Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, Styrofoam Ban and Protection of the Pine Bush

by Tom Ellis

On December 12, when Albany County Executive Dan McCoy signed legislation passed by the county legislature a month earlier that bans chain restaurants and eateries from using polystyrene (Styrofoam) take-out food containers, he credited his three children, especially Egan, a senior at Albany High School, for pressuring and reminding him to be more environmentally conscious.

Mr. McCoy may have had other reasons for signing the legislation. It was passed by a two-to-one margin and thus the legislature may have been able to override a veto. The chemical and Styrofoam industry lobbyists failed to make a convincing case for rejection while proponents made a strong case for passage at the September, October, and November county legislature meetings and a December 2 public hearing he held on the bill. The issue received considerable news coverage and a veto would have angered many constituents who might have made an effort to replace Mr. McCoy, should he seek re-election next year. The county executive may have desired some good press following several months of reports about Mr. McCoy getting a speeding ticket, his 2012 hiring of two investigators whose job duties and authority are unclear, and the arrest of the deputy county executive on a felony drug charge. Regardless of his motives, SPB is pleased with the enactment of this law which also requires disposable food service items to be biodegradable or compostable. Hopefully Mr. McCoy will become a green county executive.

Late in 2013, Mr. McCoy announced other initiatives. He said he would appoint a commission to find a viable option for long-term, environmentally sound, and economical waste disposal. The commission will begin its work by reviewing the county’s Regional Solid Waste Authority Study of 2011 — a draft report undertaken by his predecessor.

SPB has long opposed the creation of any local or regional solid waste authority due to their undemocratic structure and tendencies to try siting giant-sized, unneeded, costly, and dangerous disposal technologies, particularly trash incinerators. Many Albany residents remember the ANSWERS trash incinerator that spewed poisons over Arbor Hill and downtown Albany from 1982-1994.

In a January 16 Altamont Enterprise letter, Mr. McCoy elaborated on his thoughts reported on in a December 13 Albany Times Union news article. He wrote, “My office is currently working to complete the transfer of two parcels of land adjacent to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission that would add 23 acres to the preserve. There is a possibility that the acreage will need environmental remediation. There are other parcel transfers either in process or complete that I look forward to working with the community to meet my goal of conserving more than 3500 acres. This benefits everyone as we work to keep our community scenic, healthy, and green.”

He wrote that his administration had already “been able to donate more than 372 acres for conservation, environmental remediation, or agriculture.”    His desire to set aside an additional 3000+ acres is an opportunity for SPB to have the Pine Bush Preserve greatly enlarged and dumps in the Pine Bush cleaned.




Published in March/April 2014 Save the Pine Bush Newsletter