If he is reelected to the New York State Senate, retired Senator Alfred Coppola is pledging to introduce the “Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Act” (GLERA) to address several ongoing threats to the Great Lakes’ ecosystem.
“There is no greater natural resource on this continent than the Great Lakes. In the absence of a bold, bi-national strategy that addresses runoff contamination and non-point source pollution in a serious way, then we must provide that leadership at the State level,” Senator Coppola says. “So today, I’m pledging to introduce legislation that takes the decisive action that this situation demands.”
“We can’t wait for other States to act. We need to take the first move, and then drag them along,” he insists.
Coppola’s pledge comes months after pollution near Toledo, OH shut down that city’s drinking water infrastructure for several days. Algae plums have consumed the Western corner of the Lake. Agricultural chemicals, from pesticides to livestock feces, are to blame.
The solution, environmentalists and planners say, is to adopt runoff water retention strategies that mitigate non-point source pollution. If runoff water is retained onsite, then these chemicals will not enter the watershed, eventually ending up in Lake Erie and flowing down the Niagara River.
“In 20 years we should have a robust local freshwater seafood industry that is the envy of the world,” he says. “But’s it’s going to take long term thinking and expensive investment in our water infrastructure that only the State can afford.”
“In the modern era, it is unconscionable that untreated sewage could be dumped into the Niagara River in periods of peak rainfall,” he says. “We need to fix our sewer systems. And it can’t be paid for in increased water bills; the State needs to step up.”
Buffalo’s sewer system was built at a time when technology had not advanced to separating wastewater from your toilet from runoff water on the street. Modern systems do not combine those water flows and treatment process each separately.
The Democrats are likely to take the New York State Senate after the coming election cycle, and a downstate-centric leadership could be inclined to pass bold — and expensive — legislation on environmental protection.
Political operatives expect that the local construction and contracting industries will support Coppola’s lobbying effort in Albany. The legislation could provide the region an unprecedented pipeline of state funded sewer-related construction projects that could provide full time construction jobs that last 10 to 15 years.
Though Coppola’s legislation is still in draft form, and he is open to amendments, he outlined GLEPA in broad strokes.
The legislation calls for $3 billion in capital spending projects, including:
- $2 billion in infrastructure upgrades to metropolitan sewer systems within the Great Lakes’ watershed, including Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Rochester, and Syracuse, among others;
- $500 million in estuary and hatchery construction projects sited across the Great Lakes’ watershed, designed to regenerate natural eco-systems;
- $500 million in grants for county and municipal runoff retention projects within the Great Lakes’ watershed.
GLEPA would also introduce a handful of new regulatory compliance measures, to be enforced by the State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC):
- Ban on plastic micro-beads from consumer products;
- Requirement that all counties and municipalities develop annual action plans for improved watershed management.
GLEPA also calls for the introduction of a new $50,000 refundable tax credit for farms and agricultural businesses, designed to mitigate the costs of implementing new pollution control strategies, including the construction of retention ditches, drainage wells, and other tactics that prevent agra-chemicals from entering the watershed.
Runoff from chemicals used in industrial scale agriculture are thought to be the number one cause of Great Lakes’ contaminants. The tax credit is expected to spawn private sector construction spending across the state’s rural communities.
Coppola is running against two term incumbent Mark Grisanti, Chairman of the State Senate’s Environmental Committee. Grisanti is supportive of hydro-fracking and has refused to ban plastic micro-beads from consumer products.
Coppola is an unequivocal no-vote on fracking.
A little known town zone chair named Marc Panepinto is waging a primary effort against Coppola, but Panepinto’s candidacy has been widely discredited due to his past conviction for election fraud and his relationship with International Laborers’ Union Local 210, which has long been the target of racketeering allegations.
The Democratic Party primary is next Tuesday, September 9th.