Environmentalists applaud state budget deal

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ALBANY, NY – Advocates for New York's clean water, clean air and
open space applauded today as an agreement on the next New York State Budget
was announced including $162 million in appropriations for the Environmental
Protection Fund (EPF).  This is a $9 million increase over the current
funding level. 

The EPF, which once stood at $255 million, suffered deep cuts in
recent years during the recession, falling as low as $134 million two years
ago.  Last year the EPF was increased to $153 million.  This year's
dedication of additional funding to the EPF is a welcome use of the state's
budget surplus, and marks a continuation of the state's reinvestment in
environmental programs.  EPF programs create jobs, lower costs to
taxpayers and protect clean water and other valuable community resources.

In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed an increased EPF in the
Executive budget proposal to the Legislature.  Environmental Conservation
Committee Chairs Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) and Senator Mark
Grisanti (R-Buffalo) worked with the Legislature to ensure the EPF remained a
priority for additional funding.  Both the Senator and the Assemblyman
circulated letters in their respective houses of the Legislature calling for an
EPF increase, and both received strong support from their colleagues. 
Each legislative one-house budget proposal included an increase in funding for
the EPF.  The final budget agreement continues the progress towards
restoring the EPF and growing it to a sustainable level that more adequately
meets statewide demand. 

Jessica Ottney Mahar, director of government relations for The
Nature Conservancy in New York said, “The Nature Conservancy thanks
Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, Senator Mark Grisanti, and
all members of the New York State Legislature for their support for the EPF in
this year's budget.  Throughout the process the value of the EPF to our
communities, through providing good-paying jobs, clean water, community parks,
local food, environmental education and so much more, was recognized. 
This year's budget agreement represents important progress and we applaud all
involved for their work to invest in our future.”

“Audubon New York applauds Governor Andrew Cuomo and
legislative leaders, especially Senator Mark Grisanti and Assemblyman Robert
Sweeney for committing new funding to the Environmental Protection Fund
(EPF),” said Erin Crotty, Executive Director of Audubon New York. 
“This increased funding will advance environmental conservation efforts in
New York by incentivizing innovative partnerships with private landowners and
increasing environmental funding that will help restore vital habitat, sustain
natural resources, and secure the economic vitality of our state.”

“This year's budget is a step in the right direction for the
Environmental Protection Fund,” said New York League of Conservation
Voters President Marcia Bystryn. “We applaud Governor Cuomo, Senator Mark
Grisanti, Assembly Member Bob Sweeney and members of the Legislature for strengthening
New York's investment in the environment. We hope to build on this success in
the future and look forward to productive discussions with our state leaders to
address the state's full conservation needs.”

Ethan Winter, New York Conservation Manager for the Land Trust
Alliance said, “We applaud Governor Cuomo and the state legislature for
taking important steps toward a stronger Environmental Protection Fund. We are
especially grateful for the vote of confidence in the New York State conservation
partnership program, a nationally recognized model for collaboration between
non-profit land trusts and the local communities they serve.”

“The increased support that EPF funds provide for living
museums in every corner of New York State allows us to continue educating
millions of New Yorkers through innovative ecological literacy programs while
also creating economic stability since living museums are tourism magnets and
economic engines in our local communities,” said Lois Carswell, Chairman of
the Coalition of Living Museums. “The Coalition thanks Governor Andrew
Cuomo, Speaker Sheldon Silver, Majority Leaders Jeff Klein and Dean Skelos –
and is especially grateful to Assemblyman Robert Sweeney and Senator Mark
Grisanti for their leadership to increase EPF funding this year. Thanks to
their efforts, living museums can serve even more New Yorkers and continue to
do what they do best: educating and inspiring new generations of conservation
stewards.”

“In your Adirondack Park, children and wild loons will
forever benefit from the clean water, open space and community projects made
possible by the Environmental Protection Fund. We appreciate that Governor
Cuomo and Environmental Conservation Committee Chairmen Sweeney and Grisanti
worked with the other legislative leaders to secure a partial restoration of
vital funding in the EPF this year,” said Adirondack Council Executive
Director William C. Janeway. “In the months ahead we look forward to discussing
how to build on this success and better meet environmental, infrastructure,
public health, and resiliency funding needs on a more permanent and aggressive
basis.”

“We are pleased the Governor and Legislature have both
recognized the importance of the Environmental Protection Fund again this year
and taken modest steps to restore deep cuts made in previous years. The
additional allocation to land preservation may benefit the environment and
economy through creation of new parks, protection of wildlife habitat or
climate change adaptation. We remain concerned that the Hudson River Estuary
and our communities face unprecedented threats from the dramatic increase in
the transport of crude oil authorized by the state. We look forward to working
with the Cuomo administration and the legislature to create a better
understanding of the urgency of safeguarding these vital resources,” said
Ned Sullivan, President of Scenic Hudson.

“These extra dollars for the EPF mean more protection for New
York's environment, more protected wilderness and more resources to take of
those precious lands,” said Neil F. Woodworth, Executive Director of the
Adirondack Mountain Club.

Peter Iwanowicz, Executive Director of Environmental Advocates of
New York said:  “Despite the modest increase in funding for this
year's EPF over past years, this budget falls well short of what is needed to
protect the environment and provide our communities with the resources to grow
healthy.”

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