Environmental Advocates is the only organization that reviews the entire State Budget through a green lens. This year’s budget has some good and some bad. Now that Governor Cuomo has finalized his 30-day amendments, and we’re awaiting the release of the Senate and Assembly’s one-house budget resolutions, Environmental Advocates is counting on legislators to support, improve, and block three key proposals in the Governor’s plan.
Brownfields Reform: Let us start by making clear how critical this program is, which proves that environmental protection and economic development work hand-in-hand. However, the current program is a boondoggle that has cost taxpayers way too much to clean up way too little. Environmental Advocates’ 2013 analysis found the state had cut checks totaling $1.1 billion to clean up just about 130 sites; we expect to release an updated analysis in early March.
Governor Cuomo has proposed significant reforms which have been broadly supported by both environmental organizations and the business community. These reforms are common-sense, and will ensure that incentives are targeted to communities most in need, and provide developers long-term security in knowing the program will be there. We urge legislators to support the Governor’s proposal, as taxpayers deserve a program that works and which doesn’t break the bank while leaving our communities exposed to toxic sites.
Wastewater Infrastructure Funding: Communities statewide are grappling with more than $36 billion in unmet clean water infrastructure needs. In 2014, Syracuse experienced 391 water main breaks; Colonie, just outside of Albany, has already suffered more than 90 this winter alone. These are just two communities and does not consider the billions of gallons of raw sewage that is being released into our waterways – which we use for drinking – annually.
Unfortunately, Governor Cuomo failed to include any new significant funding for wastewater or clean drinking water infrastructure in his budget. For the budget hearing on local government, Environmental Advocates and our partners have submitted this testimony, which we hope will foster a discussion between legislators and municipal leaders.
The problem is growing, and we cannot afford to ignore the negative impacts a crumbling water infrastructure will have. We urge the Senate and Assembly to take the lead on this critical issue and include at least $800 million for clean drinking and wastewater infrastructure investment in this year’s budget.
Raiding Climate Funds. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a wildly successful program that has helped cap climate-altering air pollution while also raising more than $700 million for clean power and energy efficiency projects in every county of our state. Nonetheless, the Governor has proposed raiding $36 million from RGGI for other programs, like a $10 million increase to the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). The EPF is a proven job generator which has created parkland, protected farmland, and supported local recycling programs – it deserves an increase that doesn’t pit environmental programs against each other. We’ve joined more than 20 organizations in opposing this raid. We urge the Senate and Assembly to support an increase to the EPF that doesn’t come at the expense of RGGI.
We look forward to working with our partners in both houses, as well as colleague organizations in the weeks ahead to ensure public health and the environment is a priority in the enacted budget.