Cuomo Budget Adopts Brownfields Reform
Statement from Peter Iwanowicz, Executive Director
“Few areas produce economic development more than robust and targeted investments in New York’s environment. Governor Cuomo has recognized the state’s brownfields program is critical to community revitalization and that for too long it has been an albatross for taxpayers, too costly and off-target for many areas.
Thousands of toxic sites statewide need to be cleaned up. The program has not produced results for areas most in need of public investment – particularly Upstate, communities of color, or with high unemployment or poverty rates. Environmental Advocates has been working with the Administration for months on these reforms and their inclusion demonstrates that Governor Cuomo understands a clean and healthy environment is what makes New York an attractive place to live, work and run a business.
The Governor included a slight increase in funding for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), a welcome step forward and which the Legislature should now build upon. The EPF invests in outdoor tourism, conserves farmland, and protects drinking water for millions of New Yorkers. Even with this year’s increase, the Fund’s overall budget remains roughly half what it once was. EPF is the state’s hallmark program for keeping local environmental initiatives viable and should receive $200 million in funding this year.
An area we will be looking to for more answers is Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) funding. Environmental Advocates found last year that after years of deep cuts the agency had lost nearly 800 staff and was struggling across the board to implement health protections and enforce laws, including the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. The best standards and laws in the world don’t matter if there aren’t enough cops on the beat. DEC scientists need more resources to ensure that they can adequately protect our health.”