Yesterday, New York Governor Hochul released her SFY2025 Executive Budget proposal. The Governor’s proposal offers a few laudable policies on climate, such as her “Affordable Gas Transition Act,” and policy intended to accelerate renewable energy buildout. But little else was offered to protect water and public health.
The following statement can be attributed to Liz Moran, New York policy advocate for Earthjustice:
“Unfortunately, with a couple of notable exceptions, the Governor’s budget falls short of what New Yorkers need to protect public health, the environment, and combat climate change.
“After 2023, the hottest year in recorded history that left New Yorkers stranded from flooding, choking on dangerous air quality, sweltering from heat waves, and suffering from unfair energy bills, the SFY2025 budget must get it right on climate. Thankfully, the Governor can be applauded for embracing key elements of the NY HEAT Act, which will enable New Yorkers to begin transitioning off fossil fuels to clean and renewable home heating. It will be crucial for the Assembly to join the Governor and Senate in supporting this policy, and for the final version of this policy to include affordability elements to protect consumers from the rising costs of gas.
“New York must address the ever-worsening climate crisis, and it must also respond to alarming levels of childhood lead poisoning, aging and deteriorating water infrastructure, ongoing contamination from PFAS and other dangerous unregulated chemicals, and a range of other chronic environmental challenges. Instead of offering bold policies and funding to tackle these issues, the Governor has proposed cutting funding for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act by half. Not only should this cut be rejected resoundingly by the Legislature, the final budget should include an increase of funding to accurately reflect growing water quality needs.
“NY HEAT offers much to celebrate, but too much is omitted from the Governor’s budget to give New Yorkers the environmental leadership they expect. Earthjustice urges the governor and the legislature to deliver a final budget that ensures affordable energy, protects public health, and accelerates our path towards a truly zero-emissions future for all New Yorkers.”
While Earthjustice continues to review the executive budget proposal for details, we offer our thoughts on the following budget items:
- NY HEAT Act (“The Affordable Gas Transition Act”) – We applaud the Governor’s inclusion of this necessary policy, which will give the Public Service Commission (PSC) the authority and direction to align gas utility regulations and system planning with the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). Importantly, it will eliminate the unjust 100-foot rule, which forces everyday New Yorkers to pay for the expansion of the gas system to the tune of more than $200 million every year. It also removes a mandate to provide fossil fuel to residential customers. This language, which obligated utilities to serve gas to residential customers, blocked the state’s transition to healthy, inexpensive heating and cooling. Unfortunately, the Governor’s proposal excludes language to protect New Yorkers from the rising costs of utility bills and for a timed downsizing of the gas system. Last year, the Senate included NY HEAT in their one-house budget and passed the legislation as a stand-alone bill. We urge the Assembly to follow suit this year with their one-house budget, and for the Governor and the Legislature to adopt the language of S.2016B/A.4592B in the final SFY2025 budget.
- $250 million for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act (CWIA) – We are profoundly disappointed that the Governor has chosen to jeopardize public health by cutting this wildly successful, and essential program, by half its typical annual funding. New York has over $80 billion in water infrastructure needs, which the state has started to make a dent with thanks to the billions invested through the Clean Water Infrastructure Act. These needs went ignored for decades until the CWIA was created. Since 2017, this fund has received $500 million on an annual basis, supporting hundreds of local water quality projects in every region of the state while protecting public health and creating hundreds of good jobs. The Legislature should ensure their one-house budgets increases funding by including a minimum of $600 million for the CWIA this year to reflect growing needs due to strains on water infrastructure from our changing climate and the ongoing need to address unregulated and dangerous toxic chemicals.
- $400 million for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) – Earthjustice is pleased to see a continued commitment to the Environmental Protection Fund; however, we strongly oppose the offloading of $25 million to fund state agency staffing costs. The result of this is cuts to numerous programs within EPF.
- Climate-resilient Farming – We are pleased to see that funding for the Climate-resilient Farming program has been maintained within the Environmental Protection Fund.
- Renewable Action Through Project Interconnection and Deployment Act (RAPID) – Accelerating the siting of renewable energy project could not be more critical for New York to meet the mandates of the state’s climate law. Earthjustice looks forward to continuing to review and evaluate the Governor’s proposal to ensure it meets its stated purpose, while preserving critical environmental, health, and community protections and enhancing community engagement.
The following were notably not included in the Governor’s proposal, but should be included in the final SFY2025 budget:
- Green Transit, Green Jobs, which will achieve a zero-emissions transit bus fleet by phasing out purchases of new fossil fuel transit buses starting in 2029.
- $100 million for small transit agencies to electrify their bus fleets
- The Climate Change Superfund Act, to provide the State with much needed climate funding by making climate polluters pay.
- At least $600 million for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act, with a $4 billion total commitment over five years.
- At least $100 million for the Lead Service Line Replacement Program within the Clean Water Infrastructure Act.
- $1 billion for the newly created Climate Action Fund
- Increased funding and staffing for the Department of Environmental Conservation