New York News Connection

January 7, 2016Available files: mp3 wav jpg

Advocates Praise Boost to Environmental Protection Fund

Andrea Sears

NEW YORK - Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to give the state's Environmental Protection Fund a major boost is drawing high praise.

The governor wants to increase the fund to $300 million in the next state budget, more than twice the level of funding when he took office five years ago.

Jessica Ottney Mahar, director of government relations for the Nature Conservancy of New York, calls the announcement historic.

"It is putting New York in a position of national leadership," she states. "We think this is a sustainable level of funding and it's the right proposal at the right time in the right budget."

The fund supports projects in every county in the state, and includes protecting clean drinking water, farmland preservation, waterfront revitalization and environmental justice initiatives.

Mahar adds money from the Environmental Protection Fund also can be used to secure grants from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which Congress reauthorized with increased funding last month.

"To see these two investments happening at the same time is thrilling for the conservation community," she says. "So it's a great time that the state is leveraging public investments with federal investments."

Cuomo also announced funding for programs to reduce nitrogen pollution from private septic systems and public wastewater treatment facilities.

Mahar says on Long Island nitrogen pollution is the number one threat to the environment and the economy, causing algae plumes and massive fish kills.

"The governor's recommitment to ensuring that we are upgrading facilities and homes on Long Island to ensure that nitrogen is being removed from wastewater is incredibly important," she stresses.

The Environmental Protection Fund has broad bipartisan support, and Mahar is confident the governor's proposed increases will be included in the coming state budget.