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EJLPC Statement on the Passage of the Landmark NY Cumulative Impacts Environmental Justice Bill

Background: NY State Governor Hochul signed the Cumulative Impacts bill (S.8830/A.2103D), which ensures that existing burdens - or cumulative impacts - are considered in permitting decisions that impact disadvantaged communities.

“This law is important because it requires that cumulative impacts, or existing environmental burdens, be examined when permitting impacts disadvantaged communities. It is not a sea change in New York policy. This new requirement restates the environmental justice provisions already in New York law pursuant to the state’s 2019 Climate Act. It then provides the state with new tools to implement them.

The 2019 Act requires that the state’s actions not create a “disproportionate burden” on “disadvantaged communities.” The Act did not specifically require, however, that a cumulative impacts analysis be performed in environmental impact studies. Requiring a cumulative impacts analysis gives the state, and communities, a powerful tool to ensure that disproportionate burdens are not created by new and potentially polluting projects. Few states have similar laws on the books.

Cumulative impacts analyses provide insight into where historical environmental racism has increased environmental burdens on Black, Brown and low-income communities. A cumulative impacts analysis is designed to determine when incremental harm will be caused by a new project when added to past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions.

What is needed is for the state to fully implement section 7(3) of the existing Climate Act with regards to "no disproportionate burden" to disadvantaged communities. Cumulative impact statements are a small part of the state's environmental justice mandates. Further, the effective date of this bill should not implicate analyses already required by law. This bill could be seen by some as a stalking horse, making it easier for existing projects to make it through the pipeline. I would argue that the existing DAC provisions of the CLCPA are not in any way limited by this bill."

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