Our environment is at a critical crossroads. The progress we have made over the years across the Long Island Sound region will be eroded unless the investment in our environment matches the magnitude of the challenges we are facing.
Our environmental budget priorities include:
- The continued implementation of the $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act. Communities must be able to access funding for projects that mitigate climate change, reduce flood risk, improve water quality, and conserve open space land;
- $600 million for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act, and a commitment to $4 billion over the next five years to address our failing wastewater and drinking water infrastructure;
- $400 million for the Environmental Protection Act, which has funded clean water, resiliency, sustainability, and land conservation projects in every county in the state;
- $250 million for New York State Parks, which will celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2024;
- $96,323 to the Interstate Environmental Commission, which monitors water quality in Long Island Sound and has been one of Save the Sound’s partners in the Unified Water Study since 2017. New York State must appropriate the full amount required by the Tri-State Compact to make the IEC eligible to receive $1 million in federal funding.
Bill numbers provided where available
A year ago, enabling language was included in the state budget that created the opportunity for the Suffolk County Legislature to add the Suffolk County Water Quality Restoration Act to the November ballot. Instead, the Legislature passed on the chance to allow county residents to decide whether to accept a 0.125% increase to county sales tax to fund expansion of sewer systems and the replacement of the 380,000 inadequate septic and cesspool systems. This year, the County is expected to file a home rule request, asking the State Legislature to pass the Water Quality Restoration Act as standalone legislation, with the commitment to add the measure to the ballot this November.
The Supreme Court decision last May in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency significantly weakened federal protections of wetlands and waterways across the country, making the Class C Streams and the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act more urgent than ever. These bills were passed by both chambers last session, but Gov. Hochul did not take the opportunity to strengthen protections in New York State by signing them. We expect these bills to be revised and reintroduced this session and look forward to working with the sponsors and environmental partners to promote legislation that would be more likely to receive the Governor’s signature.
The Safe Water Infrastructure Action Program (S4350A/A6155) would create a program to provide funding for local drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure, similar to the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Programs (CHIPs) in place since the early 1980s.
As we look for ways to reduce contaminants from entering our waterways, we will again support the Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act (S4246A/A5322A), which seeks to cut plastic packaging in half over the next 12 years and eliminate toxic pollutants (including PFAS) from packaging materials. This Extended Producer Responsibility bill would shift the cost of managing the end of life of packaging materials from taxpayer to producer. While we would prefer to see PFAS addressed holistically as a class of contaminants, we will be looking at several individual bills that limit specific types of the “forever chemicals” in particular consumer products, and we will support the PFAS Discharge Disclosure Act (S227B/A3296A), which would require all permitted facilities and industrial users discharging waste to conduct annual PFAS testing and make the resulting data publicly available.
STORMWATER MANAGEMENT & RESILIENCY
We are coming off one of the hottest years on record and one of the wettest in New York history. Our state needs a better plan for managing stormwater, in terms of both handling the increased water quantity and its detrimental impact on water quality. Save the Sound supports a trio of bills which are promising individually but which collectively provide a more comprehensive approach to addressing the inefficiencies in our stormwater management plan.
The Water Bill Fairness Act (S4169/A4019) allows local authorities to create an equitable structure in which property owners would pay fees related to the amount they contribute to stormwater runoff. The more impervious surface, the greater the amount of runoff contributed, and therefore the higher the fee, which would fund stormwater infrastructure improvements and green infrastructure projects.
The establishment of an Office of Flooding Prevention and Mitigation (S3335/A132) would create an agency to manage and coordinate the work of task forces, commissions, and programs to study issues related to flooding. This bill would promote the use of living shorelines and various nature-based solutions for flooding prevention and mitigation, including permeable surfaces, rain gardens, and wetland restoration.
The proposed Water Resiliency Projects Fund (S7764) would appropriate $500 million in funding for flood mitigation, stormwater mitigation, and other water resiliency projects.
After the passage of the Living Shorelines Act in 2023, we are encouraged that the state recognizes the importance of factoring green infrastructure into resiliency planning. The Green Roof Abatement bill (S6409A/A6901) extends the underutilized tax abatement program for the development of green roofs on buildings in cities with more than one million people (which, at the moment, is only New York City).
CLIMATE, ENERGY, & ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
We cannot address stormwater management without targeting the root cause of worsening storms: fossil fuel emissions that drive climate change. Save the Sound will push for policies that will reduce the impacts of climate change and empower communities to fight back against unjust environmental burdens.
We support the inclusion of the NY Home Energy Affordable Transition Act (S2016A/A4592A) in the state budget. The NY HEAT Act would eliminate billions of dollars in subsidies for new gas hookups, enable neighborhood-scale building decarbonization, and ensure energy affordability for low- and moderate-income families.
The 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (also known as the Climate Act) includes a Scoping Plan that recommends a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 40% by 2030 from 1990 levels, 85% by 2050. To help achieve that that goal, the Just Energy Transition Act (S2935C/A4866C) prioritizes the transition of peaker power plants – the outdated, inefficient facilities responsible for the greatest amount of pollution—to renewable energy by 2030.