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Legislator Burke's response to Buffalo News article

The passing of Erie County’s groundbreaking micro-bead plastic ban is a time for us to celebrate what government, even local government can accomplish when you have impassioned and committed elected officials leading the way. I’m proud of authoring this ban and for being the lead champion of its introduction and enactment in Erie County. It is the most comprehensive ban in the United States and will hopefully set the standard for future State and Federal microbead bans.

Unfortunately now, I have to spend some time refuting an article in today’s Buffalo News that was filled with errors and shoddy reporting. The reporter makes several insinuations throughout his piece; he gets quotes from a professor with little to no expertise on the subject and who played no role in the development or passage of the local ban.

First, the reporter claims the public hearing was sparsely attended. He wouldn’t know because he wasn’t there and neither was anyone else from the Buffalo News. There were five speakers at the public hearing which is larger than nearly every public hearing the Legislature has had since I’ve been there. There were also many onlookers on the side gallery.

The reporter claims “Burke acknowledged that he did not solicit local retailers input on the legislation, nor was there any specific consideration of its potential economic impact locally.”

That is patently false. I absolutely put the economic impact of local retailers into consideration and told the reporter exactly that. We actually amended the law to give retailers a 6 month grace period to clear their remaining products containing plastic microbeads off of their shelves.

The reporter follows this up with a list of supposed “unanswered questions” about the law’s impact on commerce and retailers. He seems to have grabbed these lingering questions out of thin air; they are pure conjecture.

He writes, “Some of the unanswered questions include: Might manufacturers have to stop shipping products containing microbeads to Erie County?”

Nobody is asking that question! I can come up with random questions too. “Might planes carrying plastic microbeads not be able to fly over Erie County?” See, it’s easy and still isn’t relevant to the law.

Then he says, “Ultimately, Burke conceded that a statewide ban would be more effective.” I didn’t ultimately concede that point. I’ve been advocating for that from the beginning. I passed a resolution imploring the State to take action and they didn’t. We had to pass a ban because the State wouldn’t. We also had to set a higher standard because the Senate bill has industry loopholes that would allow microbead pollution to continue.

Then he brings forth his expert, a UB Professor who specializes in product branding. The professor clearly didn’t read the law. He incorrectly sites the $2500 fine as being too weak to deter box retailers. The consequences for violating this ban are severe, a $2500 fine for each day the products remain on the shelves.

The professor says the County could be sued by retailers. Well, you can be sued for anything. If we backed down on important issues every time a lawsuit was threatened, nothing would ever get done.

The reporter then repeats his false claim from earlier in the article in a lazy attempt to build his narrative.

“Burke acknowledged that he did not solicit local retailers input on the legislation, nor was there any specific consideration of its potential economic impact locally.”

Finally, he wraps it up by giving credence to the argument that a microbead ban is a violation of the Interstate Commerce Clause. The Interstate Commerce Clause is meant to stop States from protecting businesses within their State from competing companies from other States. The Interstate Commerce argument has been made in similar cases and thrown out of court. The local ban has zero impact or connection to The Interstate Commerce Clause.

The Buffalo News should make an immediate retraction and hold itself to a higher standard of journalism.