Report Finds No Evidence to Justify Cuts to Clean Water Funding in State Budget
Albany, NY – To kick off a day of action for clean water, Environmental Advocates NY (EANY) released a groundbreaking report titled “A New Era for New York’s Water: An Analysis of Clean Water Infrastructure Act Spending.” This comprehensive study is the first of its kind to assess the impact and effectiveness of the Clean Water Infrastructure Act (CWIA), New York’s primary clean water grant program. The report reveals both significant achievements and areas where the CWIA is falling short of its full potential, and offers a clear vision for the future of clean water in New York.
The report comes at a crucial time, as Governor Hochul has proposed a 50% cut in annual CWIA funding for the 2024-2025 State Budget. EANY’s report does not find any evidence to justify this cut. It details how certain CWIA programs, such as the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, are oversubscribed by hundreds of millions of dollars every year, reflecting overwhelming demand for clean water upgrades. This demonstrates the need to grow, not cut, investments to uphold New Yorkers’ constitutional right to clean water.
Later on in the day, EANY will join legislators and a broad array of organizations who form the Clean Water Coalition at a press conference on the 4th floor of the State Capitol at 12 pm. The press conference will highlight the benefits of CWIA investments and oppose the funding cuts proposed by the Governor.
The CWIA, established in 2017 in response to a series of water crises and a recognized need for significant infrastructure improvements, has been a landmark initiative in New York State. With an unprecedented investment of $5 billion over the last seven years, the CWIA has funded over 2,100 clean water projects, with state agencies claiming that a majority of funds distributed to date have benefitted environmental justice communities.
Key Highlights from the Report:
- Remarkable Achievements: The CWIA has awarded or spent $3.4 billion since 2017, jumpstarting projects in nearly every county of the state. The report details the broad scope of projects funded, including sewage treatment plant upgrades, remediation of toxic PFAS chemicals, land acquisition for source water protection, and more.
- Areas for Improvement: Despite these successes, the report identifies critical areas where the CWIA has not reached its full potential. Slow expenditure of appropriations, underfunding of certain programs like lead service line replacement, and inconsistent tracking of environmental justice impact are among the key concerns raised.
Among other recommendations, the report urges state leaders to:
- Invest at least $600 million for the CWIA in the 2024-2025 State Budget, as part of a five-year, $4 billion commitment.
- Include line item appropriations for each CWIA program in the state budget so each program receives its fair share of funding, including $100 million for lead service line replacement.
- Require that at least 35% of CWIA funds benefit environmental justice communities, in line with New York’s climate law and Environmental Bond Act.
Rob Hayes, Director of Clean Water with Environmental Advocates NY and author of the report, stated, “Our findings highlight both the impressive strides made by the Clean Water Infrastructure Act and the gaps that must be addressed to ensure every New Yorker has clean, safe water. At least $80 billion is needed to fix New York’s water infrastructure, and those needs continue to grow as the federal government requires more clean up toxic PFAS chemicals in drinking water and the replacement of 100% of the nation’s lead service lines. We strongly oppose the Governor’s proposed cuts to clean water in the state budget this year, and look forward to working with the State Legislature to not only restore this funding, but to grow it.”
Senator Pete Harckham, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, “We need to build upon the important progress made statewide since enacting the Clean Water Infrastructure Act seven years ago, and not go backwards with underfunding and misdirecting resources. Protecting New York’s fragile drinking water supplies and upgrading delivery systems, filtration facilities, sewage treatment—all of this is critical to safeguarding public health and ensuring economic growth. If we don’t make these proper investments now, it may soon be too late. I thank EANY and other advocacy groups for their support in this regard and raising an alarm: our clean water is key to our future posterity.”
Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, said, “I commend Environmental Advocates for this extremely important report reviewing the progress New York has made since 2017, with funds secured through the Clean Water Infrastructure Act. These projects are essential to the health and well-being of New Yorkers and cannot sustain any diminution of funds in the coming years. Environmental Advocates’ constructive suggestions for improving the speed with which resources are disbursed and expanding the types of infrastructure upgrades to be funded are well taken. Additionally, it is vital to have an accurate and timely accounting of where projects are funded and completed. Thanks to Environmental Advocates for their vigilance and advocacy for a clean environment.”
Assemblymember John T. McDonald III, RPh said, “As a former mayor and as an Assemblymember who has consistently led the effort to fund Clean Water Infrastructure in New York State budgets with my colleague Assemblymember Otis, I understand the importance of this funding and the need to increase our commitment toward clean water infrastructure. In 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed requiring water systems in the United States to replace lead pipes within the next ten years. To fulfill that goal, we must ramp up our efforts, funding, and commitment to replacing outdated infrastructure. Any decrease in funding for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act is a step in the wrong direction. I will continue to advocate for increased CWIA funding and thank my colleagues and EANY for continuing to bring this issue to the forefront.”
Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Westchester), a longtime proponent of New York’s clean water grant programs, said, “Environmental Advocates has again documented the success of New York’s nationally recognized clean water programs as well as the pressing need to maintain and increase funding to address our water quality challenges. As with past reports, EA provides an independent analysis tracking the effectiveness and reach of the Water Quality Improvement Act grants (WIIA), Intermunicipal grants (IMG), and our state’s other clean water programs that are so important in protecting the environment and making projects affordable for communities and taxpayers. This report is testimony to the good work of Governor Hochul, our outstanding state environmental agencies, and both houses of the legislature and will provide the foundation for supporting these programs as we negotiate a successful budget agreement.”
“EANY’s first-of-a kind report sheds light on the successes of the “Clean Water Infrastructure Act” and how investment in this program has funded thousands of clean water projects across the State, especially in communities that need them,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair of the Senate Health Committee. “I have passed several bills to ensure clean water access for all New Yorkers including my most recent Lead Pipe Right To Know Act, and while we have made improvements, we cannot slow down. I will work with my colleagues to fight the Executive’s proposed cuts to clean water so we can protect a key element to healthy and thriving communities.”
Assemblymember Amy Paulin, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee, said, “I thank Environmental Advocates NY for its comprehensive study of Clean Water Infrastructure Act spending and their advocacy work to ensure that we continue to build on the progress we have made upgrading New York’s water infrastructure. Clean water contributes to our health and the health of our environment in myriad ways. We need to support upgrading our pipes and aging water infrastructure by continuing to fund in the 2024 budget NY’s Clean Water Infrastructure Act at or above the 2023 funding level.”
EANY, along with its partners, continues to champion the cause for clean water in New York. This report serves as both a testament to what has been achieved and a roadmap for what still needs to be done.