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De Blasio’s busy Earth Day agenda: Oil industry lawsuits, composting return and electric autos

Mayor Bill de Blasio was joined by Sanitation Commissioner Edward Grayson to reintroduce the city's composting program on Thursday, April 22, 2021. (Photo via Twitter/NYCGov)

Continuing his roll out of environmental policy announcements this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio had one message for fossil fuel companies on Earth Day: “We’ll see you in court.”

The mayor announced Thursday that the city has sued several large oil companies, including ExxonMobil, BP and Shell Oil, for misleading consumers about the environmental impacts of their products. 

“What’s happening here is clearly false advertising,” de Blasio said during his daily press briefing. “New York City will see you in court and we intend to fight back against what you’ve done to New Yorkers.”

The lawsuit, which also names the American Petroleum Institute – the trade association for the oil and gas industry in the U.S. – as a defendant, was filed in the New York Supreme Court and alleges the companies “systematically and intentionally [deceived] New Yorkers,” in violation of the city’s consumer protection law. 

The lawsuit claims the big oil companies falsely led consumers to believe that their products addressed climate change, ignored, through advertising, their products’ environmental impacts and engaged in greenwashing campaigns in an attempt to convince New Yorkers that they were corporate leaders in the fight against climate change. 

“The defendants in our lawsuit have spent millions to persuade consumers that they present a clean, green choice. But they don’t. They say they are making meaningful investments to protect the environment. But they aren’t. They would like us to believe they are good faith partners in the drive to reduce fossil fuel consumption. And we don’t,” said James Johnson, corporation counsel for New York City. “Consumers are entitled to clear, accurate information about products they may choose. We are bringing this litigation to protect that right.”

As a remedy for the alleged violations, the city hopes to stop the companies from continuing to engage in false advertising and to also recover civil penalties for each past violation, the lawsuit says. 

De Blasio reintroduces compost bin — literally

The mayor’s Earth Day address also saw the reintroduction of the city’s compost program, which was suspended at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. 

As the city’s infection rate dropped to its lowest point in months – a 4.45% positive test rate on a 7-day average this week – Hizzoner and Department of Sanitation Commissioner Edward Grayson rolled out their plan to get the city back to diverting organic waste from landfills. 

First turning to an actual brown compost bin for comment – and then gleefully shaming it for its silence – de Blasio said curbside compost collection will begin again in October, a few months before the mayor will leave office. 

The mayor reintroduced the city’s compost program on Earth Day. (Screenshot)

Enrollment, which will be voluntary, will begin in August, according to the mayor. 

The city will also pilot “smart bins” in the coming year. The bins will allow for New Yorkers to use an app to locate a place to deposit their organic waste. 

“We’re not only in the waste business, we are in the sustainability business,” Grayson said, adding that he expects the sanitation department to soon return to collecting 50,000 tons of organic waste per year, the metric it hit during its last full year of the curbside program. 

Electric buses, charging stations

De Blasio doubled down on his commitment to converting the city’s bus fleet from fuel powered to electric Thursday, announcing plans to make the city’s school bus fleet 100% electric by 2035.

In the fight to make the city a more sustainable one, de Blasio said Thursday that he was working with the city council to expand city law to bring more charging stations to parking lots and garages throughout New York.

“If we’re going to have more electric buses, more electric cars, we’re going to need more charging stations,” he said. 

Though scant on the details, the mayor said the new law will require companies building new lots and garages to add charging stations, or to at least leave the space to add them in later.  

The mayor, who is often criticized for his reliance on his SUV, also committed to ditching the car once he leaves office. 

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