ALBANY, NY (January 17, 2024) – As part of her SFY 2024-25 Executive Budget proposal, Governor Kathy Hochul has unveiled the following environmental proposals:
Environmental Protection Fund. Governor Hochul has committed another $400 million in funding for the EPF, which provides critical support for environmental programs, including Audubon’s nature centers and sanctuaries. EPF funding is a solid investment that provides good-paying jobs, drives economic growth, and protects vulnerable wildlife and their habitats. The Governor’s proposed language would allow $25 million from the EPF to be spent on staffing for state agencies.
Plant 25 million Trees by 2033. The Governor has proposed $47 million for planting 25 million trees by 2033, which will help New York State meet its goal of planting and maintaining 1.7 million acres of new forest by 2040.
Blue Buffers Voluntary Homeowner Buyout Program. Many New Yorkers are threatened by rising sea levels, which can put homes at risk of repeat flooding and years of costly damage. Voluntary buyout programs give New Yorkers the option and means to relocate to safer areas, and then allows those properties to be used as part of natural flood control strategies, such as the restoration of living shorelines and salt marshes.
Funding Clean Water Infrastructure. New York State’s investments in clean water infrastructure have funded significant improvements to our wastewater and drinking water systems. The Governor’s budget provides $250 million in funding for water quality and clean water infrastructure, which is a decrease of fifty percent from prior years.
Green Resiliency Grant Program. Many communities rely on “gray infrastructure” such as storm drains, pipes, and culverts, for stormwater management. However, with more extreme weather events occurring, gray infrastructure is struggling to keep up with increased precipitation. Green infrastructure, which relies on natural features and systems, can help ease the load by either replacing or being integrated into existing stormwater systems. Green infrastructure can include urban forests and parks, green roofs and walls, and strategically placed bioswales.
RAPID Act. The Renewable Action Through Project Interconnection and Deployment (RAPID) Act would authorize the Office for Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) to issue permits for electric transmission projects and create a new expedited permitting process, including the development of new regulations and uniform standards and conditions.
The following statement is from Erin McGrath, Senior Policy Manager for the National Audubon Society’s New York State office:
"The Executive Budget provides continued funding for many important environmental programs and new funding that will help make New York State more resilient for birds and people. The Environmental Protection Fund and Clean Water Infrastructure Act are important investments in our future, and the Blue Buffer Voluntary Homeowner Buyout Program and Green Resiliency Grant Program will help drive the development of nature-based resiliency measures that protect our communities. We are also pleased that the budget provides funding for planting 25 million trees by 2033, which could help create new habitat for declining woodland bird species and other vulnerable wildlife.
However, we are disappointed that the Governor’s proposed language would allow $25 million from the EPF to be used for staffing at state agencies and that funding for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act has been cut by fifty percent. We are looking forward to working with the Governor and Legislature to eliminate these reductions and find a solution that maintains this funding at last year’s levels.
To achieve climate change stabilization, we need to rapidly build-out transmission and clean energy infrastructure, but also ensure that vulnerable species and their habitats remain protected. The Renewable Action Through Project Interconnection and Deployment (RAPID) Act will give us another chance to balance the needs of wildlife with our efforts to develop and deliver clean energy. We are committed to working with the Department of Public Service and Office of Renewable Energy Siting to minimize the risks of transmission construction and operation to biodiversity, and to speed the deployment of needed transmission infrastructure.”