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Groups Applaud Legislative Commitment to Clean Water

For Immediate Release: March 13, 2015
Adirondack Council – John Sheehan: 518-441-1340
Environmental Advocates – Travis Proulx: 518-462-5526 x238
NYLCV – Jordan Levine: 212-361-6350 x206
Riverkeeper – Cliff Weathers 914-478-4501 x239

Groups Applaud Legislative Commitment to Clean Water, Urge Three-way Negotiations With Executive
Senate & Assembly budget proposals are the first steps in funding healthy water systems

Albany – This week the Senate and Assembly demonstrated strong leadership by proposing dedicated grant funding for our communities’ drinking water and sewer infrastructure projects in the SFY2015-16 budget. In their respective one-house budget resolutions, the Senate proposed at least $500 million in clean water infrastructure grants for communities, while the Assembly has proposed $250 million.

Statewide, communities are on the hook for at least $36 billion in unmet wastewater infrastructure needs, including 61 of 62 counties who have identified projects requiring $12.7 billion in immediate financial need. Drinking water infrastructure projects are estimated to cost tens of billions more.

The Office of the Comptroller says there is an $800 million budget gap for these needs each year. The coalition is urging legislative leaders to work with Governor Cuomo in the final weeks of negotiation to deliver these funds in the enacted budget.

William C. Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council said, “To help close the gap between priority waste water project costs, available loans, and what the residents and businesses in small communities can afford, the legislature has committed to a state infrastructure investment backed by one-time bank settlement funds, and we applaud that.”

Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York said, “A $5.4 billion bank settlement windfall does not come along every day. While the state and federal government have stepped away from properly funding drinking water and sewer systems in the past, this is a unique time for Albany to step up and begin to properly invest in New Yorkers’ most basic need: safe drinking water and sewer systems that do not overflow. We applaud all of the legislators who have taken a stand for dedicated funding, in particular Senator Marcellino and Assemblyman Englebright for leading efforts in their respective chambers.”

Jessica Ottney Mahar, director of government relations for The Nature Conservancy in New York said, “The Nature Conservancy applauds the Senate and Assembly for prioritizing water infrastructure funding in the budget. A safe supply of clean drinking water and healthy lakes, rivers and bays generates billions in economic benefits and supports tourism, boating, fishing, and a desirable way of life for New Yorkers. All of this is at risk due to failing or inadequate water infrastructure. This budget is an opportunity to start fixing that by making investments that will create jobs and protect clean water.”

Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters said, “Towns and cities around the state asked for help repairing their clean water infrastructure amid a record number of water main breaks this winter. And in hearing this call, both the Senate and the Assembly put people before politics. We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to ensure that these efforts to protect our clean water carry through to the final budget.”

Patricia Cerro-Reehil, executive director of the New York Water Environment Association, Inc. said, “It is vital that the elected leaders understand there is great financial need for all drinking and wastewater utilities across New York State. With clean water we protect public health and the environment. Investment in infrastructure makes the connection. Economic development and environmental responsibility go hand-in-hand.”

Paul Gallay, president of Riverkeeper said, “This is a rare opportunity to invest available surplus funds in our communities’ most fundamental needs. Water infrastructure is part of the bedrock of our environment and economy. We hope the Senate, Assembly and Governor will come together on this critical issue and get New Yorkers what they need.”

Real World Consequences
Syracuse has experienced some 100 water main breaks this year, while Erie County has had more than 350. There are 600 wastewater treatment facilities in the state that all need of resources to meet new standards. Long Island communities face a more than $4 billion hole for their immediate wastewater needs.

All these incidents result in boil water alerts, closed roadways and waterways, a lack of access to drinking water, and causing schools and businesses to close. It undermines public health, safety, and our ability to attract new development.

Governor Cuomo and legislators are expected to finalize the SFY2015-16 budget by April 1.


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