County law on Styrofoam is susceptible to legal challenge

To the Editor:

Another unenforceable law has been passed in Albany County.

Would you vote to pass a law without adhering to proper procedure?

On Nov. 12, I did not support such a law, which was approved by the Albany County Legislature. Local Law A passed by a vote of 24 to 12 and regulates the use of polystyrene foam disposable food service ware and requires the use of biodegradable or compostable food service ware by chain-food service establishments in Albany County.

As in the past, we, the members of the legislature did not receive materials, analyses, or back-up documentation needed to make the mandated New York State Environmental Quality Review Act determination. SEQRA requires all state and local government agencies to consider environmental impacts equally with social and economic factors during discretionary decision-making.

The Albany County Legislature did not consider or vote on a SEQRA determination as it is required to do. The failure of the legislature to address SEQR renders the legislation susceptible to legal challenge.

Polystyrene recycling options, which I support, would put Albany County on the cutting-edge of advancing such technologies in New York State. These options were completely disregarded by the majority. These recycling measures are currently and successfully being used nationwide. Bipartisan efforts were unsuccessful as we asked that this law be held, reconsidered, and further analyzed with special consideration given to these recycling initiatives.

The law as adopted is discriminatory. It does little to control polystyrene (Styrofoam) use in Albany County since it applies only to businesses having 15 or more national food-service establishments. Why 15? Who knows?

This number was not justified and is arbitrary. If the objective is to lessen the impacts on our landfills, why should only chain restaurants be subject to this law? Recycling initiatives would address all polystyrene used within Albany County.

In conclusion, whether you support or don’t support the concept of regulating the use of polystyrene, you should be as concerned as I am that the voting majority in the county legislature would proceed and adopt such a law without following proper procedure.

Travis Stevens, 31st District
Albany County legislator

Editor’s note: The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which does not as an agency have a position on polystyrene, states on its website, “The Legislature has made SEQR self-enforcing; that is, each agency of government is responsible to see that it meets its own obligations to comply…there are no ‘SEQR Police.’”

Citizens or groups that can demonstrate they may be harmed, the DEC website says, may take legal action under Article 78 of the New York State Civil Practice Law and Rules.

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