Local Officials Should Testify on Clean Water Needs

When the Executive Budget proposal was released one year ago, my organization, Environmental Advocates of New York, was shocked that not one penny of the $5 billion+ available at that time from bank settlements was earmarked to help local governments repair aging water infrastructure. In response, we mobilized a coalition to press legislative leaders to change the budget and provide grants to help communities fix their pipes. And, we won.

The Legislative leaders and the Governor created a new, multi-year clean water grant program that has already provided $75 million in grants to communities across the state.

Released in last week’s Executive Budget for the coming state fiscal year, Governor Coumo has proposed a funding level of $125 million for this grant program; more than was in last year’s agreement, but far less than the need that we know exists. In fact, the Cuomo administration tells us that the need and requests this year far outstripped available funds. 

We know that statewide the need is closer to $800 million per year.

I urge county, city, village, and town officials to join with us and submit testimony to the Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Local Governments that share your financial needs regarding local drinking and wastewater infrastructure.

The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, January 26th. Questions about in-person testimony, or the submission of written testimony, can be directed to legislative contact Clinton Freeman at 518-455-5491. Testimony may be brief, what’s most important is that state legislators hear from local officials about the clean water needs in your community.

A growing funding gap

The Departments of Environmental Conservation and Health have identified the need to invest over $36 billion in wastewater and $38 billion in drinking water infrastructure over 20 years. DEC has also stated that at least $1 billion must be invested by all levels of government annually to meet local sewer infrastructure needs alone.

A broad coalition of organizations – ranging from the New York Conference of Mayors, New York Rural Water Association, Builders Institute of Westchester, and NYS Society of Professional Engineers – have requested that the Governor and state legislators invest $800 million for the coming fiscal year in grants for local drinking and wastewater infrastructure projects. That is what the Office of the Comptroller has identified as an annual need. The Governor has started the conversation by proposing another $100 million over two years. It’s a start.

Your testimony at the Joint Legislative Hearing on Local Governments will ensure this issue is front and center on the minds of the people who represent you. State legislators have shown great leadership on this issue, and with your testimony, we are confident they will fight to invest $800 million from current bank settlements ($2 billion+) for our clean water infrastructure needs.

We’re here to help

We have provided additional information available in the hyperlinks above, and Environmental Advocates of New York would be happy to answer any additional questions you may have. Liz Moran, our water and natural resources associate, can be reached at 518-462-5526 x224 or emoran@eany.org