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Gianaris pushes his clean-air bill

In celebration of Earth Day last week, state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) touted the pro-environment legislation he has recently introduced that would reduce emissions and crack down on polluters.

“It’s been a priority of mine from the first day I was elected to the [state] Assembly,” Gianaris said.

The senator said that since his district is adjacent to the Con Edison Astoria Complex, on 20th Avenue between Shore Boulevard and 31st Street in Astoria and contains the Ravenswood Power Plant in Astoria, air quality has always been a major concern.

“No better time than Earth Day to kind of highlight a lot of this work,” Gianaris said.

The senator has introduced three bills to improve air quality in western Queens and throughout the state.

The first will continue implementation of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an agreement between the country’s Northeast states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions while raising funds for projects that conserve energy and make energy creation more efficient.

Two additional bills would increase penalties for polluters, including measures that would revoke permit applications for power projects and create new standards for lights used in public buildings, making them more energy-efficient.

These bills are particularly important in Astoria, Gianaris said, because along with the South Bronx and East Harlem the neighborhood has some of the highest asthma rates in the city.

Gianaris said he is also pushing the city to plant trees in western Queens in Sunnyside, particularly along Queens Boulevard and 48th Avenue.

“Sunnyside, in particular, is an area in need of a lot more trees, a lot more greenery,” Gianaris said.

While some political factions in the country have questioned environmental protection measures, with former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich saying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should be disbanded earlier this year, Gianaris said that is not consistent with the feelings of his district.

“We are very pro-environment because we are living with the health consequences of excessive pollution,” Gianaris said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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