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June 3, 2009

Daily Freeman

Insipid people water down bottle bill

A BILL set to require 5-cent deposits on water bottles — which was supposed to become law on Monday — was bottled up in court because it was awash in a torrential tempest full of politics and forced water puns.

The new deposits would have promoted the recycling of the 3.2 billion water bottles sold annually in New York. Which is why the proposal has many opponents, including the bottle industry and a rolling tumbleweed.

The bill sank because it required water bottles to carry special labels to help ensure they are only sold in New York — and that was deemed unconstitutional.

You see, it would have violated the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause. Also, water is apparently available in states other than New York.

It’s a bit of a long story, so grab a bottle of water, drink it, throw it in the garbage and continue reading.

The Bigger Better Bottle Bill, as it is admirably advertised by advocates of alliteration and all their alleged allies, had passed with much fanfare in April.

“ENVIRONMENTAL VICTORY!” screams a headline on the Web site for the New York Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit organization that advocates for annoying capital letters and laughable causes like some purported thing called “the environment.”

NYPIRG was initially happy because it’s been working to pass the initiative since 2002, an attempt to update the original 1982 law.

This columnist was initially sad because he was working on using the same bottle bill column from 2008 — thinking the bill would never pass.

Alas, it did pass. So on Earth Day, which everyone knows falls on April something something, about 50 environmental groups presented awards to Gov. David Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who thanked the groups in kind by later failing to come to an agreement to amend the law properly, watering down the proposal further and losing at least $100 million this year in potential revenue from unclaimed bottle deposits.

THIS IS something that happens when you have a bill that takes 14 pages to say that buying a bottle of water should include a 5-cent deposit.

The bill was so confusing, it even changed the definition of “water.” It said that, “‘Water’ means any beverage identified through the use of letters, words or symbols on its product label as a type of water, including any flavored water or nutritionally enhanced water, provided, however, that ‘water’ does not include any beverage identified as a type of water to which a sugar has been added.”

Move over, H2O, you’ve been replaced.

Also, the bill defined “Bottler” as somebody who “bottles.” Genius.

Most importantly, it included a New York bottle bill of rights.

You don’t want the bottles to be waterboarded, after all.

In all seriousness, the bill contained real and necessary rights, such as not having to wash the bottles you are returning and the right to return your empties on “any day, any hour.”

Except on some days. And some hours.

BUT what about sugary drinks? Well, they were not included in the bill because they are not water, as you can tell from labels like “Vitaminwater,” “Life Water” and “Propel Enhanced Water.”

And besides, NYPIRG needs something to do. It has invested much time fighting the good fight. It also needs to find uses for such persuasive lobbying tools such as their body-sized nickels, 20-foot inflatable bottles and bottle bill birthday cakes.

So the story is far from over. And, with any luck, this column will run again next year.


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