Nation-Leading Flood Mitigation and Habitat Restoration Initiative Part of Historic $33 Billion, Five-Year Commitment to Fight Climate Change
Also Proposing to Ban Single-Use Styrofoam Food Containers and Packing Materials, and Permanently Ban Hydrofracking
Renews Record $300 Million in Funding for the Environmental Protection Fund and Additional $500 Million for Clean Water Infrastructure
Expands State's Product Stewardship Initiatives to Promote Recycling of Mattresses and Carpets and Reduce Waste Across the State
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo stood with environmental leaders today to announce a campaign to pass the $3 Billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act in the FY 2021 Budget. If ultimately approved by the voters in November, the Bond Act will fund critical environmental restoration projects in every corner of the state to ensure New York is able to withstand the threat of more intense and frequent storms fueled by climate change. The Bond Act is part of an unprecedented $33 billion commitment to fight climate change over the next five years. Governor Cuomo is also campaigning to ban single-use Styrofoam food containers and packing materials in the budget. In addition, he is pushing to renew record funding for the Environmental Protection Fund and for clean water infrastructure, as well as product stewardship initiatives to promote recycling of mattresses and carpets.
"We face a crisis for the planet and you only get one chance to fix it before reaching a point of no return. We recognize the magnitude and urgency of what we're dealing with - because if you don't save the planet, everything else is irrelevant," Governor Cuomo said. "We're going to start the most ambitious climate change program this nation has seen and part of that effort is the environmental bond act. We're going to organize to get it passed in the budget and then implement the most successful climate change and environmental restoration program in the nation. It's a bold plan but we must do it because either you face the crisis of the time or the crisis defeats you."
Attending today's announcement were the following environmental conservation leaders:
- Robert R. Dyson, President & Director, Dyson Foundation
- Karenna Gore, Director, Center for Earth Ethics, Union Theological Seminary
- Rose Harvey, Senior Fellow, Parks & Open Space; Former Commissioner, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
- Dominique Lueckenhoff, Senior VP of Corporate Affairs & Sustainability, the Hugo Neu Group
- Cecil Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director & Director of Policy Initiatives, WE ACT
- Joseph Martens, Director, New York Offshore Wind Alliance
- Wendy Neu, Chairman and CEO, the Hugo Neu Group
- Larry Rockefeller, Co-Founder & Board Member, New York League of Conservation Voters
- Theodore Roosevelt IV, Board Chair, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES)
- Susannah Smetana Kagan, Member, NYS Board of Trustees, The Nature Conservancy
- Dan Tishman, Chairman & CEO, Tishman Construction Corporation; Vice Chairman, AECOM Technology Corporation
- Lise Strickler, Board Member, Environmental Advocates of New York
- Lucy Rockefeller Waletzsky, MD, Chair, NYS Council of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
This past decade was the hottest ever recorded, and the five hottest years in history have all occurred since 2015. The Bond Act proposal is part of New York's $33 billion five-year plan to combat climate change. This nation-leading, first of its kind plan will transition the State to renewable power, while significantly reducing emissions in all sectors of the economy, and preparing the state and its residents to adapt to its effects.
First introduced in September 2019, the Restore Mother Nature initiative launched in Governor Cuomo's 2020 State of the State address is the nation's most comprehensive effort to restore water resources and critical habitats, and will prioritize projects to improve water quality, re-establish natural habitats and protect communities and infrastructure from flooding. As part of this effort, the Bond Act will support land acquisition to provide new and expanded recreational opportunities; protect communities from flooding; safeguard drinking water resources and aquatic habitats; advance freshwater and tidal wetland restoration to naturally filter contaminants and the nutrients that contribute to harmful algal blooms; and restore riparian buffers to protect waterbodies from nutrient runoff and sedimentation.
The Bond Act will also support an estimated $100 million in fish hatchery investments and public access site improvements to establish New York as the premier destination for recreational fishing. These investments in New York's world-class fish hatcheries will help triple the state's walleye fingerling production, produce an additional 500,000 trout and salmon, raise 100,000 cisco for native fish restoration and bolster development of a hardier strain of brown trout. New York will also improve the State's network of fishing access sites, hand launch boat sites and public fishing rights with an emphasis on warm-water streams and rivers.
Additional efforts include measures to bolster community infrastructure to better withstand flooding, including acquiring flood vulnerable properties, right-sizing culverts and bridges, removing obsolete and hazardous dams and green infrastructure projects.
We recognize the magnitude and urgency of what we're dealing with - because if you don't save the planet, everything else is irrelevant.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Governor Cuomo is building on the State's record water quality and habitat investments that are improving our natural resources and strengthening our communities by creating the Restore Mother Nature program last year. The proposed Environmental Bond Act seeks to increase biodiversity, enhance the health of our fish and wildlife, improve water quality, preserve significant natural buffers to prevent pollution, and generate countless other benefits to ecosystems and economies in every corner of New York."
Recent storms, including Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee, provided clear evidence of the need to bolster the resilience of communities against the effects of climate change and severe weather events. Since 2011, every county in New York has experienced at least two weather-related disaster declarations, and more than half have suffered five or more disasters. Federal and State governments have spent more than $26 billion responding to these disasters, and scientists estimate that flooding will cause more than $50 billion in damage in New York over the next decade. Investing in environmental restoration is essential to New York's continued economic success. The state's floodplains and forests are indispensable natural barriers that reduce risk to communities from increased flooding and more intense storms by providing a first line of defense, as well as vital habitat necessary to sustain fish and wildlife species.
New York's last environmental bond act was passed nearly a generation ago in 1996. This action will help secure funding for critical projects to protect the state's water resources and fish and wildlife habitats for current and future generations.
In his 2020 State of the State, the Governor launched Restore Mother Nature, the nation's most aggressive program to restore habitat and reduce floodwaters. Restore Mother Nature will undertake projects across the state to reduce community flood risk and revitalize critical fish and wildlife habitats by connecting streams and waterways; right-sizing culverts and dams; restoring freshwater and tidal wetlands; reclaiming natural floodplains; restocking shellfish populations and upgrading fish hatcheries; preserving open space; and reducing contamination from agricultural and stormwater runoff. Through Restore Mother Nature-supported projects, all New Yorkers will see measurable improvement to their waterways, more fishing and recreation opportunities and less flooding damage by 2030.
Governor Cuomo has also proposed prohibiting the distribution and use of expanded polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, single-use food containers. The proposal also bans the sale of expanded polystyrene packaging materials known as packing peanuts. Additionally, the bill would authorize the State Department of Environmental Conservation to review and take action to limit or ban other packaging material upon a finding of environmental impact. This would be the strongest statewide ban in the United States and would go into effect by January 1, 2022. This ban will build on the Governor's historic effort to reduce environmental pollution statewide, including the recent ban on single-use plastic bags first announced by the Governor in his 2019 State of the State address.
Building on his climate efforts, Governor Cuomo has included legislation in his FY 2021 Executive Budget to make New York's fracking ban permanent. The measure would restrict the Department of Environmental Conservation from approving permits that would authorize an applicant to drill, deepen, plug back or convert wells that use high-volume hydraulic fracturing as a means to complete or recomplete a well, protecting the health of New Yorkers and ensuring permanently that our environment is not harmed by this practice. This bill reflects an important step forward toward achieving New York's clean energy economy goals.
In addition, Governor Cuomo has proposed continuing EPF funding for a second straight year at a record high $300 million. Appropriations include $39 million for solid waste programs, $89 million for parks and recreation, $152 million for open space programs and $20 million for the climate change mitigation and adaptation program. He has also proposed an additional $500 million for clean water infrastructure, part of the state's unprecedented $3.5 billion commitment to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to clean water.
The Governor's Executive Budget also includes two significant new initiatives to reduce environmental pollution statewide: the previously announced ban on the use of polystyrene and the creation of a new Product Stewardship Program for the recycling of two particularly difficult-to-manage products, carpets and mattresses. The new proposal places the responsibility for end-of-life management for carpets and mattresses on the producer, helping to ensure these programs consider end-of-life impacts of the product or packaging during the earliest stages of design. The initiative also incentivizes manufacturers to redesign products and packaging to be less toxic, less bulky, and lighter, as well as more recyclable.