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[GreenYes] Bloomberg Challenges NYC Council's E-Waste Legislation

February 15, 2008, 2:57 pm

Mayor Threatens Not to Enforce Electronics Recycling Bill

By Ray Rivera <>

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg invoked a rarely used power today not to enforce
a law he deems illegal, saying he would ignore an electronic
ic+recycling&st=nyt> recycling bill passed by the City Council this week if
his planned veto is overridden.

The mayor, on his weekly radio program on WABC-AM (770), said the bill as
currently written is "totally illegal."

"We will not enforce it," he said. "And we don't have to enforce it because
it violates a whole bunch of federal laws on interstate commerce."

The threat evokes the much-debated use of so-called "signing statements" by
the Bush administration. In a 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning series, Charlie
Savage of The Boston Globe showed how the president has used hundreds of
these statements to disobey laws passed by Congress on issues ranging from
military rules and regulations to affirmative action.

In 2006, the Bloomberg administration won a battle in the state's highest
court saying the mayor does not have to enforce a law he deems to be
unconstitutional. That legal fight was waged over a 2004 law passed by the
City Council, after overriding the mayor's veto, that would have required
private companies that contract with the city to provide the same health
care and other benefits they extend to married couples to domestic partners.

It was not immediately known on Friday how often the mayor has used that
privilege. During his first term, the mayor repeatedly charged that the
Council was overreaching its authority and passing laws that violated state
and federal laws. Relations grew so tense that the Council, at the time
under Speaker Gifford Miller, overrode mayoral vetoes a record 35 times.

The Council now, led by Mr. Miller's successor, Christine C. Quinn, has had
considerably better relations with the mayor in his second term. The Council
has overridden mayoral vetoes only three times under Ms. Quinn, and in none
of those instances has the mayor said he would not enforce the law as
illegal (though one of those, a law allowing students to carry cell phones
to school, the mayor said had no effectl on the current ban on cellphones in
public schools).

City Councilman Bill De Blasio, a Brooklyn Democrat who was a sponsor of the
bill, called the mayor's threat inappropriate.

"The Council is the legislative body of the city and under the charter it's
our job to pass legislation that will improve the lives of people in the
city," he said.

Mr. DeBlasio added: "I have not heard any substantive disagreement on the
need to create electronic recycling. I can tell you for a fact that they
were not doing anything to create it and this legislation is the only reason
the discussion began."

The Council passed the electronic recycling bill this week by a veto-proof
count of 47-3. Among other things, the bill, which is backed by the National
Resources Defense Council and is similar to laws passed by 10 other states,
makes manufacturers responsible for recycling products they sell to
consumers. The law would be phased in over 10 years, eventually requiring
manufacturers to collect annually enough discarded electronic equipment to
equal 65 percent of the average weight of the goods they sold in the city
during the previous three years or be fined $50,000 for each percentage
point they fall below those standards.

"We will veto if it stays in the form it is in today," the mayor said today.
"Look, nobody's more in favor of recycling, and the reason that we focus on
electronic equipment is there's a lot of very heavy metal chemicals in
electronic components that if you just put in a garbage dump they don't just
go away with time the way paper would and some of the other things that get
thrown away. Organic materials go away. These really pollute and they
pollute badly. The trouble with this law that the City Council passed is
that you hold the manufacturers responsible for the public to recycle and
the manufacturers can't do that. They don't sell directly to the public in
many cases, they sell to wholesalers, and the wholesalers, you're not
holding them responsible, but also it's the individual's responsibility."

The radio program's host, John Gambling, asked if the purchaser should be
made responsible for recycling, therefore requiring the government to
provide the necessary resources, like curbside pickups or recycling

"I think that does make some sense," the mayor said. "For example, we have a
law, you can't take your refrigerator and just take the gases and the freon
and turn it out into the atmosphere. That's really causing global warming,
and that's a disaster. So we have a law that that says you have to call the
city and we'll take the gas away and we'll take away your refrigerator and
that law is enforced and people live with it and it's not a great burden on
anybody. It makes sense from all points of view. But there you're holding
somebody responsible for an action that they themselves control. Holding the
manufacture of a refrigerator responsible for what somebody who bought that
refrigerator 20 years ago is doing today, you can't do that."

Mr. De Blasio responded: "If there's a legal concern we've said consistently
we are willing to try and keep working together. But I'm perplexed because
it seems to me they don't disagree with the goals. They do disagree on the
question of performance standards but that's the legislature's right to
decide what we think is effective and what we're doing mirrors what 10 other
states have done and what the national environmental movement thinks should
be done and what Apple Computer has come out and said was an appropriate way
to do things."

Apple representatives stood with De Blasio and Ms. Quinn at a news
conference this week promoting the legislation, though it has been generally
opposed by the industry.

Kendall Christiansen

Gaia Strategies

151 Maple Street

Brooklyn, NY 11225

o: 718.941.9535; cell: 917.359.0725

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