working to get toxins out of New York's environment.”

“Mercury pollution is a preventable problem that has harmed the Adirondacks and other parts of New York for far too long," said William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council.  “We commend the Governor for signing this legislation.”

“This law addresses several obstacles that prevent the current voluntary collection system from achieving substantial results—namely, the lack of aggressive performance goals and financial incentives,” said Scott Cassel, Chief Executive Officer of the Product Stewardship Institute. “We hope that, with the new system of checks and balances, collection rates in New York will improve as they have following the passage of thermostat stewardship laws in Maine and Vermont.”

“We applaud the Governor signing this bill as it continues New York's national leadership in product recycling and product stewardship,” said Richard Schrader, Political Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“We commend Governor Cuomo for signing this important legislation, and all of the advocates, Senate and Assembly members who championed it,” said Paul Gallay, President and Hudson Riverkeeper. “The dangers of mercury to our waters, aquatic life and public health are well documented, and this bill will be a major step forward in curbing the damage caused by this toxic metal.”

“Since our first grant in 2005, the Multi-State Mercury Products Campaign has made steady progress getting more states to eliminate the market for products containing mercury,” said Pat Jenny, Vice President for Grants at The New York Community Trust.  “This law takes the crucial next step: collecting the products that are out there when they come to the end of their useful life.”

The legislation requires thermostat manufacturers to collect 15,500 thermostats in 2015, and requires the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to establish annual collection goals thereafter.  This measure will put New York in line with other states that have adopted strong mercury thermostat collection laws.  A report released earlier this year showed that with a collection rate of only 1 percent, New York currently ranks 37th in the nation for the collection of discarded mercury thermostats.

While thermostats containing mercury are no longer sold in New York, they pose a serious environmental threat when they are disposed of improperly.  Each year more than a ton of mercury ends up in New York’s landfills and waste combustion facilities from improperly discarded mercury thermostats. This legislation will help create a healthier environment throughout New York State, and reduce potentially harmful mercury impacts on our air, land and water resources.

This legislation is similar to laws adopted in California, Illinois, and Rhode Island, which require the state to develop collection goals for the industry to meet through a rule-making process.  Maine and Vermont, which have the highest per capita collection rates, require thermostat manufacturers to offer a $5 bounty for each mercury thermostat returned.

Environmental and public health groups, together with municipal recycling officials, have been advocating for this legislation in New York since 2010.  Groups supporting this legislation include the Adirondack Council, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Health, Environment & Justice, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Citizens' Environmental Coalition, Clean & Healthy New York, Empire State Consumer Project, Environmental Advocates of New York, Environmental Justice Action Group of Western New York, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, Learning Disabilities Association of New York State, Mercury Policy Project, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, New York League of Conservation Voters, New York Product Stewardship Council, New York Public Interest Research Group, N.Y.S. Association of Reduction, Reuse & Recycling (NYSAR3), New York State United Teachers, Product Stewardship Institute, and the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter.  In addition, New York City and many other local governments called on the State Legislature to adopt a mandatory thermostat collection program.

 

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