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Green Groups Hope Pandemic Crisis Doesn’t Sideline Climate-Focused Funding

WAMC File Photo

Environmental advocates from across New York are urging state legislators to preserve environmental funding they say is critical to the state’s economic and health recovery.

More than 125 advocacy organizations held a virtual lobbying effort to call on lawmakers to put a stalled $3 billion Environmental Bond Act on the 2021 ballot, address the intensifying climate crisis, and keep funding flowing for green initiatives that could help bolster New York's economic recovery.

Julie Tighe is President of the New York League of Conservation Voters.

"The sort of the flagship of that is the Environmental Protection Fund, which has been built up over the years to now be a consistent $300 million a year, which Governor Cuomo actually did following cuts to the Environmental Protection Fund, that, that were, that happened under the Great Recession. And that's a program that provides support for open space for parks for, you know, clean water, for environmental justice, it covers a whole panoply of the programs. It is really sort of the flagship environmental program that New York state has."

Other programs include the Clean Water Infrastructure Act, Parks 2020, and DEC Capital Programs. Advocates also urge that funds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative be spent on projects geared to tackle climate change.

Jessica Ottney Mahar is the New York policy and strategy director for the Nature Conservancy.

"We want to make sure that as lawmakers plan for our economic recovery, they maintain funding that's existing right now. They make sure that the core environmental funding that protects our clean water, that protects the parks and local areas people have been using during this pandemic to go outside to get safe exercise to enjoy time with their families, and it create jobs and communities in construction and other, in trades. That the funding that creates all of that is protected as we go forward and have a discussion about how we're going to solve the state's budget deficit."

Scenic Hudson president Ned Sullivan has confidence in state government.

"Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York state legislature have been champions of strong and consistent funding for clean drinking water, protecting our forests, wetlands, waterfronts, and working farms and fighting climate change for current and future generations. As the COVID crisis continues, and as we strive to achieve environmental justice in our hard hit cities and towns, now's the time to strengthen, not weaken state government's commitment to those core environmental funding programs and the jobs they create."

Sullivan says the confluence of coronavirus and heightened calls for environmental justice make it imperative to sustain robust funding for New York’s environmental programs, that clean air and water are necessities, not luxury items.

Responding to a request for comment, a Cuomo spokesperson emailed a statement - quote - "Advocates advocate for a living and if they want to focus on fiscal issues, focus on making sure Washington does its job and provides state and local funding to localities."

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