State Will Conduct Hyperlocal Air Quality Assessments in Communities Historically Overburdened by Pollution, Drive Tailored Strategies to Reduce Air Pollution and Climate-Altering Greenhouse Gases

September 21, 2021

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a historic, new effort to monitor air quality in disadvantaged communities across the state and use the data collected to develop strategies to reduce pollution in these communities, including the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. This statewide community air monitoring effort is the largest ever undertaken in the United States.

The State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will oversee the statewide effort, which will help to ensure that all New Yorkers benefit from the State's greenhouse gas reduction strategies under its landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Announced during Climate Week 2021, the air monitoring effort supports New York's ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent by 2050.

"Our most economically disadvantaged communities have also been hit the hardest by the harmful effects of pollution and climate change," Governor Hochul said. "With this new initiative, we are deploying the latest state-of-the-art technology to examine the air quality in communities across New York State, and working with experts to determine the best solutions to reduce pollution to correct this injustice that has overburdened vulnerable parts of our state for far too long."

In consultation with the State's Climate Justice Working Group and community leaders, DEC and NYSERDA will identify 10 areas to deploy hyperlocal monitoring technology to collect air quality data. Locations will include multiple disadvantaged communities both upstate and downstate. Monitoring will include climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions and other co-pollutants that affect public health. In total, the monitoring will provide a comprehensive picture of air quality in communities that are home to up to five million New Yorkers. The results of this monitoring effort will advance the Climate Law's directive to reduce emissions in communities heavily impacted by air pollution and help to address the public health impacts due to this pollution, including higher rates of lung disease, asthma, heart disease, and premature death.

DEC will oversee the community air monitoring program, which will identify the areas experiencing the highest air quality impacts and help the State to better target mitigation activities, including a portion of carbon-free investments, to areas where these investments will provide the greatest public health and climate benefit. The monitoring will collect air pollution and greenhouse gas measurements to produce hyperlocal air quality insights for municipalities and researchers.

DEC Commissioner and Climate Action Council Co-Chair Basil Seggos said, "This statewide monitoring effort builds on the success of DEC's multi-year, state-of-the-art air quality study in Albany's South End, which identified and advanced actions to address air pollution in the area. The study was designed and executed in partnership with local residents and serves as an innovative model to be replicated in other communities. Disadvantaged communities are often disproportionately impacted by poor air quality because of their proximity to power plants, transportation infrastructure, ports, terminals, and other sources of air pollution. Today, with Governor Hochul's leadership, communities statewide will soon learn more about air quality in their neighborhoods and work with us to develop strategies to improve air quality while cutting climate-altering emissions and working to meet New York's ambitious climate goals."

Doreen M. Harris, President and CEO, NYSERDA, and Climate Action Council Co-Chair said, "Far too many of New York's most vulnerable residents have been historically and unduly impacted by air pollution's adverse effects on a healthy lifestyle. Under Governor Hochul's leadership, we look forward to tackling this important issue head on by implementing this historic air quality monitoring program as part of our comprehensive work in combating climate change and improving the public health in all communities across the state."

Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director, UPROSE, said, "For generations, black, brown, and low-income communities have been the reluctant hosts of polluting infrastructure and toxic emissions from fossil fuel plants, highways, solid waste, and diesel trucks to name a few- creating a legacy of historic health disparities. We are encouraged to hear that the years of frontline community leadership that passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019 has now been realized in the State's announcement today. There is no excuse or alternative to investing in and working with disadvantaged communities to operationalize local climate solutions that are deeply rooted in equity."

Rahwa Ghirmatzion, PUSH Buffalo executive director and member of the Climate Justice Working Group, said, "I am excited about Governor Kathy Hochul's commitment to addressing the climate crisis through the swift implementation of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Today's news to expand air quality monitoring to the neighborhood level and directly working with local community based organizations is what environmental justice leaders have advocated for years."

Peggy Shepard, executive director of WE ACT For Environmental Justice, said, "Studies show that the effect of air pollution on the health of New Yorkers who live in communities disproportionately impacted by pollution can be devastating. This air monitoring initiative will be crucial to providing the hyperlocal data necessary to reduce greenhouse gases and the co-pollutants that contribute to health disparities in impacted communities. This is great news from the Governor."

Eddie Bautista, Executive Director at the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, said, "Communities throughout this City are plagued by asthma and other chronic health issues from air pollution that contributes to social and economic disparities and negatively affects their collective ability to thrive. Governor Hochul's new air monitoring initiative will break down the specifics of how air pollution affects us and will enable us to find a solution that will improve our climate and equally importantly, build healthier futures for those who live in heavy industrial areas."

American Lung Association director of advocacy for New York State Trevor Summerfield, said, "The American Lung Association applauds Governor Hochul for taking bold action today to address the needs of New Yorkers in disadvantaged communities across the state that are most impacted by air pollution. Simply, New Yorkers can not demand the changes necessary without knowing their levels of exposure to unhealthy air pollution, and this initiative gives that power back to our communities. By going above and beyond and investing more into air quality monitors than the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act calls for, Governor Hochul is showing the leadership necessary to make sure all New Yorkers are breathing clean, healthy air."

NYSERDA will work within its Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) process to allocate funding to the Community Air Monitoring effort. To ensure robust community participation in the in the Community Air Monitoring program, DEC's Environmental Justice Program will provide up to $500,000 in Community Air Monitoring Capacity Building Grants to improve the ability of community groups working on the ground in these areas to contribute to the development and operation of air quality monitoring networks across the state. The increased capacity of community groups will also allow greater contribution in the identification and selection of carbon-free technology investments in their local neighborhoods. Additional funding will be made available in next year's budget to support community engagement in emission reduction strategies.

The Community Air Monitoring Capacity Building grants will be supported by the State's Environmental Protection Fund. The EPF has grown from its original appropriation of $31 million in fiscal year 1994-1995 to $300 million. The Fiscal Year 2022 Enacted Budget sustains the EPF at $300 million, the highest level of funding in the program's history. Appropriations include $40 million for solid waste programs, $90 million for parks and recreation, $151 million for open space programs and $19 million for the climate change mitigation and adaptation program. This investment will provide funding for critical environmental programs such as land acquisition, farmland protection, invasive species prevention and eradication, enhanced recreational access, water quality improvement, and an aggressive environmental justice agenda.