A Win for Our Environment in the State Budget

We are thrilled to share the news that the state legislature passed a strong, pro-environment budget last week. It includes policies we have been advocating for over many years and included as top priorities in this year’s State Policy Agenda.

As Washington is rolling back our environmental progress, New York is picking up the leadership mantle. While crucially addressing the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic, the budget also takes steps to tackle the long-term climate crisis. COVID-19 puts people with respiratory illnesses like asthma at higher risk, illustrating the importance of reducing pollution and improving air quality. 

This budget demonstrates that our leaders, and especially Governor Cuomo, Senators Kaminsky and Parker, and Assemblymembers Englebright and Cusick, continued to make protecting the environment, fighting climate change and promoting clean energy a priority. We look forward to working with policymakers and stakeholders to implement these programs.

Siting Renewable Energy: The State passed legislation to reform the way we site renewable energy generation and transmission projects. The legislation will be critical for reducing emissions, meeting our nation-leading climate goals while supporting green jobs, and helping our economy when the pandemic subsides. It establishes an Office of Renewable Energy Permitting at the NYS Department of State; lays out a sensible, stepwise permitting process; and directs the new Office to establish standard operating conditions for wind and solar projects. The law also required local government involvement and the opportunity for community input. This legislation was needed because environmental protection and climate action go hand in glove with growing a strong economy. 

Environmental Bond Act: Proposed by Governor Cuomo and championed by Senator Todd Kaminsky and Assemblymember Steve Englebright, the $3 Billion Restore Mother Nature Environmental Bond Act, provides funding for key investments in local infrastructure and ecosystem restoration that will help communities across New York prepare for flooding, rising seas, and dangerous extreme heat. In the past ten years alone, our state has seen the detrimental effects of fifteen severe storms, five major winter storms and two major floods. We will provide more details on the provisions of the bond act in a future blog post. The bond act will now go to voters for approval on the ballot in November.

E-Bikes and E-Scooters: The budget included legalization of e-bikes and e-scooters. This is integral as more New Yorkers rely on food delivery during the pandemic. They provide a clean transportation option and will help decrease emissions from the transportation sector. Thank you to Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Nily Rozic for their continuous leadership on this policy.

 Environmental Protection Fund: The landmark Environmental Protection Fund was fully-funded at $300 million. It provides critical investments in projects to improve and protect water quality, enhance recycling, preserve land, promote recreational opportunities, and fight climate change. 

Protect Clean Water: Building on the 2017 $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act, the budget includes an additional $500 million for protecting clean water across the state. This funding is the second installment of another five year $2.5 billion commitment, bringing the states clean water commitment to $5 billion. The funding will go towards preventing and addressing contamination, upgrading drinking water systems and filtration plants, upgrading wastewater treatment plants, replacing failing septic systems, improving sewer systems, replacing lead service lines, and preserving land in drinking watersheds. 

Ban Fracking: The budget codifies the ban on hyrofracking and will encourage the use of renewable energy for generations to come. 

Reduce Waste: While proposals to establish new product stewardship programs for mattresses and carpeting were not included in the final budget, the budget did include a ban on disposable styrofoam, which will reduce the amount of waste going to landfills and help keep our waterways clear.

The past month has been extraordinarily difficult for our state, and unfortunately we know that there is further hardship ahead of us. It is truly a testament to the leadership of pro-environment elected officials and environmentalists across the state that in the midst of this crisis we have a budget that does so much for the environment.