Established in 1936, the Interstate Environmental Commission (IEC) is a tri-state water and air pollution control agency for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
You are an environmental consultant hired to assess and evaluate the performance of such an organization. You are tasked to indicate its strengths and weaknesses then suggest policy reform and adjustments for its mandates. You are given two academic papers to assist you:
- Political Externalities, Federalism, and a Proposal for an Interstate Environmental Impact Assessment Policy
- Evaluating collaborative environmental planning outputs and outcomes: Restoring and protecting habitat and the New York-New Jersey harbor estuary program
Your report as an evaluator should incorporate four sections:
- Current Situation of the (IEC) and its relation to individual states
- Advantages of such organization and the regional benefits it brings
- Highlight the shortcomings and explain where do you think it did not serve its purpose
- Future recommendations for its environmental mandate
In groups, write the evaluation report and do not exceed 4 pages covering the above structure.
Regional & Interstate Environmental Authorities
Today’s Interstate Environmental Commission works cooperatively with government agencies from Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York along with local communities and private organizations in order to join efforts to betterment the water quality, fisheries, wetlands, wildlife, and for the enjoyment of its states’ waters. The jurisdiction encompasses on the tri-state waters centering the lower 50 miles of the Hudson River, the western half of the Long Island Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean from Fire Island on Long Island’s southern region to Sandy Hook New Jersey. The mission of the IEC is to “protect and enhance environmental quality through cooperation, regulation, and communication between government officials and citizen in the tri-state region”. Currently its goals are to provide member state with assistance in compliance through a inspections vigilant monitoring and strategic analysis. It also fosters education of understanding the condition of district waters through long-term and short- term . The strategy IEC tends to initiate is enhance the public and legislative awareness by circulating the information on issues concerning water quality and publicizing citizen science.
According to their website, the IEC “has carried the ball and saved its member states literally millions of dollars over the past decade alone.” It is proud to mention it has made spectacular achievements. Habitat member organizations of the IEC have successfully restored 467 acres of land with a $66,606 investment since 2004. Such restoration projects have led to the return of wetlands, which provide crucial ecosystem services to surrounding municipalities. For example, a 200 acre restoration project at Liberty State Park in New Jersey lead to the restoration of 40 acres of salt marshes, and 28 acres of freshwater wetlands.
The IEC exists to mitigate disputes between the states in of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut regarding their air and water quality. State level legislation often clashes within multi-state ecological restoration projects, thus establishing an organization like the IEC is required to ensure that each state’s wing of the project is moving forward jointly.
Regulating pollution across a large region, or body of water poses challenges. Without regulation, communities with relaxed emission laws will contribute to pollution at a greater rate. However, all the municipalities will share the burden of this pollution. Authorities wishing to effectively regulate emissions across a large region must, therefore, unify environmental regulations across the board. This ensures that all local municipalities within the region have an equal incentive to lower their emission rates.
Interstate Environmental Impact Committees have the power to set more ambitious targets than what is required by the NEPA federal standard. Reasons for doing so are often varied but stem from community efforts and incentives. Communities that are more interconnected with their natural landscape may demand environmental restoration efforts well beyond the EPA’s requirements. Creating an avenue for this discourse has the potential to pressure committee leaders into boosting their emissions reduction goals.
The IEC also provides the service of being an enforcement mechanism. A local municipality that is not part of any sort of state, or interstate commission falls under EPA jurisdiction. A federal agency is quite a few steps away from a local government on the political ladder, thus, a high-emitting municipality could evade the ‘teeth’ of this policy simply by being overlooked. Establishing an organization like the IEC creates a layer of enforcement between the federal government and the local municipality, allowing for tighter monitoring of emissions.
It is difficult to find explicit ‘shortcomings’ of the IEC because they have the interest of suppressing negative press and encouraging positive press. The only primary critique our group could develop for the IEC comes in the form of enforcement. The IEC claims to rely on EPA enforcement, despite being an inter-state organization in closer jurisdiction to local municipalities. Especially in the case of water pollution, which the IEC already claims to be working to increase their enforcement efforts around. The IEC could potentially see greater success by exerting their authority over local municipalities, and ensuring that none are overlooked. The IEC was created in response to the rampant pollution occurring to the watersheds of New Jersey and New York, so there is already a culture of ‘action’ supported by the committee. In fact, they established strict regulations on pollution in the 1930s prior to the establishment of the EPAs standards.
The IEC has many rules regarding the waters of its districts, according to their website. The general requirements are that all waters of the Interstate Environmental District shall be free from floating solids, oil, grease, sludge, and noticeable color in quantities detrimental to the natural biota. No toxic or deleterious substances shall be present in levels that are detrimental to fish or their migration patterns, that would interfere with human consumption of the fish. Lastly, no sewage or other polluting matters shall be discharged, or permitted to flow into the waters unless they are in conformity with the above regulations.
A future recommendation is that the IEC lets the state choose their own regulations. Because the IEC is regulating the waters of three different states, it can be difficult to make sure that all of the waters are in compliance. Since there are three differents states and many bodies of water involved, there can be conflict when if the states disagree, and there are no regulations regarding what to do when the states don’t agree on water requirements. I would recommend that the Commission creates agreements with it member states on what to do when a disagreement arises, and what procedures to follow when an agreement can’t be reached.
As the Interstate Environmental Commission is funded by the states of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, our recommendations for the States is to rely on state and federal agencies to enforce regulations regarding air and water quality. State and federal agencies are funded by the states regardless, so it may be a waste of money to additionally fund the IEC. The Environmental Protection Agency covers the same areas that the IEC, and enforces similar regulations through the Clean Water Act, and Clean Air Act as well as other regulations.
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The Interstate Environmental Commission
The Interstate Environmental Commission is a joint agency created between three states: New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. This commission was originated for the environmental protection, fighting water and atmospheric pollution in the territory between the three states. Therefore, every activity, mandate, and regulation goes to benefit these three states. As per many commissions and institutions, the IEC remarkably improves the communication, cooperation, and regulation between the government and the citizens in the so-called Tri-State Region. The organization helps states to monitor, analyze and coordinate whenever there are issues in the regional area. Therefore, The IEC has the ability to perform inspections in the area. However, it does not work individually to protect the water of the region but seeks contribution from other interstate agencies such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and it creates other partnerships from programs such as the Harbor Estuary Program and the Long Island Sound Study.
Many of the problems that the region faced, and somewhat still face are: invasive species, atmospheric deposition, sediment contamination, pathogens, habitat loss, impacts on living marine resources, and combined sewer overflows. The commission actively continues to act upon these problems with sundry scientific and technical programs and improvements. Since pollution does not take into consideration state boundaries, as it stands, currently, the program helps to raise awareness that the participation to restrain pollution has to be collective. Therefore, when the scope of some problems is extensive, and state borders are not able to restrain and remedy to the environmental problem, agencies such as the IEC help to fill in the gaps. All the monitoring and the preservation that the IEC supports serve every individual state member.
The Interstate Environmental Commission (IEC) envisions an ecosystem plentiful of diversified inhabitants, District waters that are litter free, easily reached and capable of supporting a wide spectrum of commercial and recreational activities, and a balance between the needs of the ecosystem and the demands of citizens that may be in conflict. The advantage of being a tri-state agency with regulatory and enforcement powers affords the Commission the ability to address water pollution and other environmental issues from a regional perspective, in cooperation with its member states and regional partnership programs. In order to achieve the goal, the Commission implements by coordinating interstate and region-wide water quality programs, providing technical assistance and support to its member States on water quality issues, and enhancing public and legislative awareness, disseminating information on issues related to water quality, and promoting citizen science. One of the examples of the Commission’s interstate jurisdiction benefits each of its member states is that the Commission’s activities resulted in more stringent permit requirements for publicly or privately owned treatment facilities discharging into the Commission’s District, in order to control and prevent pollutant from emptying into tri-state waterways. Other examples are the IEC was instrumental in the proceedings that resulted in vastly improved operational procedures at the currently closed Fresh Kills landfill located on the Arthur Kill shoreline in the western portion of Staten Island, New York. Overall, IEC has carried the ball in an effort to restore and maintain the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of its District waters, and to ensure that they meet standards necessary of human sports and recreation.
While organizations like the IEC have done some good, the very nature of our country’s political makeup insures there will be difficulty when it comes to solving any interstate problems. The fact of the matter is that people in different regional areas have different opinions, ideologies, and philosophies on what problems exist or how problems should be solved. It is for this reason that our country is divided into states in the first place. Within states, people are able to identify and address issues at a more local level. What is considered important or an issue for one state might not be the same for another. For example, the legalization of marijuana in California is viewed favorably by most of the citizens of California, but on the other hand, legalization of marijuana probably would not be seen as favorably in another state like Utah. These differences in opinion also carry over into environmental issues. Some states will have more strict environmental regulations and laws, whereas other states will be less stringent.
In cases such as the Interstate Environmental Commission between New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and the Environmental Protection Agency are working to achieve a common goal. In this example, the three states are seeking to reduce water pollution for the common benefit of clean water. In such scenarios when the goal is in the interest of all parties involved, interstate commissions are probably the best solution. However, in most cases with environmental issues, states do not agree on problems or solutions, especially when the bulk of a negative environmental impact is only felt by one state. In such disagreements the federal government appears to provide the best solution. The federal government can either mediate the problem in the courts or dictate the solution through laws and regulations. While the Federal government might be the best solution to interstate environmental problems, it also goes against the ideal of leaving local control to states, which will likely leave one state unhappy without the outcome.
Whether or not interstate environmental issues are handled through interstate commissions, the federal government, or a combination of the both, they all have the problem of adding bureaucracy to the problem solving process. Issues that might have been able to be solved at a local level must now include both states involved and the federal government. Furthermore, added bureaucracy of large institutions can add extra time to projects getting completed or additional cost for businesses. Furthermore, due to the large size and structure of organizations like the IEC, it is difficult for the public to maintain oversight, have their issues addressed, or voice their concerns to the organization.
The Interstate Environmental Commission is valuable for its ability to mediate the environmental concerns of three states, namely New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Acting as a regulatory body that ensures water and air pollution are controlled and avoided, the IEC operates in between the individual state/local level and the federal level. The IEC solves interstate environmental harms regionally, and since most environmental problems are transboundary, this degree of coordination seems fitting.
Resolving interstate environmental problems requires a range of skills, including fact finding, conciliation, detailed coordination with adjudicatory agencies, and close supervision of the technical performance of local industries. States hold the constitutional authority to regulate interstate environmental harms between themselves through interstate compacts approved by Congress. However, the nature of interstate environmental harms and the political transaction costs of negotiating and enacting compacts explain why this solution is rarely employed. When interstate agreements increase the power of the states at the expense of the federal government, they are still subject to congressional approval. Lack of information regarding harms in another jurisdiction, lack of public process and accountability, and traditional economic externalization combine to produce inefficient interstate environmental harms.
Thus, in evaluating the pros and cons of the IEC, more changes need to be applied. First, regional environmental organizations must hold a pre-project assessment. Forecasting the project’s direction and foreshadowing its challenges is beneficial for mitigating issues. Next, public participation throughout the process is necessary to inform both the regional and federal actors of the outcomes. At a minimum, public hearings should be held in the communities affected by the potential interstate environmental harm, forcing the decision-makers to visit such locations and hear the concerns of citizens. All stakeholders who are affected by the interstate environmental harm should be contacted and heard. They should also help generate policy and be accountable to their behavior.
Additionally, there should be a post-project assessment and report, analyzing the project’s achievements and shortcomings. The IEC should require ongoing policy/project assessment and monitoring. This information should be shared with all parties in order to obtain maximum transparency and understanding. Conducting follow-up programs and meetings and publishing reports on the work to avoid unintended harms is essential. Lastly, enforcement and judicial review by the interstate organization and the federal government will assure that action is achieved.
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Group 4: Sonam Kaur, Raymond Avila, Lily Harmon, Vincent Huynh
The Interstate Environmental Commission (IEC) is an interstate regulatory and enforcement agency approved by Congress. In addition, it is also responsible as an active overseer of its member states as an agency crossing state lines. The IEC is a joint control agency for air and water pollution serving the tri-state area (NY, NJ, and CT) whose objective is to protect the environment and enforce water quality regulations. The IEC aims at providing an ecosystem that is diversified, having district waters that are litter-free, easily accessible, and supporting of commercial and recreational activities. In the past decade alone, it has saved it’s member states millions of dollars.
The IEC is an active guardian of its member states who are faced with upsetting social and economic impacts in terms of water use impairments. Although the commission’s mandates, mission, and responsibilities serve the tri-state area, environmental and health departments of these member states are still responsible for the overall protection and remediation of District waterways in their respective states. On the other hand, interstate environmental harms as a result of political externalities via interstate environmental externalities are issues concerning transboundary air and water pollution. States are authorized to permit programs to address interstate water pollution that the EPA can refuse if all states being affected are not in compliance with each other’s permit proposals. As a result, this often leads to disputes when the affected states cannot come to an agreement which eventually warrants federal adjudication and regulation.
When independent states share such an important environmental resource as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut do, it is a struggle to ensure that all decisions are made fairly and with the best information possible. Assuming the IEC didn’t exist, it would be up to state officials, ill-informed concerning the economic and environmental needs of neighboring states, held accountable by their constituents alone, to make decisions concerning environmental quality. This has often been a problem, especially between states sharing water, since the negative environmental impacts of a policy will not always affect the source state. The establishment of the IEC has allowed these states to communicate more effectively, developing joint policies that respect the environmental rights of everyone involved. For example, the IEC’s Regional Bypass Workgroup developed a mathematical model to calculate the impacts of different amounts and kinds of sewage when released into the harbors. This allows them to develop well-informed regulations that maintain safe water for recreation and shellfishing, as well as predict when the water will be unsafe, and beaches need to be closed. Overall, they have contributed to the rebuilding of the ecosystem and fostered a cooperative spirit concerning the shared waters of these states. Organizations such as the IEC are becoming even more crucial as environmental harms induced by global warming increase. Divvying it up into independently-owned (and polluted) parts, instead of taking a holistic perspective of the entire area, could be disastrous in coming years as hypoxia and flooding from sea level rise become more of a threat. In fact, the IEC has been extremely successful at mitigating hypoxia, even through the increasingly warm summers, although they have not taken much action against sea level rise to date.
The IEC has been an evolving organization, changing as environmental needs of the area change. Historically they have focused on water pollution, but expanded their focus to air pollution and public engagement as they observed a need for each. Of the many environmental concerns they address, they have largely ignored the encroaching threats of climate change, which should be causing dramatic effects in sea level within 15-20 years. Although flood prevention is perhaps not under their jurisdiction, since it implies building better infrastructure on land and their concern is mainly the water, any environmental education and outreach should be discussing climate change. Maybe the fault lies with the ability of the organization to quickly expand their focus to the most pressing environmental issues.
Although the IEC does in fact provide many environmental protections and sanctions to its local jurisdiction, there are still several factors that remain unhandled as responses to environmental constituents have witnessed only limited success. One of the main contributing factors to this inability to act could be attributed to the complications that arise since pollution and various other environmental dangers do not abide by state boundaries, while our legal and political agendas are bound by state borders. States generally exercise their individual rights to choose their own regulatory agendas to tackle state-based environmentally harmful activities without intervention from neighboring states. This can often cause problems and state conflicts when a state seeks to intervene in an environmentally harmful practice that crosses over to a separate state’s territory. The federal government has tried to negate this paradox through a method known as adjudication of interstate nuisance liability as well as special case by case statutes that tackle specific instances of interstate pollution; however, it too has seen inconsistent results as to the success of these proposed fixes. One example of this conflict in state agendas is where an upstream state would actually be put at a disadvantage if it decided to enter into a compact agreement with a downstream state that wants to limit the discharge of water pollution. In cases like these, the upstream state would obviously decline the compact to take action on a fix that would generally satisfy only the downstream state and as such the downstream state would be unable to take any action as it has no right to intervene in another state’s operations. In many cases, in order to accomplish a joint environmental operation state leaders must risk a considerable amount of political and state resources and it is likely there will be conflicts in willingness to expend these resources. Therefore, often times it is very uncommon for states to work together in cases where joint involvement is mandatory.
Along with creating a stronger presence with social organizational movements and increase the community effort to to achieve these goals, without a collaborative community effort there would not be a strong force for changes. When considering the IEC and making changes, people are the first ones affected with environmental harms and to their property. It is important to analyze and understand the outputs and the outcomes of plans, outputs being the plans and projects and the outcomes being the effects of the outputs and the impacts they made on the current social and environmental conditions. As well as understanding the outcomes such as, social capital, political capital, intellectual capital, institutional changes, and institutional capacity. Without trial and error, it is impossible to know what works and does not work, therefore having researchers analyze the outcomes is crucial when it comes to understanding issues over water quality and how it is distributed between states. Also, studies have shown by Ozawa (1991) that creating “science-intensive deliberations” of information that is produced is helpful when trying to understand social outcomes and complex environmental problems. When looking directly at the shortcomings of the IEC mentioned above, it would be beneficial to analyze the outcomes that fell short. For example, certain activities have certain negative environmental impacts that will cover larger areas than just one state such as disputes over water, which are inevitable due to the nature and geography of state. To address problems between interstate environmental harms, its is best to have related and separate bases between states in order to design a solution to a wide set problem between states. It is also clear that many environmental harms between interstate and intrastate will result not just only over economic externalities, but will happen over lack of information over environmental issues, which is why research over the outcomes is imperative in understanding better solutions.
By Emily Watterson / Jenny Crofton / Shelby Bustria / Carolyn Hernandez
Nearly 100 years ago, the waterways in the tristate area of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York were in devastating condition, with pollution and sewage causing extremely low water quality, causing residents to suffer from various waterborne diseases. The response was the 1936 establishment of the Interstate Environmental Commission (IEC), which is responsible for enforcing environmental regulations in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
What’s unique about the IEC is that unlike other agencies of its kind in different states across the U.S., “the Commission is not only an intrastate regulatory and enforcement agency, but also, an interstate agency, one that can and does cross state lines.” While this gives them many advantages in the work they are able to oversee, it may also present some disadvantages. In this paper we aim to identify, if any, ways that the IEC successfully upholds environmental regulations, as well as ways in which they might improve as a commission in order to better serve the peoples of the tristate area.
Since its existence, the IEC has made innumerable contributions to the wellbeing of people living in the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. One of the IECs’ greatest accomplishments was the process in obtaining permits much more stringent for treatment facilities that discharge materials into the IEC’s jurisdiction. This ensures that hazardous pollutants do not make their way into any of the waterways in the tri-state region. In addition to this, the IEC requires year-round, proactive disinfections in the area’s waterways. Because of the adoption of this year-round disinfection policy, the IEC has helped reduce bacterial contamination in the tristate waterways, resulting in fewer annual beach closings and the reopening of “thousands of acres of shellfishing waters” (iec-nynjct.org).
Significant to highlight is the IEC’s chair position on the Regional Bypass Workgroup. From working with the Regional Bypass Workgroup came the Regional Bypass model, “a mathematical tool that predicts the impact of sewage discharges on District waters” (iec-nynjct.org). The reason that the Regional Bypass Workgroup, and the consequent tools that were developed out of it’s work with the IEC, came into existence was in response to the June 1997 series of events in which “a force main failure under Eastchester Bay, in conjunction with other sewage releases, caused the immediate closing of public beaches in the Bronx, as well as in Westchester County and Connecticut (~10 miles to the east).” This was the driving force behind the creation of the Regional Bypass Group, as well as the consequent tools that were developed, partially in collaboration with the IEC. According to the IEC they “spearheaded, coordinated and partially funded this multi-state, multi-agency effort that resulted in regional notification and tracking procedures for unplanned sewage bypasses to ensure proper action for the protection of bathers and shellfisheries” (iec-nynjct.org).
New York State has benefited from participation in the Interstate Environmental Commission. The IEC’s area of influence is expansive and encompasses a huge portion of New York’s waterways. It includes the waters of the Hudson River, waters adjoining all five boroughs of New York City, the shores of Long Island, and waters along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean (iec-nynjct.org). All of these waterways benefit from the work of the IEC because the intention of the IEC is to bring a systems approach to their management. By monitoring and cleaning the system-as-a-whole, the IEC allows for more effective management of New York’s waterways than the state could achieve by acting alone and exclusively within its geographic borders.
One notable example of this is Fresh Kills landfill on the western shore of Staten Island. Before its closure in 2001, municipal waste was delivered to the landfill by barge. Garbage would escape the landfill area, particularly during dumping procedures. This polluted not only New York’s waterways, but also the entire tri-state complex. The IEC worked to address the issue of garbage escaping from the landfill area into the waterways, and in doing so provided benefits to both the New York state, and the other states in the IEC (iec-nynjct.org).
The IEC is also a key player in enforcing and bolstering other environmental regulations and guidelines. For example, by connecting and working with entire watersheds, the IEC helps to address the issue of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) of pollution throughout the New York-New Jersey Harbor and its connected systems. The IEC actively assists in organizing and implementing teams, partaking in Management Committees, as well as participating in various workgroups that determine TMDLs for “pathogens, nutrients and toxics” (iec-nynjct.org).
Yet another success of the IEC is their work on the Bight habitat, an estuary wetland habitat connected to the rest of the harbor complex. The ground-breaking Bight Habitat Study showed that even after 300 years of development, there was still a vibrant habitat “of regional and national importance” (peer review paper). The IEC then formed the Habitat Workgroup, which through its work successfully researched the area, initiated needed institutional changes, implemented restoration projects, and protected land from development (peer review paper).
One of the things that the IEC is most committed to as a Commission is monitoring and tracking the harbor complex and all of its related waterways, which has been of great advantage to all of the relevant management and policy-making. For example, “The Commission remains actively involved with the Long Island Sound Study and the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program—both parts of the National Estuary Program” (iec-nynjct.org). Much of the research and decision-making is collaborative, spanning across different organizations and including university graduate research programs, and participating in broader programs.
In New Jersey, the area contains a vast amount of water systems such as estuaries and tidal waters, along with the Hudson River and New York Upper Bay (Interstate Environmental Commission, 2015) Currently, New Jersey struggles to meet federally approved water standards due to water pollutants. For example, PCBs, arsenic, low dissolved oxygen and phosphorus are the most common pollutants found in New Jersey water bodies (Scranton Gillette Communications, 2018).
Since the IEC was formed, New Jersey has worked with New York in efforts to protect shared water resources such as the Hudson River, however, there have been competing interests. In the article, “Political Externalities, Federalism, and a Proposal For and Interstate Environmental Impact Assessment Policy, By Noah Hall, Hall explains that New York and New Jersey have competing views in the use of the Hudson River (Hall, 68). Although these two states are a part of the IEC, there have been legal disputes related to competing interests regarding the Hudson River. These disputes have been handled by federal government rather than state courts to prevent biases in rulings (Hall, 69).
Since the IEC has been established, New Jersey, specifically the Port Authority has successfully signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission to preserve sites in order to increase public access and preservation. The memorandum is significant because the area includes water bodies which need protection.
The Interstate Environmental District embraces a territory consisting of all of the coastal, estuarial and tidal waters within Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. The tidal waters of those states often have environmental quality degradation, due to the vast amount of human activity and external pollution produced by the other tri states. In Connecticut, the tidal waters that are impacted by other states are the Long Island Sound and the Housatonic River. Long Island Sound is found on the eastern side of New Haven Harbor at Morgan Point and the state boundary of Connecticut-New York, it is one of the most preferred natural resource in Connecticut.
Many activities take place upon this watershed as 8 million people live in the Long Island Sound watershed, not including the residents of the city of New Haven. Some of the local activities are boating, fishing, swimming, agriculture and tourism which occured often since the coastline stretches more than 600 miles. Overtime the watershed had been extremely polluted, changing the water conditions and causing loss of biodiversity. For example, fish and bird habitats are disappearing killing off the bird and fish species. The cause of this is release of contaminants into watersheds from water and other land activities. Not only has the water become unsanitary, but also has a degraded flow of water. Moreover, the Housatonic River suffers from PCBS released into the river, affecting forms of aquatic natural resources and also water flow, leading to flood plains.
In this bleak picture of a polluted community, the Interstate Environmental Commission has adopted and coordinated education between all three states on interstate water pollution. The Interstate Environmental Commission has helped restore impacted habitats, make wildlife more abundant, manage the Long Island Sound community and provide clean watersheds for the public. The IEC has invested a lot of time and work towards the Long Island Sound, because it has received a lot of pollutants from both Connecticut and New York. The management plan for this watershed provided from the IEC returns the urban sea abundance, improving species populations to the same rate of human populations. Also water quality is being improved by retaining the people from overpopulating land with waste. This will not only transform a damaged community into a healthy one, but will also boost the economic standards and allow the community to thrive.
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Global Environmental Crisis
April 3, 2018
Regional & Interstate Environmental Authorities
I. Current situation and its relation to the individual states:
The IEC is active since 1936 and currently focused mainly in water quality issues across the three states covered under its jurisdiction. This organization regulates and enforces environmental laws in the area, specifically the Tri-State Compact and the Commission’s Water Quality Regulations. It periodically collects data, gathers data, monitores environmental health and gets involved in legal procedures to achieve its goal. In doing this it coordinates its actions with all the NYSDEC, NJDEP, CTDEP, and USEPA.
While in its beginnings the then called Interstate Sanitation Commission consisted only of New York and New Jersey, after 1941 it also works with and for the state of Connecticut. Hypoxia, sediment contamination, pathogens, habitat loss, combined sewer overflows, global warming, etc., are some of its fundamental concerns now. Indeed, one of the recent projects the IEC has been working on last years is related to the hypoxic condition (lower dissolved oxygen concentrations in the water) of the Long Island Sound, bordered by the states of New York and Connecticut, which has been increasing considerably for the past decades due to the urban population growth and all it entangles in such a metropolitan region. This has been harming biodiversity and water quality, especially in the Western Basin. Also, it has been contributing to the NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program (HEP) and the New York State Hudson River Estuary Program, developing studies on the problems of the Byram River and improving the management of stormwater in Long Island, among others.
II. Advantages of IEC
The Interstate Environmental Commission (IEC) was established in 1936 and has been able to accomplish many sustainable actions throughout the states of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut by working as a unit when it comes to environmental issues. The greatest advantages of the three states cooperating under one agency, include being more efficient in carrying out sustainable projects and having superior environmental communication and relationships between states and its citizens.
The Hudson River has been able to tremendously improve its water quality payable to the IEC, for the three states created water sanitation requirements and standards that must be carried out in each one, which is a large scale movement and does not allow one state to void their participation or commitment. This means no one state can be the fault for introducing pollutions into their neighboring state. Also it creates a more better moral for sustainable movements in the northeast, for now they do not have to worry about one’s lack of policy interfering with their environmental goals. Another great feature is when a policy or regulation is passed and carried out, all three states must abide immediately causing improvements or results to be more timely with that area. Another benefit is the funding from the organization is available to all three states for sustainable projects, therefore they can use the contributions from the other states to help make their environment more eco-friendly.
Environmental communications have also considerably improved, an example would be the environmental elitists from each state are able to work together, share their knowledge and ideas, and develop plans for the future of their entire area more efficiently. This also allows the population of citizens from all of the involved states to ban together to address their environmental concerns to one jurisdiction.
“The Commission continues to move forward with strong programs covering interstate coordination, water testing and monitoring, response to emergencies, regulation and enforcement, research, and a full slate of activities to address public education and public outreach. The IEC’s efforts during the years produced a lengthy list of substantial accomplishments that have provided, and continue to provide, benefits to the whole tri-state region.”
Interstate Sanitation Commission measured saturation of oxygen levels in the Arthur Kill and when changed the name to Interstate Environmental Commission it reflected the different aspects of the environment. They have had many years of successes and large contributions that affected the tri state region. They were able to adopt a year-round “disinfection requirement” that produced an increase in coliform bacteria that led more beaches to be opened throughout the year. They also were able to create a filtration system that stops sewage and debris from entering the Arthur Kill waterway. These different accomplishments made it healthier for the area but the overall effect is stopping one pollution hazard from flowing over to the next state. Any private company and state level polluter has to abide by the environmental policies that are outlined by the IEC. It is much easier for the Commission to overcome obstacles because it is in a much smaller area.
The shortcoming that was found in the process of the IEC is that it could possibly be done is if information about future projects or current projects are distributed and made public. This will create compliance and hold each state accountable of their actions toward the environment. Most failures are made by the lack of information that cannot make the future solutions as possible until years later. Not only do they need to mention the successful expectations but also mention what harms they could possibly produce so that it can be smoother to create a solution along the way so that they can make sure they are making fair and just decisions. It is important so that the compliance can be spread to larger projects such as for larger bodies of water that can be discussed on a federal, state and interstate level. This can create a broader change that can then be discussed around the world and the only thing that it will have to improve is corruption and how we delegate who enforces the policies.
Strong recommendations for this Commission would be to have a strong individual state accountability, and enforcement of laws and regulation applicable to the Interstate Environmental Commission. Despite the obvious advantages of having an interstate Commission for water and Air environmental Commission like: The Jurisdiction across state border lines and enforcement of any laws in those three states. There are certain problems that the commission faces every year. The Commission has come out publicly about certain problems that have been well documented which most of them have been reported locally and some are far reaching like:”Hypoxia, sediment contamination, pathogens, habitat loss, combined sewer overflows (CSOs), municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s), atmospheric deposition, invasive species, global warming, impacts on living marine resources, land use issues and public education have all been identified as priority areas of concern.” These problems are taken directly from the main website of the commission proving that the Commission does need strong local support of its states to continue its good work. This recommendation is important because it needs to have more local presence and support from the communities its serves. The lack of social media presence ( only one Linkedin page was found) The commision needs to take advantage of the strong environmental movement that has surged after president Trump was elected to incorporate individual support for its cause. If there is local support in their individual states and awareness among the youth the commission can easily avoid issues in the future via prevention. The strong collaboration from the public in its environmental mandate can contribute to less pollution in the future.
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Current Situation of the (IEC) and its relation to individual states
The Interstate Environmental Commision is an air and water pollution control agency for the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The Commision works to protect and improve environmental conditions for all three states in the area. Through facilitating dialogue between the government and the states’ citizens, the IEC looks to enhance and regulate air and water quality for the three states in the region.
The Tri-State metropolitan region of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut is one of the largest and most populous metropolitan areas in the world. Geographically, the Tri-State area share the same air and waterways such as the Hudson River, Long Island Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean. Having the Interstate Environmental Commision helps each state collaborate and plan environmental improvements together. All three states cooperate with each other to work with the IEC.
For the three states, the Commision is currently focusing on controlling untreated discharges from combined sewer and storm sewer overflows. The Commission’s jurisdiction, which goes beyond political and economic boundaries, monitors the air and water quality of each state. Aside from working on sewer discharges and overflows, the IEC also implements initiatives targeting specific parts of the region.
Working to regulate the air and water quality of three states is difficult for many reasons. The IEC, which was originally called the Interstate Sanitation Commission in 1936, is fortunate that the states of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut all combine into a greater compact metropolitan area.
Other initiatives that the IEC implements to help each state are education programs with local schools, upgrades of water treatment facilities, foster partnerships with other organizations, and the circulation of information regarding air and water improvements with the three individual states’ citizens.
2. Advantages of such organization and the regional benefits it brings
The existence of the Interstate Environment Commission provides advantages and regional benefits to the Tristate area of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. In its 82 years of its existence it has produced a stable structure as well as a sustainable environment. The system of power is efficient as well. It’s interstate (between federal and state) status renders it exempt from the jurisdiction of the federal government. For instance, if one of the three states have an issue, pertaining to water and air quality, they evade the federal government and can solve the issue within.
However, if any company, person, or entity wants to do anything in the state that will compromise its ecosystem, it must abide by the regulations of the IEC and the federal government. Although, this process includes a lot of paperwork, it makes sure that the entity is being thorough in reassuring that 1. there is a specific standard and 2. it’s being met in all three states. The IEC ensures that all three states: New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut abide by its laws. Its rules are heavily centered on ensuring that water and air quality are up to par. Also, they listen to their citizens which is crucial for any sustainable organization. What that means is that through protecting air and water, you’re protecting its citizens. They recognize how if one state is not doing well, it will affect all the other ones. It’s important to make sure that all three states are up to stand to ensure that its citizens are healthy, that its water is healthy and its ecosystem is thriving,which will benefit its citizens in the long run.
Shortcoming and Recommendations
Some of the shortcoming that we have identified range from the bureaucracy to the area of activity of the IEC. First, because of the fact that the state and any other entity needs to obey by the rules and regulations of the IEC, the procedure will take longer and require lot more paperwork for the entity and the state itself.
The second shortcoming of the ICE lies in its area of activity. At first, it used to be restricted to sanitation, but then widened to include air pollution which resulted in different name for the commission. However, environmental issues do not limit themselves to water and air quality. Because of the scope of their organization (tri-state), and the legitimacy they already have in all the states, they should engage in more environmental activities. This expansion does not have to be sudden but rather progressive. It can start by extending the school programs that they have to include issues such as deforestation and solutions to that problem for example.
Another shortcoming resides in the collaborative model itself. This model, as much as it provides benefits, may not be applicable in other states. Establishing this type of organization for California and Nevada for example may be harder because of the size of the state, and how California for example is more independent when it comes to water resources etc. The final shortcoming which may seem minimal at first, but is as important as the other shortcomings: the lack of reports for recent years. The last annual report dates from 2012. Since then, there is only one report published per year but is either on water or air quality. Therefore, there needs to be more consistency regarding the reports that are published to increase their transparency, and provide more information to the citizens of those state. Sharing information in these fields, especially environmental science, is crucial because it can serve as a base for future researches, and potentially other collaborations among states.
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Interstate Environmental Commission
The Interstate Environmental Commission (IEC) is a joint agency between the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut that serves to protect the environment and water quality of these states through compliance and enforcement against air and water pollution. In the early 20th century this metropolitan area had extremely poor water conditions from heavy industrial pollution and raw sewage being released into the water. This not only affected recreational waters, but damaged one of the worlds most productive oyster and clam beds, and contaminated local fishes. This lead to a rise in dozens of different types of waterborne diseases, leaving health agencies inundated. Not only was the water having an adverse effect on the people’s health, but also the air was clogged with coal dust from power plants. This brought talks about the need to establish a body to regulate and reduce water pollution and the sanitary conditions of the shared waters surrounding these states. Thus, the Interstate Sanitation District and the Interstate Sanitation Commission was enacted in 1936, consisting of New York and New Jersey, with Connecticut joining in 1941. These lead to enforcement orders for wastewater treatment plants, smoke and air pollution reports, and requirements that all facilities discharging into this district comply with the commissions regulations and standards. The commission continues to test and monitor water conditions, respond to emergencies, regulated and enforce, and address education through public outreach. Through coordination and mutual dialogue between government and citizens in the Tri-State region the IEC’s mission is to enhance environmental quality through improved understating of district waters, provide member states with compliance assistance and to coordinate dialogue on interstate water pollution with regional agencies.
Since its existence it has helped to provide a more sustainable environment by insuring all three states abide by the law. By working under one agency, this allows for more efficient communication and cooperation on projects between the states. Sharing much of the water and air space between the three states makes for the passage of laws more unanimous and comprehensive. The IEC exists to mitigate disputes between the three states over air and water quality and resolves any state level clashes with a multi-state ecological restoration project, ensuring that each state’s section of the project is moving forward together. Working in collaboration with each other also leads to the development of numerous harbor-wide monitoring programs such as the Regional Bypass model. This model predicts the impact of sewage discharges in districts and lets the Regional Bypass Workgroup determine if there is concern and a need to close an area off. Through these actions it has helped to restore the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the its district waters.
Though the IEC has made great improvements of the water quality, it still faces some local and more far reaching problems. Some topics that have been identified as priority areas of concern are hypoxia, sediment contamination, pathogens, habitat loss, invasive species, global warming, and land use issues. Another issue is with the jurisdiction restrictions. Pollution has no boundaries, and even if just one state is not abiding by the law it can affect the others equally. There needs to be strong individual state accountability through the regulation and enforcement of laws by the IEC.
I think having multiple levels of engagement from federal, multi-state, state and city is the strongest way to combat environmental mandates. This makes it easier to hold violators accountable and to help spread resources and knowledge of the issues. Working with the Environmental Protection Agency at the federal level along with the IEC could help with government funding of the projects, along with having an engaged city with public hearings and educating the community so they understand the local issues at hand. Strong collaboration and transparency from cities all the way through federal agencies will bring about the best solutions and shared resources towards solving a shared environmental issue.
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The Interstate Environmental Commission (IEC) is a group who works on environmental issues is New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The group works together to focus on water and air pollution. The commission works on a number of projects all over the tree states. This includes an act in 2015 that banned plastic microbeads in the water of the three states. As of January 2018, the IEC was working on multiple projects including a critical water crisis-taking place in Staten Island. This crisis is being addressed by monitoring water oxygen levels every summer. IEC also works with the federal government to perform inspections all over the states. This includes inspecting water treatment facilities to make sure they are being held to a certain standard. While currently four full time staff members only employ IEC, more are needed in order for their work to be more comprehensive and helpful. Due to budget cuts, most of the funding has decreased to the point where new projects cannot be funded, and currently existing ones are run on a slim level. If funding were to increase, the IEC would be able to make leaps and bounds when it comes to projects to protect the tri state areas waterways.
This organization brings with it many benefits. By using the idea of collaborative planning, IEC is able to reap many social and organizational benefits. Collaborative planning means that the organization is working with multiple levels of people, from federal, state and local governments to private sector organizations that have a stake in what is happening with the water and air in their environment. By bringing these different groups together, more progress could be made and more people were made happy with the outcomes. Also by having multiple states be a member of this organization, the benefits can be wide spread, and not produce negative affects on the surrounding areas.
Some issues with this view are that not all impacts are addressed at the source. This leads to issues of taking care of A and not B. In some cases the transitive process of property lines is not addressed. Cost benefit analysis is different for each player, and therefore makes coming to an agreement that much harder. These issues are brought to life with things like smoke stack height. As the author described, some states require taller smoke stacks in order to curb the environmental air pollution form them in the immediate area. The neighboring area or state is then left to deal with the pollution and the consequences it brings. This then becomes an issue of how much is too much and what should be done between states to solve these issues. These issues can be seen from a multitude of perspectives, including economic and political.
For policy recommendations, I think it is hard to recommend changes when there is already not a lot this group can do due to budgetary restraints. If I were to make a recommendation it would be to continue to work together to find solutions that work for all parties involved. Policy such as the ban on microbeads affects everyone and does not cause any adverse affects on any one group of people or state. By continuing to do work that is purely positive for all, I think the IEC will continue to work for a long time to come.
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