Gov. Andrew Cuomo has appointed his environmental conservation commissioner Basil Seggos and the chairmen of the state legislature’s conservation committees to find ways to reduce the environmental risks of plastic grocery bags.

Cuomo promised to create the Plastic Bag Task Force on Feb. 14, when he signed a bill halting New York City from implementing a nickel-a-bag fee until at least Sept. 28, 2018. He said the city-only law would have allowed merchants to collect a “windfall” of $100 million a year in fees but not solve what he said is a statewide problem (NYLJ, Feb. 16).

Basil Seggos

He announced Sunday that the Plastic Bag Task Force will be headed by Seggos, Assemblyman Steven Englebright, D-Setauket, and Sen. Thomas O’Mara, R-Big Flats. Englebright and O’Mara are chairs of the conservation committees of their chambers of the legislature.

Cuomo said he would include the legislative chairmen to ensure the panel’s recommendations would stand a better chance of adoption by the Legislature in 2018. He directed the panel to make its recommendations by the end of 2017.

Other members of the task force will be Stephen Acquario, executive director of the state Association of Counties; New York League of Conservation Voters President Marcia Bystryn; and Michael Rosen, president and CEO of the Food Industry Alliance of New York State.

Cuomo said a significant number of the 23 billion plastic bags used each year in New York state end up being discarded and pollute the state’s landscape or waterways.