New York environmental bills attract support from Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo

Two bills awaiting the governor’s signature would prevent New York from contracting with companies that contribute to deforestation and reduce neonic pesticide use.

Leo kept a low profile at the U.S. Open in Queens over the summer, but he’s not laying low when it comes to biodiversity!

Leo kept a low profile at the U.S. Open in Queens over the summer, but he’s not laying low when it comes to biodiversity! Photo by Gotham/GC Images

With just days left in the year, environmental advocates are pushing the governor to sign several high profile pieces of legislation before time runs out. They have even drawn the attention of A-list celebrities, who have added their voice to those calling for Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign the bills. 

On Tuesday evening, Leonardo DiCaprio made a post on Instagram asking Hochul to sign the New York Tropical Deforestation-Free Procurement Act, which would make it illegal for the state to contract with companies that contribute to tropical deforestation. “New York is poised to become the first state to use its purchasing power as one of the world’s largest economies to combat climate change and biodiversity loss,” DiCaprio, who is known for his environmental advocacy, wrote on Instagram. He added that “the bill’s supporters, who are urging the governor to sign, include not only Indigenous leaders and climate and social justice groups, but New York-based businesses that see this as a win-win for the state’s economy, for global climate, and for human rights.”

If approved by the governor, New York would be the first state to enact such a law, but would follow in the footsteps of the European Union, which passed a similar law. State Sen. Liz Krueger, the bill’s sponsor, joined a virtual meeting with attendees of the recent United Nations climate change conference to call for Hochul to sign the legislation. “This is not impossible, this is totally possible,” Krueger said at the Dec. 7 press conference. “There’s all kinds of ways to help the businesses meet these standards, it would just be a huge win in the international marketplace for New York to be the leader of this country.” She added that other states are looking toward New York and waiting to see how it is implemented while considering their own versions of the legislation. Lawmakers have delivered the bill to Hochul, and she has until the end of the week to decide whether to sign or veto it. 

Environmental advocates are also pushing for what they call the Birds and Bees Protection Act, which would ban the use of toxic pesticides known as neonics that lead to the death of pollinators like birds and bees. Advocates including environmental groups, farms and health organizations sent a letter to Hochul earlier this month urging her to support the legislation. “With neonic pollution and its impacts in New York only getting worse, every year of inaction leading to more bee and bird losses, more water contamination, and ever greater threats to New

Yorkers’ health and food security,” the letter reads. Lawmakers passed the bill for the first time this year after several years of advocacy. They have delivered it to the governor, who has until the end of the week to act on the legislation.

The Birds and Bees Protection Act has also attracted celebrity support. In November, actor Mark Ruffalo, who has weighed in on other New York bills in the past as well, called on Hochul to sign the legislation in a post on X. “Toxic neonic pesticides decimate NY's pollinators, contaminate water supplies and threaten the health of NYers,” Ruffalo wrote. “@GovKathyHochul must act and sign the Birds and Bees Protection Act: a nation-leading bill which curbs needless neonic pollution, founded on extensive @Cornell science.”

Hochul on Wednesday took action on a different piece of environmental legislation that the New York League of Conservation Voters just highlighted as part of their end-of-year environmental scorecard. Hochul touted her signature of the Lead Pipe Right to Know Act, which requires utilities to provide information publicly about where and how many lead pipes they have in use. “Lead poisoning poses a clear and present danger to the health and well-being of all New Yorkers,” Hochul said in a statement. “This nation-leading legislation will protect New Yorkers from lead pipes, which are proven to cause extraordinary harm.” Environmental advocates applauded the move by Hochul, even as they await her action on other bills as well.