In wrapping up her term as head of the Rockland Legislature’s Environmental Committee, Legislator Connie Coker of South Nyack praised the work of local environmental advocates and promised to continue her environmental activism in 2011 and beyond even though her term as a lawmaker will be over.
“As I come to the end of my five and one half years as a County Legislator, I would like to acknowledge the efforts of our county’s environmental activists,” Coker said. “I will continue to remain involved as a community activist and I look forward to working with the County Legislature to address the many issues that affect our environment and the health and safety of all county residents.”
On Wednesday, at the last Environmental Committee meeting of the year, Coker provided a summary of proposed environmental actions and priorities. She said this summary was based on requests from county residents who advocate for actions that would ensure clean air, pure water and non-toxic soil.
Coker served as chair of this legislative committee for the past five years. She did not seek re-election to the Legislature.
“What we do in Rockland County can inspire positive state and federal laws,” Coker said. For example, she cited Rockland County’s passage of a law limiting the application of fertilizers with phosphorus, with New York State subsequently passing the Environmental Conservation Law effective Jan. 1, 2012 — referred to as the Dishwasher Detergent and Nutrient Run-off Law.
Here are committee highlights Coker presented, along with initiatives she hopes legislators will undertake:
1. Hudson Valley Consortium of Environmental Committee Chairs. Legislator Coker formed this consortium with County Legislators representing the Hudson River region in the Summer of 2010. The Consortium’s primary purpose is to coordinate environmental efforts to protect our air, water, and soil. The Consortium consists of Westchester, Orange, Ulster, Dutchess, and Putnam Counties. “We need to develop a river partnership with the decision makers around Rockland in order to coordinate efforts to protect the Hudson River,” stated Coker. Four counties in Florida have developed a Southeast Florida Climate Change Compact which is composed of those counties, Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. These areas are especially vulnerable to sea level rise exacerbated by greenhouse emissions and climate change. They have developed a plan based on input from more then 100 experts. Coker recommends that Rockland County review their plan as “our County is also susceptible to flooding and the deleterious effects of climate change.”
2. Climate Smart Community Pledge – Rockland County signed on and we must continue to develop actions that honor this commitment to decrease greenhouse emissions.
3. Support Citizen Groups such as the Sparkill Watershed Alliance as they grow and seek to create a model for watershed management with community members, scientists and governments working together to address issues and create new solutions.
4. While the County Legislature does not have zoning jurisdiction (due to home rule), it can advocate for the protection of open space and utilization of sustainable development practices in order to protect our aquifers and decrease the risk of flooding and sewage spills. An example of the need for proactive planning is the proposed building of 500 homes at Patrick Farms in Ramapo.
5. The County Legislature can continue to stay informed and active about nearby development such as the proposed 900 homes in the Village of Chester in Orange County. Rockland County should be involved, as there are concerns about increased flooding and sewage spills into the Ramapo River due to inadequate sewage treatment facilities. Coker stated, “This is an example where the Hudson Valley Consortium can provide a vehicle for communication among Legislatures.”
6. Remain active in evaluating hazards related to the proximity of Indian Point to Rockland County.
7. County officials must promote Bus Rapid Transit on the rebuilt Tappan Zee Bridge
8. Continue to reduce the use of toxic pesticides in the County.
9. Remain aware of the potential hazards of hydrofracking and any impact on our County.
10. Develop a comprehensive, sustainable water policy. One suggestion is to create a water advisory panel for the Legislature. Members of this panel would include The Water Coalition, Hudson Riverkeeper, Hackensack Riverkeeper, and various watershed group leaders, Stormwater Consortium, Riverfront town water leaders, Soil and Water, Planning Dept., EMC Committee, Town Planning Boards. The proposed desalination plant is very controversial and the Legislature must be involved in evaluating the need for this expensive operation versus conservation and careful evaluation of proposed development.
11. Work with United Water and all other education leaders to develop Public Conservation Education.
12. Demonstrate water recapture practices on County Lands, roadways, roofs and impervious surfaces.
13. Continue to explore Carbon sequestration in Rockland, to determine the hazards and effects on Rockland residents.
14. Continue to promote the local law that requires grocery stores to provide bins for the collection and recycling of plastic bags. Coker stated, “I was disappointed that I was not able to eliminate free plastic bags but during that process this recycling program was developed and is a positive result. I notice that other municipalities are considering the elimination of free plastic shopping bags due to the liter aspects, the clogging of sewers, and the run off into the oceans.”