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Ackerman unveils green bills

It was a showing of unity as government officials, local businesses, police and environmental advocates met under sunny skies in an Oakland Gardens park on Earth Day to voice their support for sustainable living.

U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) used the gathering Tuesday to announce his plan to introduce two pieces of earth-friendly legislation in Congress. It was also a chance for organizations in the area to explain what they are doing to protect the environment.

"The government should lead by example," Ackerman said, referring to his new legislation and the efforts of his Bayside office to recycle more and conserve energy.

Ackerman's first measure would require all cars used by the federal government to adopt a mileage standard of 40 miles per gallon by the year 2015. In December, Congress expanded the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, which require all cars sold in the United States to use at least 35 mpg. Ackerman said the standard, however, does not apply to federal cars.

The second measure, Ackerman said, aims to encourage all states to implement bottle deposit laws by urging the Environmental Protection Agency to favor states with bottle deposit laws when distributing air quality grants. Currently only 10 states have a bottle deposit law, he said.

At one point in the conference, Ackerman held a compact fluorescent light bulb above his head, saying he has already begun to switch to the energy-saving bulbs in his own home.

The Bayside congressman planned to announce both measures to Congress Tuesday.

Representatives from a variety of organizations, such as the New York Mets and Nassau County Police Department, discussed their organization's steps in conserving energy.

Pat McGovern, vice president of operations for Queens Ballpark Company LLC, the company in charge of building Citi Field, detailed ways the new home for the Mets will be eco-friendly. This included the ballpark's plan to install 300 waterless urinals in the stadium. McGovern said that alone would save 4 million gallons of water a year.

The Earth Day event was a stark contrast from how the government and business organizations perceived the holiday when it was first founded more than 30 years ago, said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

At the time, the day was something recognized by only those on the fringes of society, Esposito said, and now is an event in which the community is collectively involved.

You would not have elected officials, hospitals and businesses "standing side by side espousing the same goal" three decades ago, Esposito said, attributing the change to a rise in public awareness about the environment.

Still, there are things members of the community need to do to protect the environment, Esposito said, such as contacting local officials to support environmental measures. She also recommends recycling and replacing regular light bulbs at home with compact fluorescent ones.

"It may not be easy, it may not be cheap, it may not be convenient, but it sure is worth doing," she said.

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