Friday, August 23, 2013

State legislators propose massive environmental financing legislation

Posted By on Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 1:37 PM

This is a corrected version.

In 1996, New York voters gave the state government permission to borrow $1.75 billion to finance a multitude of environmental and infrastructure projects.

That money did a lot of good. It funded open space preservation efforts, seeded a revolving loan fund for water infrastructure projects, and funded water and air pollution reduction efforts. Funding was also set aside for important brownfield cleanup projects; the City of Rochester's cleanup efforts at what is now the Newcroft Park neighborhood was one of them.

Now, two State Legislature committee chairs are proposing a new environmental bond act, this time for $5 million billion. Republican Senator Mark Grisanti, who chairs his chamber's Environmental Conservation Committee, has already introduced his bill. Grisanti told the Buffalo News that Assembly member Robert Sweeney, the Democrat that chairs his chamber's Environmental Conservation Committee, will introduce matching legislation.

In a memo accompanying the bill, Grisanti says that the borrowing is necessary to meet waste water and drinking water infrastructure repair and improvement needs. The memo cites a 2008 assessment that estimates statewide waste water infrastructure investment needs at $36.2 billion over 20 years and drinking water system needs at $38.7 billion over 20 years. 

And it also includes this language, almost unheard of from a modern Republican politician:
Concurrently, global warming is accelerating as greenhouse gas emissions continue to pollute the atmosphere. Air pollution control programs must expand to meet this challenge.

The money would also fund additional brownfield cleanup programs, which would benefit Rochester and other upstate cities with industrial pasts. (This article lays out some of the brownfield issues facing Rochester.)

If Grisanti and Sweeney can get the bill through the Legislature, it'll go to voters in November 2014. But as the Buffalo News article points out, Governor Andrew Cuomo and all state legislators will be up for election at that time. They may be reluctant to put a large spending measure on the ballot.

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