In the News  Archive

Environmental Protection Fund gains $9 million

April 2, 2014


ELIZABETHTOWN — The Adirondack Council and other green groups are glad to see a growing Environmental Protection Fund for New York.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo finalized the state budget with Assembly and Senate leaders late last Friday, and the legislature approved it Monday.

The spending plan puts $162 million into the Environmental Protection Fund, a pool of money administered by several state agencies for state land purchases, invasive species protection, Smart Growth grants, Empire State Development resources and projects allocated through the Departments of Agriculture and Markets and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Established in 1993, the fund comes in large part from real-estate transfer taxes. It started with $31 million that year and reached $255 million in 2008 before spending cuts were made during the recession.

The increase of $9 million over last year’s allocation is viewed as a start to what environmentalists consider “fully funded” — restoring the fund to 2008-09 levels.

“This year’s dedication of additional funding to the EPF is a welcome use of the state’s budget surplus and marks a continuation of the state’s reinvestment in environmental programs,” the Adirondack Council said in a statement.

Audubon New York’s Executive Director Erin Crotty said the increased funding would help build wildlife-habitat stewardship partnerships with private landowners to conserve dwindling grassland habitat for songbirds.

That funding, she said in a statement, “would complement the state’s existing programs, such as the open-space and farmland-protection programs, which provide resources to protect priority habitats.”

Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway said his organization would like to build on the $9 million increase in coming years.

The council had pushed for a $200 million Protection Fund in this budget, charging that key funding is necessary to address aging wastewater treatment systems in the Adirondack Park and the threat of invasive species.

To prove its point, the council released a new report last month, “Adirondack Waters: Resources at Risk.”

“One of the report’s central themes is that there is no such thing as new water,” the council said of its findings.

“All of the water this planet has, and will ever have, is already here, cycling from the Earth’s surface (and just below) to the atmosphere and back. The more we contaminate, the less we have to sustain all life on Earth.

“Overall, it is much cheaper to protect the sources of our pure water than to try to clean it up after it is contaminated.”

Janeway also looks to resiliency projects through the Environmental Protection Fund for both environmental and community readiness in a changing natural world.

“In the months ahead, we look forward to discussing how to build on this success and better meet environmental, infrastructure, public health and resiliency funding needs on a more permanent and aggressive basis,” he said.

“We appreciate that Gov. Cuomo and Environmental Conservation Committee Chairmen Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) and Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) worked with the other legislative leaders to secure a partial restoration of vital funding this year,” he said in a news release.

Environmental groups delivered a joint statement, thanking lawmakers for added environmental protection resources.

At the Nature Conservancy in New York, lobbyist Jessica Mahar said the fund supports stewardship important to both land and community by “providing good-paying jobs, clean water, community parks, local food, environmental education and so much more.

“We applaud all involved for their work to invest in our future,” she said.

“The EPF was cut when times were tough and when revenues from the real-estate transfer tax were dropping,” Janeway said.

“That revenue is the primary source of funding for the EPF and is also used to pay bond holders from the 1996 Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act. But real-estate transfer tax revenue is booming again and will soon top $1 billion. It is time to reinvest in the EPF.”

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