New York Governor Passes Somewhat Symbolic Anti-Creosote Bill

Date: July 26, 2007

Source: Governor Eliot Spitzer


Governor Eliot Spitzer announced today that he has signed legislation that will partially end the manufacture, sale and use of creosote in New York State.

Creosote is the name used for a variety of products that are mixtures of many chemicals derived by high temperature treatment of coal, tar or wood. It is used in various industrial applications to preserve wood and prevent insect infestation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1995 classified creosote as a probable human carcinogen. The EPA also classifies it as a hazardous waste. It is also known to cause an array of worker health problems after direct and extended exposure. These problems can include skin rash and irritation, eye irritation and injury, and respiratory distress. These problems are exacerbated during the summer months when high temperatures accentuate creosote fumes and limit the ability of workers to wear heavy, protective clothing for long periods of time.

"This is a law that will protect the environment, and help ensure that workers will be protected from the harsh effects of this dangerous chemical," said Governor Spitzer. "I am pleased that we were able to achieve a sensible, workable bill that provides long-needed protections while not hampering business needs."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said: "Creosote is known to be a serious health and environmental hazard and a cause of cancer and other ailments. This legislation will protect all New Yorkers, especially workers in the construction and building trades who are more likely to be exposed to creosote. I commend the Governor for joining the Legislature in taking action on this extremely serious health and safety issue."

Senate Minority Leader Malcolm A. Smith said: "Today, we are taking another step in protecting workers who risk exposure to this dangerous carcinogen. Eliminating the use of harmful chemicals is fundamental to a cleaner, healthier future for us all. I applaud the Governor for signing this bill."

Senator Serphin Maltese said: "As prime sponsor of this bill in the senate, I am certain the enactment of this important legislative initiative will insure that workers will be protected from the detrimental health effects of using creosote- an EPA classified hazardous waste- as well as provide protection for surface and ground water."

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky said: "For years we have fought the Bush Administration's inaction on banning this dangerous carcinogen. This law does what the federal government wouldn't do: protect the health and safety of workers around the State. I applaud my colleagues in the Assembly, the Governor, the Commissioner of Environmental Conservation, the Senate and others for their effort throughout the process."

Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Pete Grannis said: "This is a classic case of a situation that requires a national solution. But when the federal government won't act, it's up to the state to step in to protect its citizens. In the past, this bill was vetoed because we were waiting for the federal EPA to take action. But we can't continue to wait."

Michael J. Forde, Executive Secretary Treasurer of the New York City District Council of Carpenters, said: "On behalf of the more than 25,000 working men and women at the District Council I commend Governor Spitzer for once again standing up in the face of environmental injustice and federal inaction and ensuring that creosote is banned here in New York. This toxic substance puts everyone who is forced to work with it at serious risk. Governor Spitzer understood this and we thank him for his bold and historic action."

Steve Breyman, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Citizens' Environmental Coalition, said: "The Citizens' Environmental Coalition applauds Governor Spitzer for his environmental leadership. The focus on the use of creosote as a wood preservative reflects the Governor's and Legislature's good sense of priorities: coal tar creosote remains the most widely used wood preservative in the United States even though it is a probable human carcinogen and a hazardous waste. Animal studies indicate that creosote may cross the placenta and reach the fetus. Those of us with long memories know this bill was long overdue."

This bill provides for the phasing-out of the manufacture, sale and use of creosote in New York after January 1, 2008, and after January 1, 2010 for existing marinas and other facilities used for the berthing, mooring and storage of vessels. The bill exempts products containing creosote that are in use as of the phase out date, and also exempts the following users and uses of creosote:

  • Railroads and the operation and/or maintenance of railroads and railroad shipping facilities;
    * Electric corporations, and the maintenance of new or existing utility poles owned or used by utility, telecommunications and similar companies;
    * Use of utility poles by other persons to suspend or support power, communications, utility wires, lines or cables and related equipment, antennae, lighting, signals, electric or electronic devices and similar equipment; and
    * Public authorities and utilities that own and operate electric transmission or distribution lines.

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