ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday signed a state law that trashes a New York City environmental protection measure that would have put a 5-cent fee on plastic bags.
Cuomo’s action is another blow to Mayor Bill de Blasio in a continuing feud as Albany reasserted its legislative power which opponents claim is an overreach into local affairs.
“I am establishing a statewide task force to develop a uniform state plan for addressing the plastic bag problem,” Cuomo said in a statement. “By the end of this year, this task force will conclude with a report and proposed legislation.”
City Council members and city Democrats were angry that their plan to rid the city of the toxic eyesore was killed in Albany on the day before it was to take effect.
“It is disappointing that the state Legislature and the governor killed NYC’s Bring Your Own Bag Law, which was democratically adopted by the City Council after two years of hearings, reviewing evidence, reusable bag giveaways, and public debate,” said city council members Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) and Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan). “By nullifying only New York City’s law — but leaving nearly identical laws in Suffolk and Nassau Counties intact — the Legislature has put in jeopardy the basic concept of ‘home rule.’”
The state law began with approval by the Senate’s Republican majority, which also hasn’t passed up any chances to confront the mayor after he supported candidates and a Democratic takeover of the Senate.
The bill was seen as a way to encourage use of re-usable totes and other bags and reduce the number of plastic bags that can swirl around in the breeze and pollute streets, parks and waterways. The city law returned the nickel fee to stores. Opponents argued the fee was an economic burden on families, although there were provisions for the poorest New Yorkers to avoid the charge.
The bill signed by Cuomo “has set a dangerous precedent that local solutions to local environmental issues will be overturned in Albany,” said state Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan). “This is simply unacceptable. If the Legislature is unable or unwilling to tackle the unprecedented environmental challenges we face, they should at least get out of the way so local people can solve their own problems.”
Cuomo called the city measure “deeply flawed” and said a statewide solution is needed. He said the city fee would create a $100 milllion windfall for merchants, rather than directing the revenue to solving the environmental problem.