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$3 billion Environmental Bond Act: What you should know


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Restore Mother NatureOn April 1, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature greenlighted a question on New Yorkers’ November 3 ballot seeking approval to bond $3 billion for a multi-year investment in clean water, air, wildlife and the environment. If approved by the voters, the Restore Mother Nature bond act would be the first environmental bond act since 1996. Investments from previous bond acts have yielded benefits for every corner of New York, investing in public parks, wildlife conservation, open space preservation, water infrastructure investment, toxic site cleanups and more. 

If you are not familiar with bonds, Investopedia defines a general obligation bond as, “…a municipal bond backed by the credit and taxing power of the issuing jurisdiction rather than the revenue from a given project.” 

A new environmental bond act would provide much needed long-term and dedicated funding for New York to prepare for the worsening impacts of climate change and invest in restoring wildlife habitat. Many of the categories included in the bond act offer the opportunity to prioritize nature-based solutions to preparing for these future challenges. An example  is dam removals and fixing problematic culverts which open up streams for the migration of aquatic organisms such as river herring and eels, but also benefit humans by reducing the conditions that fuel harmful algal blooms and increase the risk floods. 

What will the bond act fund? 

Restoration and flood risk reduction Not less than $1 billion

  • Wetland, floodplain, and stream restoration
  • Flood buyouts for willing sellers
  • Dam removal and fixing culverts for fish passage and flood reduction
  • Endangered and threatened species conservation projects
  • Projects identified in lake, river or estuary action agendas

Open space land conservation and recreation Up to $550 million

  • Fish hatchery upgrades
  • Open space preservation and conservation
  • Farmland preservation

Climate change mitigation Up to $700 million

  • Green building projects including investments for green infrastructure and renewable energy on SUNY, CUNY and community college buildings
  • Investments to reduce urban heat such as green roofs, open space preservation urban tree plantings and community cooling centers
  • Reducing water pollution affecting environmental justice communities

Water quality improvement and resilient infrastructure Not less than $550 million

  • wastewater infrastructure projects
  • municipal stormwater projects
  • Municipal grants for stormwater with green infrastructure 
  • Agricultural nutrient pollution
  • Harmful Algal Bloom abatement
  • Sewer line replacements for failing septics or cesspools
  • Projects to reduce, eliminate or avoid point source and nonpoint source discharge to water including projects authorized by the Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017
  • Projects to establish stream buffers
  • Lead service line replacements

Environmental Justice 35 percent of funds

In addition, the state is required to use 35 percent of bond act funds for the benefit of environmental justice communities. This requirement is similar to the provision included in the landmark 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

Learn how Riverkeeper influences the state budget and environmental policy in our legislative briefing webinar on Tuesday, April 14. Register here.

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