Protect the Environment & Public Health

environment
Since its founding in 1976, NYPIRG has been a leading voice in New York State on a wide range of environmental and energy issues. The goal of NYPIRG’s environmental protection campaign is to make New York a global leader in protecting public health from the serious threats of water and air pollution, climate change, and toxic chemical exposure.
*Want to join the fight? Sign up for NYPIRG’s Community Action Network to get informed and get involved! It is through civic action that we can protect the public’s health and New York's natural environment.

Help Fight Climate Change

Climate change is the greatest environmental threat facing the planet. The accumulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is causing extreme weather events, harmful algal blooms, ocean acidification, and rising sea levels. If left unabated, this will have devastating impacts on New York’s economy, infrastructure, public health, coastal areas, and natural ecosystems. Through our Fossil-Free Future Campaign, NYPIRG is fighting for comprehensive policies that will set New York up to lead the charge to combat the climate crisis.
*Visit our climate change webpage to learn more about our work on this critical issue.
environment

Clean Drinking Water for All New Yorkers

The public has the basic right and expectation from government that the water coming from their taps is going to be safe for them to drink. Sadly, New York’s abundant water resources are threatened by aging and crumbling water infrastructure, chemical contamination from industrial sites, and fossil fuel development, transportation, and waste. NYPIRG is advocating for aggressive policies that would stop water contamination crises by protecting drinking water from source to tap.

Fully Funded Water Infrastructure

New York State has some of the oldest water infrastructure in the country, with many pipes over 100 years old. New York has gone decades without properly funding these systems, which has meant billions of gallons of untreated sewage entering our waterways and hundreds of water main breaks annually.
It has been estimated that over the next 20 years, $80 billion will need to be invested to make all of the needed repairs, replacements, and updates to New York’s wastewater and drinking water infrastructure. New York must commit to annual funding that will meet outstanding water infrastructure needs.

Regulate Dangerous Chemicals

There are over 80,000 unregulated chemicals on the market, many without any evidence to prove that they are safe for public health. When chemicals are unregulated, there is a greater chance that they can get into our water – which is exactly what has happened in Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh, Newburgh, and numerous communities on Long Island. New York cannot keep waiting for people to get sick from exposure to dangerous chemicals to take action – this is a vicious cycle that must be broken.
To prevent chemical contamination in water and exposure, New York should:
  • Establish drinking water standards, known as Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs), for contaminants believed to be unsafe for public health and likely to show up in drinking water.
  • Protect land around source water.
  • Regulate or ban the use of dangerous chemicals in products.
*Check out our What’s in My Water? web tool to get information about your local drinking water supply.
environment

Tackling the Solid Waste Crisis

New York is facing a solid waste, toxics, and plastic pollution crisis, which is contributing to climate change and polluting our communities and waterways. A January 2022 international report found that the world is beyond the toxic tipping point. This scientific study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, found that "the total mass of plastics now exceeds the total mass of all living mammals," a clear indication that we've crossed a boundary. Crucially, production of single-use plastics shows no signs of slowing down and has been exponentially increasing. Since 1950, there has been a 50-fold increase in plastic production. This number is expected to triple by 2050. And reliance on plastics is worsening the global climate crisis. Over 99% of plastics are sourced from fossil fuels. The most common source of plastic resin in the United States is natural gas. This means that the more plastic society uses, the longer the fossil fuel industry is kept running.
NYPIRG is working to ensure that New York moves forward with policies that prevent the production of waste and improve successful recycling initiatives.

Solution: Reduce, Reuse & Recycle

New York’s strategy to address solid waste must stress its Waste Hierarchy mandated by law. At the top of the hierarchy is waste reduction, followed by reuse, and then recycling. Echoing this, the state’s Climate Law Scoping Plan calls for a “dramatic shift in the way waste is managed” by 2050. Highlighting the need for a circular economy approach, it stresses the need to reduce waste across the state to end reliance on landfills and incineration. NYPIRG is committed to these guiding principles in our approach to solid waste policy.
New York has taken some steps in the right direction by banning plastic bags and foamed polystyrene, but the work cannot stop there. To address the solid waste crisis, New York should:
  • Require producers of consumer goods to bear responsibility for recycling and disposal of their product’s packaging: A significant contributor to our waste and plastic pollution crisis is that consumer brand-owners are not on the hook to deal with the impact of their product’s packaging. Nearly 30% of the waste stream is packaging, much of it unrecyclable. Product producers have no requirements or incentives to reduce packaging waste, create reusable products, make packaging easier to recycle, or boost market demand by using more recycled content. To deal with this problem, a policy idea called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) requires companies to be financially responsible for mitigating the environmental impacts of their product’s packaging through reduction, recycling, and reuse.
  • Update and expand the state’s highly successful container deposit redemption program, the Bigger Better Bottle Bill: One of the most successful recycling and litter reduction programs in New York is the Container Deposit Law, called the Bigger Better Bottle Bill. As an EPR policy, the Bottle Bill not only ensures that products are recyclable, but also creates the financial incentive to ensure that the containers will be recycled. After its four decades of success, the Bottle Bill should be modernized by expanding the law to include popular non-carbonated beverages, wine, spirits, and hard cider – and by increasing the redeemable deposit value to 10 cents to increase the rate of recovery.
    Modernization of the 40-year-old Bottle Bill will further enhance litter control (most notably in underserved lower income communities), help stimulate recycling efforts, encourage the use of refillable containers, and is a matter of economic justice that will provide badly needed funding for communities that face low redemption rates due to inadequate access to retailers and redemption centers. States with bottle deposit laws have a beverage container recycling rate of around 60%, while non-deposit states only reach about 24%. The national group ReLoop stated in a 2022 report that the Bottle Bill’s expansion and deposit increase to a dime would likely result in a 90% recycling redemption rate.
  • Reduce plastic in the marketplace: New York State should ban rigid polystyrene containers and packaging and adopt “upon request” policies for plastic straws, utensils, and stirrers. Municipalities including New York City have started to pass these laws locally already.
  • Transition the market towards more reusable items.
*Check out our New Yorkers Guide to Fight Plastic Pollution.
NY Legislature approves fourth budget extender  (City & State, April 11, 2024)
Letter: Higher education needs more state funding  (Hudson Valley One, April 10, 2024)
329 New York political candidates are certified for matching public campaign funds  (Spectrum News, April 9, 2024)
With the passage of April 11 extender, solar eclipse triumphs over state budget  (City & State, April 8, 2024)
Will Governor Hochul make the climate polluters pay?  (WAMC, April 8, 2024)
N.Y. lawmakers celebrate eclipse as darkness mars late state budget  (Spectrum News, April 8, 2024)
Capital Region advocates urge passage of Climate Change Superfund Act  (The Daily Gazette, April 3, 2024)
Climate Change Superfund Act: How would it help NY communities dealing with flooding?  (Fingerlakes 1, April 2, 2024)
Another late state budget  (WAMC, April 1, 2024)
Hochul, NYS Legislature deciding who will pay for climate change transition  (Newsday, April 1, 2024)
NYPIRG's Kaylee Evans discussed the Climate Change Superfund Act with Hudson Mohawk Magazine.  (Hudson Mohawk Magazine, April 1, 2024)
Good government groups call for state to reform Judicial Conduct Commission  (Queens Daily Eagle, March 29, 2024)
In New York, state lawmakers eye measures to fight climate change  (WXXI, March 27, 0224)
In crowded race for New York state Assembly’s 109th district, differing approaches to fundraising  (WAMC, March 26, 2024)
Secret lobbying still possible  (WAMC, March 25, 2024)
NY Assembly ethics chair slammed for fundraiser days before budget deadline: ‘What kind of message does it send?’  (NY Post, March 24, 2024)
Environmental coalition backs state senate ‘Climate Polluter Handouts Act’  (Mid-Hudson News, March 22, 2024)
Environmental coalition backs state senate ‘Climate Polluter Handouts Act’  (Mid-Hudson News, March 22, 2024)
N.Y. budget timeline blurs as leaders hover on revenue  (Spectrum News, March21, 2024)
Politico Playbook: Ending Fossil Fuel Tax Breaks  (Politico, March 21, 2024)
News Archive
Release: County & Local Elected Officials Join 180+ Organizations to Urge Governor Hochul & Assembly Speaker Heastie to End $265M of Fossil Fuel Subsidies in the Final NYS Budget
Bill to Gut NYC’s Landmark Climate and Jobs Law Slammed as Real Estate Lobby Attack Begins. Proposed Linda Lee bill would eviscerate Local Law 97, which is creating thousands of local jobs, cutting utility bills, and reducing pollution.
Report and Release: Climate Change Superfund Environmental Justice. $1 Billion Potential Scenario of Annual Allocations by Region and County
Report from NYPIRG and NY Renews – On the Backs of New York State Households: The Extreme Costs of Climate Change Impacts Families in Every Region of the State
NYPIRG and Other Transparency Advocates Urge Legislature and Governor to Strengthen Freedom of Information Law for Sunshine Week
Release: Assembly One-House Budget Bill Shows House Rejected Inclusion of Popular “Make Polluters Pay” Climate Change Superfund Act. Organizations Ask: Why Are the Assembly and Governor Shielding Big Oil Climate Polluters Instead of Protecting NYS Taxpayers?
News Release: Youth, Faith & Environmental Groups Join with Legislators to Call for “Make Polluters Pay” Bill Requiring Big Oil to Fund Climate Crisis Costs to be Included in Senate and Assembly One-House Budgets Also: Check out NYPIRG's New Video Illustrating the Need to Make Corporate Polluters Pay
Video Release: Make Polluters Pay!
NEWS RELEASE: NYPIRG Releases “Small Claims, Small Changes: A Survey of Albany Small Claims Court 45 Years Later”
A NYPIRG report documenting a survey of litigants who participated in cases in the City of Albany Small Claims Court in 2021 shows the challenges facing consumers using the system.
NEWS RELEASE: NYPIRG Reacts to Governor Hochul's Budget Plan

Over 300 Business, Civic, Environmental, and Youth Groups Call on Governor Hochul to Modernize State Returnable Container Law (“Bottle Bill”)

Groups Urge Inclusion in the State Budget Due to Need for Enhanced Enforcement and Immediate Action to Increase Current Redeemed Beverage Container “Handling Fee”

NYPIRG Statement on the Passing of Sidney Wolfe, MD, Founder of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group
Today, a coalition of elected officials, youth leaders, and community organizations led by NYPIRG called on Governor Hochul to include the Climate Change Superfund Act in her upcoming budget. The Climate Superfund assesses the largest oil companies for the state's mounting climate-related expenses and does so in a way that protects the public from increased costs.
RELEASE: Another Storm, More Costs to NY Taxpayers: Will Governor Hochul Make Big Oil Pay? A coalition of groups today called on Governor Hochul to make the oil companies pick up the tab for the costs of NY's climate damages after another deadly storm that caused widespread damage to New York State.
NYPIRG and a coalition of environmental organizations and local elected officials today released a review of the climate costs facing New York City and called on Governor Hochul to make the biggest oil companies – not local taxpayers – pay to cover climate damages
NYPIRG Celebrated Its Five Decades of Victories and College Student Empowerment
Author and Activist Jane Fonda, Community Service Society’s David Jones, State Senator Liz Krueger, U.S. Sen. Schumer’s State Director Martin Brennan, and New Deal Strategies’ Camille Rivera Received NYPIRG's “changemaker” Awards
Climate Superfund News Conferences: Taxpayer Tally of Climate Costs Since 8/2022 is $2.7 Billion
NYPIRG Statement on the Death of Ryan Thoresen Carson
The biblical rains that are devastating parts of the state are fresh evidence that the costs of adapting New York's infrastructure to the world climate’s "new abnormal" will be staggering. Legislation -- approved by the Senate (S.2129A) -- would require the largest oil companies to help pick up the tab and do it in a manner that will stop them from passing the costs on to consumers. Read NYPIRG's statement on downstate's devastating floods.
Reports & Features Archive