Over 170 organizations as well as an estimated 74% of New Yorkers supported the $3 billion Environmental Bond Act, which originally passed in the 2020 budget. This year, those same organizations are asking the legislature to pass it a second time.
“Unfortunately, it had to be removed from the ballot because of the pandemic, which was understandable at the time,” Jessica Ottney Mahar of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) told Capital Tonight.
According to Mahar, TNC Policy and Strategy director, the bill is largely the same Environmental Bond Act that passed last year.
Similar bond measures have passed around the country over the last several months.
“We are excited now that federal relief is here and budget negotiations seem to be back on track to move forward with this measure for New York,” she said.
The Bond Act, if passed by lawmakers and then approved by voters in November, would be the largest in New York’s history. The funding that will be borrowed under the measure will help replace some of the state’s aging water infrastructure.
“New York has about $80 billion of needed repairs or upgrades to its water and wastewater infrastructure, so $3 billion, is just a drop in the bucket, no water pun intended,” Mahar quipped.
Funding will also help communities deal with the impact of climate change.
“There are two big impacts that we are looking to deal with,” Mahar explained. “The first is heat. We know that climate change is making our cities, our communities, much hotter, and people in places like New York City and Rochester and Buffalo are starting to experience heat and medical impacts from it, like heat strokes and death.”
The second impact the Environmental Bond Act would address is flooding, which is affecting communities around the state.
According to Mahar, funding will be spent on relocating community assets like fire houses and police stations, which were affected during Irene, Lee and Superstorm Sandy. It would also ensure that the state’s infrastructure can withstand stronger storms.
Finally, the Environmental Bond Act would help create more local parks, protect local farms, and install electric vehicle charging stations.
“Also, one third of the Bond Act would be dedicated to communities that have experienced disproportionate impacts of environmental pollutions and will suffer the most from climate change,” Mahar said. “So, it’s a really important aspect of this Bond Act that didn’t exist the last we did this in 1996.”