United States: New York Environmental Legislation: 2016 In Review

While 2016 did not bring major environmental legislation in New York state, laws were enacted that could have significant impacts in coming years, including a law that allows plaintiffs to bring toxic tort claims in connection with newly designated Superfund sites that might otherwise be barred by existing statutes of limitations. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo also signed laws requiring lead testing of drinking water in schools, establishing a task force to study ocean acidification, and creating a program to fund local climate change mitigation and adaptation projects.

This annual survey reports on these developments and other environmental laws enacted in 2016.

Toxic Torts

The New York State Legislature responded to the discovery of unregulated perfluorinated compounds in drinking water sources by passing a law allowing plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits arising from contact with or exposure to substances found within a designated state or federal Superfund site to bring their claims within three years of designation of the Superfund site or within the period allowed by CPLR 214-c's discovery rule, whichever ends later. The law's sponsors said that the new CPLR provision (Chapter 128 of Laws of New York, 2016, codified at CPLR 214-f) would address the "inequity" of claims related to "previously unexplained illnesses" expiring long before discovery of the contamination that potentially caused the illnesses.

Drinking Water

Another new law (Chapter 296) that responds to recent incidents of drinking water contamination requires periodic testing of potable water in school buildings for lead. Initial testing was to be conducted in September and October pursuant to New York State Department of Health (DOH) emergency regulations. Sampling must occur again in 2020 and at least every five years thereafter. Where sampling reveals lead levels above 15 parts per billion (ppb), school districts must prohibit use of the water outlet and provide school occupants with safe drinking water until remediation is implemented and testing results indicate lead levels are below 15 ppb. The law and regulations also require reporting to state and local agencies and written notification to parents and staff. In addition, all testing results must be posted on school district websites. A number of districts had already posted results by the end of 2016, and a report from DOH and the Department of Education on the initial results, with recommendations for short- and long-term measures to address lead contamination, is expected in 2017.

On New Year's Eve, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law (Chapter 516) requiring owners and operators of community water systems to update vulnerability assessments to analyze threats presented by potential cyberattacks. The governor said in an approval memorandum that he had reached an agreement with the legislature to address implementation issues with the law in the upcoming legislative session.

Climate Change and Energy

Late in November, Gov. Cuomo signed legislation (Chapter 464) that mandates establishment of a New York State Ocean Acidification Task Force. The memorandum supporting the bill noted that increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have contributed to oceans becoming more acidic. The memorandum cited research indicating that the Atlantic Ocean along the Northeast shore is especially vulnerable to acidification and that the marine fisheries industry might experience adverse impacts. The 14-member task force must prepare a report by the end of 2018 assessing ocean acidification's impacts; considering how ocean acidification may affect commercially harvested and grown species along the coast; and identifying and monitoring factors contributing to ocean acidification. The report must also include recommendations for state and local actions to address ocean acidification and for measures to increase public awareness of ocean acidification.

Other climate change legislation included budget legislation provisions establishing a Climate Smart Communities Projects program (Chapter 58, Part U, codified at N.Y. Envtl. Conserv. Law §§54-1501-54-1523), funded through a new climate change mitigation and adaptation account within the Environmental Protection Fund. Climate Smart Community Projects include flood mitigation and coastal and riparian resiliency projects, projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions outside the power sector, climate change adaptation projects, and clean vehicle projects. The budget legislation also required the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to establish a Zero Emissions Vehicle and Electric Vehicle Rebate Program (chapter 58, part AA) to provide rebates of up to $2,000 for eligible purchases of vehicles. In addition, the School Energy Efficiency Collaborative Act of 2016 (Chapter 403), requires NYSERDA to develop a program to promote implementation of public school energy projects in the state.

Public Participation

A law signed by Gov. Cuomo in November addressed quirks in the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) that required only 30 days of notice prior to public hearings for some major environmental regulations rather than the 45 days required by other agencies' rulemaking procedures. The new law (Chapter 412) mandates 45-day notice periods for rules issued under the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC's) general rulemaking authority under ECL §3-0301(2)(a) and also for air pollution control rules, solid waste management and resource recovery rules, rules concerning labeling of ingredients of detergents and other household cleaning products, and rules pertaining to storage and release of hazardous or acutely hazardous substances. Three other laws (Chapters 304, 305, and 490) imposed standard requirements for posting proposed rules and other regulatory documents on agency websites.

In the vein of making environmental and public health information publicly accessible, the budget legislation amended the Public Health Law to require DOH to post its cancer incidence and environmental facility maps on its public website and to update them in consultation with DEC at least every five years (Chapter 59, Part D). The sunset date for the law requiring these maps was extended from March 31, 2016 to March 31, 2022.

Historic Resources

In September, Gov. Cuomo signed legislation (Chapter 310) authorizing the DEC Commissioner to undertake projects to protect designated National Historic Landmarks from shore erosion. The law is intended to enable DEC to enter into financial agreements with non-profit organizations to protect privately owned landmarks such as the Montauk Lighthouse, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2012 and which is owned and managed by the non-profit Montauk Historical Society.

Air Quality

The annual budget legislation postponed the deadline for compliance with the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2006, which requires that diesel-powered heavy-duty vehicles used by State agencies use best available retrofit technology to reduce air emissions. The deadline, originally December 31, 2010, was extended to December 31, 2017 (Chapter 58, Part X).

Waste and Hazardous Substances

DEC's waste tire management program was extended for three more years, through the end of 2019 (Chapter 58, Part T).

The effectiveness of statutory provisions permitting New York retailers to sell pesticides in containers accidentally damaged during handling where the damage has been repaired in compliance with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved "minor repair program" was extended for two years, to July 1, 2018 (Chapter 77).

Environmental concerns related to disposal of unused medications were cited by the Legislature as one justification for a program authorizing donations of unused prescription drugs by DOH-authorized entities for redispensing (Chapter 480).

In December, Gov. Cuomo signed a bill (Chapter 499) that changed the sunset date from June 30, 2017 to June 30, 2022 for a 2014 law banning deposit of contaminated fill from dredging projects in New York waterways in the Jamaica Bay "borrow pits" (underwater areas from which sand and other material was dredged for construction projects).

Beginning in April 2018, the use, sale, and distribution of wheel weights containing intentionally-added mercury will be prohibited (Chapter 312).


Gov. Cuomo signed a law (Chapter 457) that he had previously twice vetoed concerning mute swans, which DEC has identified as a prohibited invasive species. The law requires public review of any management plan developed by DEC and requires DEC to provide responses to all substantive public comments. The law also establishes substantive criteria for mute swan management plans, including a mandate to "give priority to non-lethal management techniques." The memorandum submitted in support of the law cited a lack of consensus among wildlife experts, rehabilitators, and environmentalists regarding the justification for extermination of mute swans. DEC has said that mute swans, which were brought to New York more than 100 years ago to serve ornamental purposes, can cause a number of environmental problems. Pursuant to the law, any mute swan management plan must document the scientific basis for future population projections and for current and projected environmental damage and must include a public education component.

Gov. Cuomo also signed a law extending for two years, through Dec. 31, 2018, the statutory requirements that only non-stainless steel non-offset circle hooks be used for shark fishing (Chapter 121).

Originally published by New York Law Journal.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.