RAY BROOK — The state’s $142 billion budget adds what some consider much-needed millions for clean water and environmental protection.
The Environmental Protection Fund, which supports grants for invasive-species control, land conservation and grants for stewardship programs, was increased by $15 million for 2015-16.
The total $177 million Protection Fund is still shy of the $200 million environmental groups have pushed for in recent years.
But Gov. Andrew Cuomo has steadily increased the fund by 32 percent since taking office.
Environmental spending includes a new three-year, $200 million capital program for improvements to wastewater-treatment and drinking-water facilities in the Adirondack region.
In its capital investment plan, the state will reserve $50 million this year and $75 million in each of the next two fiscal years to pay for matching grants to communities for up to 60 percent of upgrades for such facilities, the Adirondack Council explained in its budget review.
“This kind of investment in clean-water systems can help small Adirondack Park communities rebuild facilities to better handle local business, residents and 10 million annual visitors,” Executive Director William C. Janeway said.
“We have world-class scenery and recreational opportunities in the Adirondacks, but we don’t yet have the world-class drinking-water and wastewater-treatment systems we need to protect the environment and public health."
ADDED DEC STAFF
Increases to the Department of Environmental Conservation budget allow for 36 additional hires.
Concerns about low staffing at DEC were raised in an audit released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli last December.
DEC spokesman Tom Mailey told the Press-Republican that there will be a Forest Ranger Basic Training School session held at Wanakena in fiscal year 2015-16.
The ranger school has not run its full program for several years, due to budget cuts.
The Adirondack Council said staffing additions at DEC will include spill response personnel. And a new DEC Office of Public Protection academy will be held for forest rangers and environmental conservation officers.
The 2016 state budget does not increase staffing at the Adirondack Park Agency.
'ENERGY FUND ROBBED'
With this budget, the state will move $41 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) green energy fund to the state’s General Fund, and the Adirondack Council objects to that.
The initiative, Janeway said, is a nine-state cooperative pollution control program aimed at reducing carbon emissions from electric power plants.
“RGGI proceeds are supposed to be spent on clean-energy development and energy-conservation programs, combating climate change,” he said.
“Climate change is a significant threat to the Adirondack Park’s environment and economy. Addressing that threat must remain a priority.”
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