Schneiderman reappointed chairman of environmental committee

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Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk was reappointed this week as chairman of the legislature’s Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee.

Mr. Schneiderman was renamed chair of the committee by William Lindsay, who last week was reelected presiding officer of the Suffolk Legislature for a second year.

“I expect this will be a challenging year and harder than ever to secure funds for environmental initiatives,” Mr. Schneiderman said Monday. “But I’ve been successful in the past and I hope to continue to be successful.

“I’m certainly happy that the presiding officer selected someone from the East End where the environment is of critical importance as chair of the committee.”

Mr. Schneiderman vowed that his focus would continue to be on preserving open space and reducing toxins in the environment.

He said the resistance he sees to environmental initiatives in 2009 stems from “so much attention on the economy.” In particular, Legislator Cameron Alden of Islip has repeatedly questioned virtually every proposed open space acquisition coming before the legislature in recent months because of the economic downturn. Environmentalists have countered that Suffolk’s second-home industry and tourism are critical to Suffolk’s economy and so the open space program must continue not only for ecological reasons, but for economic ones.

In a prepared statement that Mr. Schneiderman’s office issued on his reappointment, the legislator said he “will make certain that the importance of environmental protection is not lost as the focus on stimulating our economy strengthens.”

“It is essential that we do not compromise our environment for short-term economic gain,” the statement read. “Our environment is the key to our long-term economic viability. Our scenic beauty, historic hamlets, farmlands and beaches are stabilizing our property values and attracting visitors who bring millions of dollars into our local economy.”

On reducing toxins, Mr. Schneiderman said that he believed that a bill he has reintroduced to prevent the use of fertilizers near surface waters in Suffolk County stands a good chance of passage by the committee. An earlier version of the bill died in committee, but Mr. Schneiderman has since softened it. The prohibition in Mr. Schneiderman’s original bill on the use of fertilizers within 100 feet from surface waters except where there is a “continuous natural vegetative buffer at least 25 feet wide” has been changed to a distance of 20 feet from surface waters and a 10-foot-wide vegetative buffer. He said he has done this, reluctantly, to gain additional support.

“My fertilizer bill is poised to pass,” he said Monday. “I’m quite sure it will get out of committee.” As to what will happen on the floor of the legislature when the panel meets February 3 in Hauppauge, “I don’t know,” he acknowledged.

The Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee considers all bills introduced before the legislature concerning any of those matters. Also, as chairman of the committee, Mr. Schneiderman will sit on the county’s Council on Environmental Quality and its Environmental Trust Review Board. The council reviews all county projects for potential environmental impacts and the board reviews appraisals and prices to be paid for properties considered for preservation by the county.

Mr. Schneiderman’s district includes all of Southampton and East Hampton towns and a slice of Brookhaven Town.

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