Scenic Hudson commends Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his budget’s strong environmental focus. The Executive Budget proposal builds on prior year commitments that have made New York State a national leader on the environment and advances the environmental policy initiatives outlined in the governor’s 2018 State of the State address.Below are summaries of major components of the budget being tracked by Scenic Hudson:
Hudson River PCB cleanup
The governor’s second State of the State initiative called for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to continue cleanup of Hudson River PCBs as part of the federally mandated Superfund cleanup. The EPA is expected to determine the extent to which the cleanup has been protective of human health and the environment, as well as decide whether or not to certify the cleanup to date as complete.
Scenic Hudson, dozens of local governmental officials and county executives, 164 members of the state Legislature, a majority of the region’s Congressional delegation, businesses and environmental groups all have called upon the EPA to require General Electric to perform additional cleanup.
In this year’s budget, Gov. Cuomo has continued his strong commitment to a cleaner Hudson River, proposing $2.025 million to continue the work of the Hudson River Natural Resource Damage Assessment, which will eventually allow the state to recoup funding from GE for damages it caused to the public as a result of its pollution.
The governor’s budget maintains a $300-million Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), the largest amount appropriated to the fund ever, and consistent with last year’s appropriation. The EPF includes many line items that have a direct impact on the Hudson Valley’s environment and regional economy, including:
· Farmland protection: funding is held steady at $20 million.
· Hudson River Estuary and Mohawk River management: funding is increased by $1 million to $6.5 ($5.5 million for the Hudson, $1 million for the Mohawk). This increase is necessary to maintain the level of service provided by the program.
· Waterfront revitalization: $16 million.
· Municipal parks: $20 million.
The governor’s budget includes continued funding for the $2.5-billion, five-year Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, which was initially funded in last year’s budget. This program provides grants and loans to local government to improve dilapidated water and wastewater infrastructure, as well as funding to protect the sources of drinking water through strategic land conservation.
Hudson River Valley Greenway and trails
Total funding for the Greenway increases by $17 million, reflecting capital projects necessary to complete the Empire State Trail.
State parks in the Hudson River Valley provide a critical service to local residents, protect world-class scenery and stimulate the tourism economy. The governor proposes making a $900-million, multi-year capital investment to maintain and improve the state parks system.
Regional economic development
The Executive Budget continues the successful Regional Economic Development Councils, including funding for capital projects and grants and tax-credit programs. The governor proposes awarding $750 million in funding in the 2018-19 fiscal year.
Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan stated, “Governor Cuomo has courageously made cleanup of toxic PCBs from the Hudson River a major provision of his policy agenda for the year ahead. I thank the governor for his continued commitment to a cleaner Hudson River through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment in the budget.”
Mr. Sullivan added, “The environmental budget is so important for so many reasons. The Environmental Protection Fund in combination with the Regional Economic Development Council are stimulating our downtowns, making them ripe for economic development and minimizing impacts on surrounding farms and open spaces. The governor continues his national-caliber leadership on climate change through initiatives that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We also must continue to address the water crisis statewide and on the Hudson River. The governor’s continued commitment of funds to water infrastructure will allow us to address the ongoing chronic raw sewage discharges, which are unconscionable in the year 2018.”
Scenic Hudson Director of Public Policy and Special Projects Andy Bicking said, “Collectively, the programs funded by Governor Cuomo will have a tremendous positive impact on Hudson River Valley communities. This will bring millions of dollars to local governments, businesses and other organizations working to secure farmland providing fresh local food, safeguard water quality for drinking and recreation, and enhance the viability of the region’s waterfronts, parks and scenery. These all are underpinnings of the Hudson Valley’s $5.5-billion tourism economy.”
Mr. Bicking added, “We particularly appreciate the increase in funding for the Hudson River Estuary Program that does so much to enhance the natural resources and quality of life of the region. These additional funds are necessary for communities in the watershed to continue receiving basic services from the program.”