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Tappan Zee Bridge Construction Loan Will Not Stand Up In Court


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On August 6, the NYS Thruway Authority took the final steps needed to finagle a $255.7 million Clean Water Act loan that isn’t designed to produce clean water – it’s to pay for a big chunk of the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

This loan misappropriates funding that Congress provided to fix New York’s aging water infrastructure and restore the health of our rivers, hijacking it instead for basic bridge construction activities like dredging, pile driving, design and engineering work. These activities do not meet the legal standard for the Clean Water Act loan program, which is that activities must “implement” the adopted plan for restoration of the Hudson River estuary in order to qualify for funding. As the citizen’s group that oversees the Hudson restoration plan has observed, this work is “the exact opposite” of what their plan is meant to do.

Not surprisingly, EPA is reviewing this loan and has the power to disallow it. EPA staff has already stated to the press that it does not appear that bridge construction work qualifies as a water quality improvement project — which would render it ineligible for Clean Water Act funding.

For these reasons and others, over a dozen newspaper editorial boards have savaged the loan plan, calling it “bad governance;” a “betrayal;” “pilfering” and “distorted beyond recognition.”

This loan is contrary to law and makes a mockery of the Clean Water Act infrastructure and estuary loan program. It will not hold up to independent, objective scrutiny, whether by EPA or the courts, or a combination of the two.

The stakes are too high to let this illegal raid on Clean Water restoration funding go through without a fight. Riverkeeper will be right in the middle that fight, which is where our members rightly expect us to be, whenever government action runs this far afoul of the environmental laws designed to protect the Hudson River.

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