Earlier this week, New York State Senator John Flanagan (R-Smithown, Current President and Majority Leader) introduced a bill (#6717) in the Senate Rules Committee that would void the 2016 Suffolk County legislation enacted to address the plastic bag problem. The Suffolk County law, which was crafted with broad stakeholder input and bipartisan support, imposed a 5-cent fee on plastic bags in an effort to curb their use and reduce the proliferation and negative impacts in the natural environment. Similar fees have produced well-documented bag use reductions in other parts of the country and around the world. Please call or write Senator Flanagan and urge him to withdraw his ill-conceived bill. Contact information below:
Senator John J. Flanagan
- Mail: 260 Middle Country Road, Suite 102, Smithtown, NY, 11787
- Phone: 631-361-2154
Seatuck's June 16, 2017 letter to Senator Flanagan is below.
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Re: Senate Bill #6717
Dear Senator Flanagan:
On behalf of the members of the Seatuck Environmenal Association, I am writing to express our dismay at the recent introduction of Senate Bill #6717, which seeks to block a Suffolk County law limiting the environmental damage caused by single-use plastic bags. We find the bill troubling and misguided on several levels, and strongly oppose this ill-conceived proposal.
First and foremost, the assertion in the bill that the Suffolk County law “fails to address any environmental concerns” is plainly wrong. The adverse environmental effects caused by plastic bags are well known. From the devastating impacts to turtles, mammals, fish and birds that inadvertently consume whole bags (thinking they’re sea jellies), to the countless species that take in the increasingly small, even microscopic, pieces of the bags (sunlight breaks down the polyethylene bags through photodegredation), scientists are only beginning to comprehend the full extent of the damage that these and other plastic products are causing to our wildlife and environment (see, “Sources, Fates and Effects of Microplastics in the Marine Environment - A Global Assessment”, Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), 2015). Certainly this threat must be taken very seriously in Suffolk County where – from fishing to recreation to tourism – our economy and quality of life are heavily dependent on the health and vitality of our marine waters and coastal ecosystem.
The recently enacted Suffolk County law will reduce the use of the bags by as much as two-thirds. This estimate is based on well-documented results from similar laws enacted in the United States and in other countries. The direct result of reducing the input of bags into the stream of commerce is, simply, that fewer bags will find their way into the natural environment. Reducing the proliferation of plastic bags in Suffolk County’s forests, streams and bays produces a direct and tangible benefit to wildlife and the health of our coastal ecosystem. In this way, the law directly and effectively addresses a significant “environmental concern.”
Second, the Suffolk County law imposing a fee on the use of plastic bags was broadly supported by the people of the County. The legislation, which was carefully crafted with input from a wide range of stakeholders, enjoyed broad, bipartisan support in the Suffolk County Legislature and passed by a wide margin. It was signed into law by County Executive Steve Bellone without protest or controversy. It would be a brazen overreach of authority, in our opinion, for the state to now override the will of the people of Suffolk County, expressed through the local legislative process, by enacting the proposed bill.
Finally, the fact that New York State blocked the enactment of similar legislation in New York City and established a Statewide Task Force to consider measures to reduce the use of plastic bags should not undermine a validly established law in another jurisdiction. If the task force eventually develops and proposes a statewide measure that addresses the plastic bag problem (we understand only one meeting has been held to date) and such a proposal is successfully enacted into law, then the Suffolk County measure can be easily repealed and superseded. While the fact that a Statewide Task Force has been established highlights the importance of the plastic bag problem, it should not stop the important and meaningful progress that Suffolk County is poised to make towards a solution. Suffolk County has a long, proud history of leading on environmental issues – from DDT to bottle recycling, it has often acted first and paved the way for statewide legislation. Its effort now to once again lead New York State forward on an important conservation matter should be celebrated and embraced, not thwarted.
For these and other reasons, we strongly urge you to withdrawal Senate Bill #6717 and allow Suffolk County to implement the reasonable and effective measure it enacted to address the threat from plastic bags.
Very truly yours,
Enrico Nardone & John Turner
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Photo, Bags at Dawn, by Jonathan Kos-Read, 2015 All Rights Reserved