Devil is in the Details: Watchdog Report

Devil is in the details

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo released his Executive Budget proposal for SFY2016-17. Both the written proposal and his public presentation contained a lot of details that, as your environmental watchdog, are our responsibility to review. As you know we are the only organization that reviews the whole State Budget through a green lens. Our Peter Iwanowicz will share our analysis of the Governor's plans when he testifies on January 28th – and we will share all the details with you, too.

The Governor and our legislators have no greater responsibility than the annual budget. At $145 billion it covers a lot of ground, and it can be chock-full of good or bad environmental proposals; the devil is always in the details. At this stage of our review, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Reporters have already started picking up on the fact that the Governor has proposed another raid of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – the state’s leading carbon abatement program – this time to fund tax credits, some of which have been on the books for more than a decade. 

On the positive side, after years of advocacy, Governor Cuomo has proposed increasing the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to $300 million.

He has also responded to the call of our #FixOurPipes campaign and has proposed adding another $100 million to the current budget to help communities with their drinking and wastewater infrastructure needs. We are working closely with legislators to identify more resources that will help us reach the estimated $800 million communities need annually.

Check out our next Watchdog Report for a complete environmental budget breakdown!

Making infrastructure projects adhere to DERA

Governor Cuomo has proposed significant infrastructure projects statewide. That means a lot of new buildings, roads, bridges, and construction equipment making things happen, as well as a lot of trucks transporting materials – which means a lot of air pollution.

The Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) was passed in 2006 to much fanfare as legislators touted the law as a means of clearing the air, protecting children with asthma, and providing a boon for the Upstate manufacturing sector. It was to take full effect in 2010, but implementation has been delayed ever since.

DERA requires the state (and all of its contractors) to operate a cleaner fleet. Not only should Governor Cuomo fight to implement the law this year, but he should commit that all infrastructure projects from this point on follow the spirit of DERA.

ACT NOW: This is our first advocacy campaign of 2016, and you can show your support for cleaner air by taking action now!

What one burst pipe can mean

As we continue our campaign for investments in our state’s clean water infrastructure, it’s important to understand just what we’re fighting for.

In the Capital Region – like much of the state – many people don’t realize how old, outdated, and vulnerable our drinking and wastewater infrastructure is, until something bad happens. In many cases, pipes in the area date back to just after the Civil War.

Unfortunately, during one of the coldest periods of the year, the City of Troy and neighboring communities have fallen victim to a burst water main. Originally installed between 1903 and 1906, the 33-inch pipe broke and sent millions of gallons of water through streets and into basements. Troy provides water to several other municipalities, including Waterford and Halfmoon. Residents in Waterford were relying on bottled water and tankers to transport in enough to cover their basic needs. The water main broke Sunday and at this time is not yet fixed.

Communities don’t have the resources to fix these problems on their own. The Times Union editorial board noted this week a delay in investment will only increase costs down the line.

The catastrophe in Flint, Michigan also highlights the other dangers that come with ignoring crucial water infrastructure needs, and has reminded the country that clean, safe, drinking water is worth the investment.

Earlier this week, we wrote hundreds of local officials in communities statewide urging them to submit testimony to the Joint Legislature’s Budget Hearing on Local Governments, which is scheduled for next Tuesday, January 26th. We encourage you to contact your city, county, village, and town leaders and ask them to share local drinking and wastewater infrastructure needs with the Governor and state legislators. We are also interested in hearing from you: do you have a water story to share? Get involved by downloading our water action toolkit.

Reports on fracking waste, clean air, DEC funding, and more

A big part of our advocacy involves in-depth research and analysis of programs and issue areas as diverse as how the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is holding air and water polluters accountable, to lax regulations that allow fracking waste from other states to be dumped inside our borders. See all of our reports online!