On November 10th, more than 125 environmental, labor, and business organizations including NYLCV joined together to hold a virtual lobby day in support of a range of environmental programs. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the recession caused by it, has led to a severe funding shortfall for New York State’s 2020 and 2021 budgets. Unfortunately in the past, environmental programs were often among the first to be cut during budget crises, but this year NYLCV and our partners want to help New Yorkers understand that protecting the environment isn’t optional, and that environmental funding has enormous benefits for our economy.
There are several specific environmental programs that our coalition highlighted in meetings with legislators. The Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), which has been funded at $300 million for the past several years, improves water quality, reduces air pollution, funds environmental justice projects, protects natural areas, and creates new parks, waterfront areas, and other green spaces. It also helps support 350,000 jobs across the state, and the green industries that benefit from it generate $40 billion in economic activity every year. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is an interstate compact that raises revenue for clean energy projects and reduces emissions from fossil fuel power plants. But over the course of the program $228 million has been diverted to the State’s General Fund. This year we are asking for no sweeps so that the full amount of RGGI money can be invested in clean energy and energy efficiency, especially in environmental justice communities.
The Clean Water Infrastructure Act was created to address New York’s drinking water quality issues, and since its inception it has provided $3.9 billion to replace lead pipes, protect source water, purify drinking water, and other projects to protect public health. In addition to the public health benefits of this spending, every $1 million in investment creates 17 jobs. That’s why New York needs to maintain its promised investment of $500 million for clean water in the 2021 budget.
Capital spending through the Parks 2020 initiative and the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) protect natural resources and enhance our parks at a time when more and more New Yorkers are recognizing the importance of outdoor recreation. Additionally, every dollar invested in state parks generates $5 in economic activity. That’s why we are asking the State to continue funding Parks 2020 and DEC’s capital budget at $100 million and $40 million, respectively, in the 2021 budget.
Finally, our coalition is asking legislators to reauthorize the $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Environmental Bond Act. The Bond Act was passed earlier this year and was set to appear on voters’ ballots this month, but it was unfortunately pulled from the ballot because of fears over the state of the economy. The Bond Act would have invested in natural resiliency around New York State, creating jobs while also making us safer from the impacts of climate change. It is imperative for our fight against climate change that the Bond Act appear on the ballot in 2021.
New York’s ability to recover from our current crisis depends on investing in the environment. Investments that we make now will create jobs, protect public health, make New York a better place to live, and leverage future federal investments when relief finally arrives. Cutting environmental funding in 2021 would be pennywise and pound foolish, and we were glad to find on November 10th that so many of our state legislators agree.