Environmental activists in New York say there are some good items in the just passed budget package. But they are displeased with how state leaders have decided to finance the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.
New York’s Environmental Protection Fund’s highest allocation since it was created in 1993 has been $250 million. The new budget allocation approves $177 million, an increase of $15 million from last year.
Protect the Adirondacks Executive Director Peter Bauer says the good news is it continues to inch back up. “It’s nowhere near in total size where it was ten years ago in the high times of the Pataki administration. But it has continued to go up over the last several years.”
Bauer adds the bad news is that the environmental infrastructure across the state needs billions of dollars, much more than what has been allocated. “The state budget this year in addition to the EPF did create a new clean water fund. But that’s just a drop in the bucket for what’s needed across the state when you look at other major issues with invasive species; resilience planning to mitigate impacts from the severe weather with climate change; when you look at challenges with packaging and solid waste. There are huge environmental issues that require significant investment. Much more than we see in the annual appropriation for the Environmental Protection Fund.”
While environmental groups are pleased to see the additional $15 million in funding, they are appalled that the EPF will get its money from the state’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative proceeds. Environmental Advocates of New York Executive Director Peter Iwanowicz. “The revenue that comes in from selling carbon pollution credits, instead of going to reduce further carbon emissions and provide green energy dollars are instead going to the general fund to increase the EPF. So they took from one core environmental program that’s used to fight climate change and put it to the Environmental Protection Fund. It’s really an unfortunate turn of events that the Legislature decided to go ahead with Governor Cuomo’s climate raid.”
The Adirondack Council praised several environmental provisions in the budget, including increased staffing at the Department of Environmental Conservation and money to help communities respond to oil spills.
As for the Environmental Protection Fund, Council Spokesman John Sheehan is gratified there are funding increases for projects in the Adirondacks. But he’s not pleased that money from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will be transferred to the EPF because, he notes, there is already a dedicated funding source. “We really feel that the real estate transfer tax is the legitimate source of money that was set up to fund the Environmental Protection Fund. That has provided more than enough revenue to the $200 million that we had requested this year, on our way to the $300 million level that we consider to be full funding for the EPF. So we’re going to continue urging the legislature and the governor’s office to use the legitimate funding source, this real estate transfer tax.”
New York’s Environmental Protection Fund was established in 1993 to provide money for environmental and open space projects across the state.