A few years ago a title like this would have seemed highly unlikely. And given last year's political spectacle in Albany, you might think nothing much could possibly have been accomplished. Nevertheless, we think 2010 is going to go down in history as the year New York got serious about the public's environmental health. Consider the evidence:
• In May, the State passed truly historic legislation prohibiting the use of pesticides on playing fields at all public and private schools in the state, grades K-12, as well as day care centers. This is the most comprehensive law of its kind anywhere in the country.
• In October, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation announced "Be Green Organic Yards, NY" - a groundbreaking program to train and certify private landscapers in natural (non-pesticide) turf management. No other state offers such a program.
• Just last month, the Interagency Committee on Sustainability and Green Procurement announced a list of "Chemicals for Consideration," containing scores of known or suspected carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and other bio-accumulative toxins. The list will be used by all State agencies making purchasing decisions.
As a member of the Governor's Advisory Council on Sustainability and Green Procurement, I can tell you it was exciting and gratifying to see all our hard work and persistence pay off. For once, I felt we had really moved the ball forward in a significant way.
All three of these initiatives embrace the Precautionary Principle - the idea that the government can and should take action to protect the public's health even when absolute proof of cause and effect has not yet been established.
Now the fight to protect the public's health moves to other states across the country, but with New York leading by example, we hope other state governments will find it easier to move forward on these extremely important issues. We are proud to have been able to play a role in New York's actions this year.