Builders will be able to use plastic pipe widely in New York, now that Gov. George Pataki has vetoed a bill that would have extended the state's ban on pipes in commercial and many residential buildings.
The Dec. 16 veto culminates intense lobbying by all sides, including a coalition of labor unions, firefighters and environmentalists that supported extending the ban until 2007 and steered it through passage in the state Legislature.
Mainly, those groups were focused on banning PVC pipe because they said it puts toxins into the environment when it is made, used and disposed of. The ban will expire Dec. 31.
Pataki's veto represents a change in position: He had supported the ban when it first went into effect in 2001.
But pressure from local building officials throughout the state who want to use plastic, and newspaper stories about people fined for installing plastic pipe, helped create support for removing the ban, said Steve Rosario, regional director with the American Chemistry Council's office in Albany, N.Y. ACC includes the American Plastics Council.
In his veto message, Pataki essentially ducked the issue, saying that the restrictions on plastic were ``well-intentioned,'' but that he was vetoing the bill because it made an outdated reference to the state building code that could confuse builders, architects and code-enforcement officials.
The new legislation also would have made the ban more restrictive, barring plastic from residential buildings taller than two stories, in addition to commercial construction. Instead, pipe installation in New York now will be governed by International Plumbing Code, which the state adopted and which allows plastic pipe, Rosario said.
Ban supporters said PVC pipe use would subject firefighters and people fleeing burning buildings to unnecessary risk from burning PVC, and they said vinyl manufacture and disposal creates toxins like dioxin.
``By caving in to pressure from the special interests, the governor has failed in his obligation to ensure a safe and healthy environment for millions of workers, firefighters and residents across the state,'' said Kathleen Curtis, executive director of the Citizens' Environmental Coalition in Albany.
But supporters of plastic pipe, including builders' groups, argued that union opposition was motivated by a desire to preserve union jobs, since plastic is easier to work with and cheaper.
And they argued that plastic pipe is safe: A New York state building agency in 2001 recommended widespread use of the pipes. Rosario said most other states have adopted building codes that allow wide use of plastic pipe and ``the sky has not fallen.''
Rosario thinks the issue will return to the Legislature, though.
``Because of the controversy involving plastic pipe and the strength of the unions, this is an issue that probably will not go away,'' he said.