Tag environment

What the New Administration in Washington Means for  Health Policy in New York

By Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried

The election of Donald Trump and Republican control of Congress are a serious threat to programs and policies that protect our health.  Washington could make radical changes to Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, reproductive care, and other programs that could drastically undermine our right to health care, cost New York State billions of dollars a year in federal funds, and destabilize health care providers.

The first step in stopping or reversing these attacks is to clearly understand what’s at stake and spread the word.  There is hardly anything more rigged against working people than health care.  The Trump-Republican agenda will make it worse.  This is a time to redouble efforts in more progressive states like New York to create universal access to health care, with funding based fairly on ability to pay, through an “improved Medicare for all” system.

For years, congressional attacks on funding and programs have been defeated by the threat or use of presidential vetoes.  Now we will have a president who may be leading the charge.

Oneonta Daily Star: More testing looms in aftermath of tainted tap water

By Joe Mahoney, CNHI News Service (via Daily Star), 9/26/16

ALBANY — A string of water pollution incidents blamed on industrial chemicals is prompting calls for more money to detect whether New Yorkers are exposed to unregulated but “emerging” contaminants from their faucets.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, said in an interview he hopes there will be “more funding for expanded investigation of possible contamination” in next year’s budget.

The influential architect of much of the health-related programs advanced at the Capitol said money is needed because small communities often cannot afford testing.

 “And millions of New Yorkers get their water from either very small systems or from private wells,” he said.

Niagara Gazette: Hoosick Falls’ water woes lead to scrutiny for health officials

By Joe Mahoney,9/19

ALBANY — Residents of Hoosick Falls compare the water contamination in their village of 3,500 people with the crisis in Flint, Michigan, where lead-laced drinking water created a public health emergency.

State health officials say they’re doing all they can to help the village on the Vermont border deal with toxic chemicals in the groundwater. But residents and several state lawmakers are steamed, saying more people could have been sickened in the time it took the state to react.

“The lesson for all Americans here is that people need to know what’s in their drinking water, and know what state officials are doing to keep it safe,” said Michele Baker, an organizer of a grassroots group focused on the contamination. “New York state knew what was in our water and allowed us to keep drinking water with contaminants for months.”

 Baker said the pollution is the result of years of dumping harmful chemicals used in manufacturing — complicated by government inertia.

NY Post: State admits staff knew Hoosick Falls water was dangerous

By Kirstan Conley, September 7

ALBANY — Under intense grilling at a legislative hearing, state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker admitted Wednesday he and his staff knew for years that a chemical in the water in Hoosick Falls was a danger to residents, but didn’t sound the alarm.

“Yes,” Zucker relented when asked repeatedly by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) if his agency was aware of information “it took [resident] Mike Hickey five minutes on Google to find.”

Gottfried pointed to a fact sheet issued by the Health Department in December 2015 stating residents of the upstate village had nothing to fear.

Politico: Hoosick Falls hearing turns into 5-hour grilling for state officials

By Scott Waldman, September 7

ALBANY— Wednesday’s hearing on Hoosick Falls and water pollution issues turned into a five-hour grilling of state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and other officials who organized the state’s response to the crisis.

The hearings were intended to take a broad look at water quality issues across the state. And while they touched on Hudson River water quality, road salt runoff in waterways and fracking waste, they largely centered on the state’s response to Hoosick Falls, the Rensselaer County village where water was found to be contaminated by an industrial chemical, perflurooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

Wall St. Journal – Hoosick Falls Water Woes Draw Federal Scrutiny

By Mike Vilensky and Erica Orden, 7/7

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Thursday she would introduce federal legislation to fight the water-contamination crisis in Hoosick Falls, N.Y., shortly after a congressional committee launched a probe into the state’s handling of the issue.

The measures mark mounting federal scrutiny of how Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other public officials have addressed the matter in the upstate New York community, located about 35 miles from Albany.

“I’m grateful the governor has done a couple of things,” Ms. Gillibrand, a Democrat, said in an interview. “But we need to do a lot more.”

PRESS RELEASE: Assembly to Hold Water Quality Hearings

July 6, 2016

Speaker Carl Heastie, Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Steve Englebright and Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried today announced the Assembly will hold public hearings on water quality in New York State in early September.

“Recent reports of water contamination in municipalities across the state have highlighted the need for a thorough review of measures to ensure clean and healthy water in our communities,” said Heastie. “Ensuring a safe water supply for our children and families is a top priority for us.”

Englebright and Gottfried will take testimony at two public hearings in early September related to water contamination situations in various communities across New York State. The hearings will be held in Albany and Suffolk County. The Assembly will review the causes and response to the known contaminations as well as measures to prevent future occurrences.

“Recent events around the nation and here in New York have shown harmful contaminants in the water supply. Drinking water should be safe and clean. Disturbing discoveries of harmful contaminants highlight the need for preventative measures to be put in place to protect our water purity,” said Assemblyman Englebright.

“Ensuring the safety of drinking water in this state is paramount,” said Assemblyman Gottfried. “We’re going to examine the issue of water contamination and assess our current laws and public policies on these matters, and how they’re working, to protect public access to safe, clean water.”

Associated Press: State Assembly to hold hearings on drinking water contamination

By Mary Esch, 7/7/16

ALBANY — The state Assembly will hold hearings in the fall on water quality issues, including an examination of the Cuomo administration’s response to toxic chemical contamination of drinking water in the village of Hoosick Falls, officials announced Wednesday.

“Recent reports of water contamination in municipalities across the state have highlighted the need for a thorough review of measures to ensure clean and healthy water in our communities,” Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a news release.

Heastie spokesman Michael Whyland confirmed that the hearings would examine the state’s actions in Hoosick Falls as well as “anything related to water quality.”

Albany Times-Union: Shameless dodging in midst of Hoosick Falls water crisis

By Fred LeBrun, 2/15

Finally, we sense a favorable turnaround for residents of Hoosick Falls, ignored victims for generations of dangerously tainted drinking water.

State government and its health and enforcement agencies have been finally shamed into acknowledging the severity of the potential consequences.

Now they are acting with an uncommon speed that such severity demands. Sad to say, sometimes it takes a media circus to get politicians to behave properly.

On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the village will get $10 million for charcoal filtration systems for private wells in the village that show toxic contamination with an ammonium salt of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), used in the manufacturing process of specialty plastics by a series of companies in Hoosick Falls since the early 1950s.

The state is advancing the money which it expects to recover from some of the responsible parties.

Politico NY: Assembly schedules hearings on water quality in wake of Hoosick Falls crisis

By Scott Waldman, 2/10

ALBANY — In light of the ongoing water pollution crisis in Hoosick Falls, the state Assembly has scheduled hearings for April to discuss water quality issues around the state.

A bipartisan coalition of Assembly members wants to hold immediate hearings on the slow response by state and local officials to the situation in Hoosick Falls, as well as the extent of the pollution. The water in Hoosick Falls contains high levels of the toxic chemical PFOA, which has been linked to cancer and other serious health problems.