NELSON EUSEBIO: Troubling New NYSDEC Rules put neighborhood grocery stores at risk

By Nelson Eusebio | March 5, 2024

Established in 1989 by Hispanic entrepreneurs, the National Supermarket Association (NSA) champions independent supermarket owners in New York and urban cities along the East Coast. These trailblazers courageously opened supermarkets in economically depressed, predominantly minority neighborhoods, filling a void when the concept of “food deserts” was yet to be recognized. Today, NSA members persist in providing vital services to these communities, offering healthy foods and full-service supermarkets.

That is why we are deeply troubled by some proposed new environmental rules put forth by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) – specifically rules intended to phase down the use of certain refrigerants that enable freezers, refrigerators, and coolers to keep the products our stores sell healthy and fresh. We know some of those refrigerants must go because they are big contributors to climate change – but this proposed rule not only eliminates them, it also unnecessarily eliminates lower impact alternatives that were developed to replace them. What will be left are refrigerants that simply do not work in the equipment our member stores currently use and that spells potential disaster.

Supermarkets are not just places where we buy groceries; they are pillars of community life, providing essential goods, creating jobs, and fostering economic stability. However, the proposed rule’s stringent limitations mean NSA member stores will eventually be required to shoulder outrageous costs to replace their existing refrigeration equipment. Naturally, those stores will have to pass those costs along to their customers – who, in many cases, are barely scraping by as it is.

It’s not just grocery stores. Restaurants and other food retail businesses could face astronomical costs for equipment upgrades and retrofitting. In addition, the remaining alternatives require more energy to keep items cool – further straining New York’s electrical grid. The worst impacts of it will be felt in already underserved communities. Many NSA member stores may fail, creating food deserts and worsening food insecurity in already vulnerable areas.

We urge NYSDEC to engage in meaningful dialogue with stakeholders from the food and beverage industry to develop a balanced solution. By collaborating to find alternatives that align with the goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) while safeguarding the interests of businesses and consumers, we can ensure a sustainable future for all New Yorkers.

Supermarkets are neighborhood anchors.  The NSA stands ready to work alongside the NYSDEC to address these concerns and find pragmatic solutions that support our communities, protect jobs, and promote environmental stewardship. It is imperative that we act now to mitigate the potential adverse effects of the proposed regulations and preserve the vibrancy of our neighborhoods for generations to come.

The Author, Nelson Eusebio, is Director of Government Relations for the National Supermarket Association


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