Cuomo, lawmakers include $3 billion environmental bond in state budget

Albany Times Union Blog: Voters in New York will decide later this year if the state should borrow $3 billion to spend on various environmental projects, including flood damage restoration and efforts intended to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The so-called ‘Mother Nature Bond Act’ was set to be approved by the state Legislature Wednesday night as part of this year’s state budget.

The measure was first proposed earlier this year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who pushed the idea as a way for the state to combat the effects of climate change, including damage caused in recent years by major flooding in areas of upstate New York.

While lawmakers are expected to pass the measure, tucked inside a massive budget bill, it also has to win approval from voters in November. That kind of borrowing is required to be placed on the ballot in the general election.

If approved, the legislation will allow $3 billion to be disbursed for various means:

  • At least $1 billion would be spent on restoration and flood risk reduction
  • Up to $550 million would be spend on open space land conservation and recreation
  • Up to $700 million would be spent on climate change mitigation
  • At least $550 million would be spent on water quality improvement and resilient infrastructure

Those terms may seem vague, but they’re all defined in the legislation

Each category is also broken up into separate funding commitments. Of the $1 billion for restoration and flood risk reduction, up to $250 million will be made available for waterfront revitalization plans, for example.

The money won’t be exclusively available for the state to undertake environmentally friendly projects. Municipalities will be allowed to seek funding for projects that comply with the parameters of the bill’s definitions. 

Funding requests will be reviewed and determined by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, according to the legislation.

DEC will also be tasked with ensuring that 35% of the total funds disbursed through the bill are used to benefit so-called environmental justice communities, which are defined as communities that have been disproportionately impacted by poor environmental practices.

Environmental advocates hailed the measure’s inclusion in the budget Wednesday evening. Read more>>