February 21, 2017

NY governor signs bill blocking plastic bag fees

17 February 2017, 06:22 | Winifred Adams

Governor's Office

Cuomo “Leads The Way” on NYC's Plastic Bag Issue By Delaying It For A Year

New York City's plan to put a 5-cent fee on plastic and paper carryout bags is officially over - for now at least - after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation February 14 to block the city's action.

Cuomo said he was most concerned with the fact that city merchants would keep the 5 cents charged to consumers.

A joint statement from Chin and Councilman Brad Lander was more resigned: "We fought plastic bags, and for now, plastic bags won", they wrote, riffing off a lyric from the Bobby Fuller Four, further popularized by The Clash.

The bill signed by Cuomo "has set a unsafe precedent that local solutions to local environmental issues will be overturned in Albany", said state Sen.

Left unsaid was that even though the state did not receive unredeemed nickel deposits, the law made NY cleaner for decades by providing a financial incentive to recycle bottles and cans. Since the bill's passage, the State Legislature moved swiftly and overwhelmingly to impose a moratorium on that local law, with a total of 165 members voting in support and 32 against.

The pair noted that a number of other cities across the country and across the planet have passed similar laws, and that New York City's statute would exempt people on public assistance from the extra impost. But earlier this month, both the state Senate and Assembly approved legislation aimed at stopping the city.

The city tears through nearly 10 billion bags a year, which end up in landfills and oceans, get stuck in storm drains and trees, and serve as a painful reminder of our capacity for unnecessary waste. "We asked the state to give us the authorization, the state failed to", Lander told Gothamist.

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The central issue, according to the missive, which historians will refer to as Cuomo's Gettysbag Address, is that the five cent fee was meant to be returned to retailers.

Third, the governor's decision ensures that billions more plastic bags will end up in landfills as well as oceans, rivers, streets, trees, sewage-treatment plants and other unwelcome places while he undertakes his promised quest to pass a better bill. It allowed a windfall to retailers initiating the deposit, costing the State roughly $1.6 billion in revenue. "We should not repeat that mistake". "Not only is it bad for the environment, it's litter".

Cuomo said he'll form a statewide task force to come up with a plan for addressing the "plastic bag problem". The annual legislative session ends in June.

(Directing a fee toward a government entity is longhand for taxation and the City Council is not empowered to levy taxes without state approval).

Unlike a bill that stalled past year, the bill signed by Cuomo only applies to New York City - not to similar fees approved by other municipalities. "If the Legislature is unable or unwilling to tackle the unprecedented environmental challenges we face, they should at least get out of the way so local people can solve their own problems". It was the only close vote since it passed a road-pricing measure in 2008.

New York City's forward-thinking plan to slash the tons of disposable bags dumped weekly into its landfill has been derailed by the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "While it's been an open secret that Gov. Cuomo did not want to deal with this legislation, as the state's chief executive, he has the opportunity and, now, the responsibility to lead".

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