Daily News Archive

New York Governor Vetoes Anti-Creosote Bill
(Beyond Pesticides, September 1, 2004)
Governor George Pataki of New York State recently vetoed a landmark bill that would have made New York the first state to phase-out the use of creosote-treated wood for most uses, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Westchester County Democrat Richard Brodsky and Chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee, Senator Carl Marcellino, first introduced the Bill, S04975/A05930, in May of last year. After full deliberation and passage in both the Senate and the Assembly, the Governor vetoed the Bill saying in a memo issued August 27, 2004 that although "serious and legitimate issues" about safety were raised by the Bill’s sponsors, the phase-out was "premature."

"I am reluctant to approve an outright ban on creosote in New York state without first giving the EPA a reasonable opportunity to study and report on the health effects of creosote in the workplace," said Pataki’s memo.

Creosote, a heavy-duty wood preservative, has been under review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for decades. Currently, the Agency is battling a lawsuit with Beyond Pesticides over unreasonable delays on issuing an assessment of the risks to human health and the environment posed by the wide use of the chemical and for not taking immediate action to prevent hazardous public and environmental exposure.

Assemblyman Brodsky called Pataki's veto outrageous. "This veto is a sorry and disappointing refusal to recognize the need to control toxins in our water and in our working people," reports AP.

The bill was initiated by The Dockbuilders Local 1456 union, a local division of the New York City District Council of Carpenters. The union commissioned a study on the health effects of creosote in 2003 and is struggling to protect the health of its workers by banning the use of the toxic pesticide.

The Creosote Council, representing creosote industry producers and treaters, has lobbied heavily against the bill, claiming that it, “would impose an unnecessary economic burden on the state if the bills become law.” In 1984, EPA caved to industry pressure and decided to retain the use of creosote (along with the other two main wood pesticides, CCA and penta) despite evidence of elevated risks of cancer and other human health effects because of its high economic benefit and lack of economically viable alternatives. The Agency’s reasoning has been challenged by environmentalists and alternative producers ever since. (See Beyond Pesticides Poison Poles.)

The Bill provided important legislation that finally recognized the hazards posed by creosote toward workers, the environment and all others who come in contact with the chemical. By 2006, the Bill would have phased-out the manufacture, sale and use of creosote (with provisions to allow continued use of already treated wood) and by 2005, would have prohibited the toxic burning of the chemical except in specially designated city incinerators and required proper disposal in lined landfills to prevent groundwater contamination. The Bill however, was far from perfect in that it exempted utility poles and railroad ties – two of the largest uses of creosote.

TAKE ACTION: Contact the Governor and voice your opinion about his veto of this important Bill: Governor George E. Pataki, State Capitol, Albany, NY 12224, Tel. 518-474-8390, http://www.state.ny.us/governor/. For more information on wood preservatives and the current lawsuit see Beyond Pesticides Wood Project Page. Read specific facts and issues concerning creosote in the Naples Daily News Series or in a petition to the EPA to ban creosote by Beyond Pesticides and friends.