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Mount Vernon, New York Mayor Proposes Environmental Justice Legislation

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas is proposing an environmental justice law that will protect its vulnerable communities and citizens from being exposed to disproportionate pollution.  The environmental protection proposal is similar to a bill signed passed by the New York City Council and signed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.  

The legislation was developed in cooperation with the African American Environmentalist Association (AAEA), a Washington, DC-based environmental group with a local office in New York City.

The Mount Vernon Environmental Justice Act would establish an advisory board on environmental justice.  The advisory board would consist of members from city agencies and from the general public with interest or expertise inenvironmental justice issues.  The Mount Vernon City Council President and the Mount Vernon Mayor would jointly make the appointments.

The environmental justice advisory board would conduct such hearings and meetings at any place or places within the city designated by the board for the purpose of obtaining necessary information or other data to assist it in the proper performance of its duties and functions as it deems necessary. 

Duties of the environmental justice advisory board.include developing a procedural process for identifying environmental inequities, including an unjust distribution of environmental benefits and environmental burdens and recommendations for assuring that environmental burdens are not further distributed in a manner that increases the environmental burdens on communities already hosting a disproportionate share of pollution generating activities and that benefits are equitably distributed.

The Environmental Justice Advisory Board would also establish a Working Group.

The Working Group would provide guidance to City agencies on criteria for identifying disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority populations and low-income populations; assist in coordinating the data collection, maintenance and analysis required under this local law; examine existing data and studies on environmental justice; hold public meetings and otherwise solicit public participation and consider complaints; develop inter-agency model projects on environmental justice that evidence cooperation among city agencies, among other activities.

The working group would  hold public meetings and otherwise solicit public participation, as appropriate, for the purpose of fact-finding with regard to implementation of this act and prepare for public review a summary of the comments and recommendations provided.

The proposed legislation calls for a comprehensive pollution report and citizen petition rights regarding proposed facilities.   The legislation has a moratorium provision that would block a proposed polluting project in an already overly-polluted area.

Mayor Thomas has a long history of promoting protection of the environment.  This legislation is an extension of that environmental protection ethic.

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Norris McDonaldComment