New York State Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Issue

AN ACT to amend the environmental conservation law, the agriculture and markets law, executive law. the public authorities law, public health law, the soil and water conservation districts law, the state finance law, and the tax law in relation to the implementation of the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act of 1996 and making appropriations.

The single purpose of this act is to enhance the environmental quality of the State through the implementation of projects to enhance water and air quality.

Summary of Provisions:

This bill authorizes the state to issue $1.75 billion in general obligation bonds. The Bond Act proceeds would be used for state environmental projects committed toward long-term improvements to the state's environmental infrastructure and natural resources, above and beyond those paid for by the Environmental Protection Fund or other sources of state funding.

The bond proceeds will be divided as follows:

$400 million will be made available for the creation of a state safe drinking water program

$625 million will be made available for clean water projects

$100 million will be made available for green growth projects to improve air quality pursuant to the green growth program

$175 million will be made available for solid waste projects and,

$200 million for municipal environmental restoration projects.

Title 3. of section two sets forth the Clean Water Program for water quality projects such as municipal sewage treatment improvements, non-point source control projects, and habitat restoration. The program includes open space acquisition and parks improvements in order to improve water quality.

Specifically, $625 million for water quality projects will be allocated as follows:

$ 25 million for projects to implement the Hudson River Estuary Management Plan

$200 million for projects to implement the Long Island Sound Plan

$ 15 million for projects to implement the Lake Champlain management plan

$ 75 million for projects to implement a plan to cleanup Onondaga Lake

$ 25 million for projects to implement the New York Harbor Estuary Plan

$ 25 million for projects to implement the existing management program and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement;

$ 25 million for projects to address point and non-point sources of pollution in the Finger Lakes;

$ 85 million for other water quality projects approved by the respective Commissioners or the Secretary of State to meet water quality standards.

$150 million for open space protection. waterfront park development and improvement projects associated with water quality improvements, including farmland preservation projects, land acquisition projects.

Section 6-9 amend the public authorities law establish a Drinking Water Revolving Fund in the custody of the Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) to provide state assistance payments to finance drinking water infrastructure projects and empower EFC to issue bonds to finance the Drinking Water Revolving Fund.

Section two of the bill creates new statutory authority to implement the Clean Water/ Clean Air Bond Act. The federal Clean Water Act and the Environmental Conservation Law provide for the development of management plans or programs for the Hudson River Estuary, Long Island Sound, Lake Champlain, Onondaga Lake, the New York/New Jersey Harbor and the Great Lakes. In addition. it is recognized that other waters of the State and the Finger Lakes could be assisted by the development of water quality improvement plans or programs. Article 17 of the Environmental Conservation Law directs DEC to protect and preserve the waters of New York State. However, there is no existing provision for funding to ensure implementation of the projects set forth in these plans. This bill would provide for the funding needed to implement the projects identified in the plans.

Summary Statement:

Money from this bond act will be used to restore and improve many of the state's surface water bodies. Most of the major water bodies of the state have been the subject of a study or management plan for their improvement and continued use as a highly valued resource. Unfortunately, the means to implement these plans have not been available. In some instances, the costs are simply too high for local government to bear. In others, coordination and funding of a project is extraordinarily difficult. Given the constant mandates that confront local governments, it is often impossible to commit money for long-term solutions to water quality issues, especially where the benefits may not be visible for some time to come.

The bond act provides $625 million for clean water projects throughout the state, including sewage treatment plant upgrades, combined sewer overflow upgrades, stormwater management projects, vessel pumpouts, nonpoint source water pollution control projects and aquatic habitat restoration. An important tool to protect the state's surface and ground water resources is to protect environmentally sensitive lands through purchase of those lands or through conservation easements. The clean water projects will improve the quality of the State's waters

The bond act also provides $400 million for a safe drinking water program that for the first time will devote state resources to ensuring clean, healthful drinking water. A drinking water revolving fund will help municipalities pay for the costs of ensuring that all New Yorkers are provided with an affordable source of safe drinking water.

New York residents rely on thousands of different water supply systems for their daily drinking water. Standards dealing with the safety of drinking water have been enforced by the State since the 1800s. However, over the past twenty years, these standards have become much more comprehensive and much more stringent, beginning with the passage of the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974, as amended in 1986. The 1986 amendments, in particular, have established drinking water standards which require substantial investment by system owners and could greatly increase the water use rates that must be paid by system users. The 1986 amendments include mandates to filter surface water supplies to protect users from waterborne outbreaks of giardiasis, set additional standards for organic and inorganic chemicals, reduce radon exposures in drinking water, disinfect all groundwater supplies and set standards for disinfection by-products.