Albany, NY - April 18, 2016 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that as part of Earth Week 2016, which takes place this week, numerous family-friendly events are being held to encourage New Yorkers to experience the great outdoors and learn more about environmental sustainability. In addition to outlining these events, the Governor is also highlighting the administration’s ongoing commitment to protect and restore New York’s water quality and natural resources, grow our clean energy economy, and aggressively combat climate change.
“Our environment and its natural beauty are among New York's greatest assets – and we all share a collective responsibility to protect them for future generations,” said Governor Cuomo. “Our administration has taken bold steps over the past six years to build a cleaner and greener state, and I am proud to be continuing that legacy this year. As we observe Earth Week and continue to stand up for the environment, I encourage all New Yorkers to help us ensure cleaner and healthier communities for all.”
The Governor’s administration is commemorating Earth Week in part by hosting dozens of events across the state. The public can connect to nature by partaking in hikes, observing natural wildlife, tree plantings and a variety of exhibits aimed at educating New Yorkers on the importance of sustaining the environment. Lists of family events can be found here from the Department of Environmental Conservation and here from the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
“I’m proud to celebrate Earth Week by hosting these important events for all families and residents to learn about DEC’s comprehensive efforts to protect and restore our vital natural resources,” said DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Everyone can be a good environmental steward, and there are many simple choices we can make every day to live more sustainably. I encourage all New Yorkers to take part in our activities and help ensure our environment is clean and healthy for future generations to enjoy.”
“New York State Parks works to continue its mission of being responsible stewards of our valuable natural, historic and cultural resources,” said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. “I invite New Yorkers of all ages to celebrate Earth Day by taking part in the volunteer opportunities and celebrations being offered by our state parks and historic sites, this week and throughout the year.”
"Under Governor Cuomo's comprehensive clean energy plan, Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) and other major actions to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, New York State is the model for other states and countries to follow," said Richard Kauffman, Chairman of Energy and Finance, New York State. "With nation-leading initiatives such as mandating 50 percent of electricity coming from renewable energy by 2030 and the $5 billion clean energy fund, New York has already created new clean energy jobs and seen nearly 600 percent growth in solar under the Governor. "
Key Energy and Environmental Accomplishments and New Initiatives
New York State is committed to protecting our environment, conserving open space, increasing access to the state’s vast and magnificent natural resources, launching numerous groundbreaking clean energy initiatives and preparing for the effects of climate change. Governor Cuomo’s key energy and environmental accomplishments include:
- Securing a Historic Increase to the Environmental Protection Fund: The enacted 2016-17 state budget increases the EPF to $300 million, more than double from when the Governor took office, and the highest level in the funds history. This major investment will support projects across the state that preserve farmland and open space, improve water quality, promote recycling, and combat invasive species, all while supporting thousands of jobs. The EPF will now also provide major new funding to help communities mitigate and adapt to climate change, provide new incentives for clean vehicle purchases and infrastructure, and advance a comprehensive Environmental Justice agenda.
- Revitalizing State Parks: The Governor's NY Parks 2020 program is a multi-year commitment to leverage $900 million in private and public funding for State Parks from 2011 to 2020. The Governor's 2016-17 Executive Budget allocates $90 million toward this initiative. To date more than 225 projects have revitalized and rejuvenated more than 130 State Parks and Historic Sites.
- Investing in water infrastructure: This year’s budget also boosts critical funding to help the state confront an emerging water infrastructure crisis. The state has made available an additional $200 million for grants to municipalities for drinking water and wastewater system improvements through the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act. These grants will leverage over $2 billion in local investments while creating an estimated 33,000 construction jobs.
Leading the Nation in Combatting Climate Change and Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Governor Cuomo is taking major actions to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions making New York a model for other states and countries to follow. These nation-leading environmental and clean energy initiatives will help New York homeowners, businesses and universities invest in clean energy, drive economic growth across the state, and protect the environment. Highlights of the Governor’s comprehensive climate actions include:
- Launching the Clean Energy Standard: Governor Cuomo directed the Public Service Commission to expand large scale renewable power so that it provides 50 percent of power generation by 2030, as laid out in the 2015 State Energy Plan, and to propose a plan to support New York’s existing zero-emission nuclear fleet.
- Signed the Under 2 MOU: Governor Cuomo signed the Under 2 MOU (Memorandum of Understanding), an agreement among states, provinces and cities worldwide to affirm their commitment to reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050 to help keep the earth’s average temperature from increasing two degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. As part of the 2015 State Energy Plan, New York set one of the most aggressive targets in the nation to reduce emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 (80 by 50).
- Securing a Coal Free New York by 2020: Coal is one of the highest greenhouse gas emitting and environmentally harmful fuel sources for power generation. In line with the state’s goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector 40 percent by 2030, the Governor has directed the Department of Public Service and DEC to develop a regulatory framework that will close the state’s two remaining coal burning power plants or repower them to cleaner fuel sources by 2020.
- Leading on Transportation and Climate: As Transportation emissions are the largest greenhouse gas emissions sector, New York has launched ambitious actions to drive down these emissions. Governor Cuomo has signed onto the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) MOU, and the International ZEV Alliance to move the state forward on reducing emissions from cars, as well as embarking in the Transportation and Climate Initiative with a coalition of 12 Northeastern states. The EPF will now provide major new funding to help communities mitigate and adapt to climate change, including new incentives for clean vehicle purchases and infrastructure. This will support NYSERDA’s forthcoming consumer zero emission vehicle rebate program.
- Adopted a 10-year, $5 billion Clean Energy Fund: Over the next ten years, NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Fund will drive greater private sector investment to support the deployment of clean energy and energy efficiency solutions to New York’s homes, buildings, and communities; invest in cutting edge research and development to accelerate clean energy innovation; provide $1 billion for the Governor’s NY-Sun program; and capitalize the nation’s largest Green Bank. Through the CEF, the State will also reduce ratepayer surcharges by $90 million in 2016 and by a total $1.5 billion by 2025. It complements the Clean Energy Standard by driving down the cost and scaling up clean energy technologies to meet our 50 percent renewable electricity goal.
- Launched the Nation’s Largest Green Bank: New York is home to a $1 billion green bank, the largest green bank in the nation. In 2015, NY Green Bank provided $49 million to support three deals that will enable greater deployment of residential solar and energy efficiency projects as well as small-scale wind on residential, agricultural, and small commercial properties. Green Bank capital leveraged an additional $179 million in financing from private sector partners.
- Developed Official Sea Level Rise Projections: As directed by the Community Risk and Resilience Act, New York State will adopt state sea level rise projections based on the best available science and rigorous public review; these projections will better prepare coastal communities and business owners for extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy.
- Climate Smart Communities Take Action: 174 local governments, encompassing 6.6 million New Yorkers, have joined the State program to support local climate change adaptation and mitigation and seven communities have completed a rigorous certification process. The enacted 2016-17 budget includes a $11 million line in new EPF funds for Climate Smart Communities grants, providing communities the ability to transform resiliency and adaptation plans into action.
- Launching the New York Water Quality Rapid Response Team: The Governor's new statewide Water Quality Rapid Response Team has been directed to prepare a comprehensive action plan to immediately address water quality issues, tackling matters ranging from currently regulated contaminants, such as lead, to emerging contaminants, like perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), nitrates and salt. The Action Plan will include recommendations to strengthen the state’s existing drinking water, groundwater and surface water protection programs.
- Improving Water Quality on Long Island: Nitrogen pollution is one of Long Island’s most pressing environmental challenges. The state has taken a series of steps to reduce nitrogen levels on Long Island, including a transformative $388 million initiative to connect nearly 10,000 Suffolk County households to modern sewer systems and treatment plants and $3.9 million in grants to seven targeted projects aimed at reducing nitrogen pollution in the Peconic Estuary watershed. In Nassau County, the state is investing more than $190 million to advance an effluent outfall pipe at the Bay Park wastewater treatment plant. In addition to reducing nitrogen, the Governor has launched a comprehensive $6 million study of Long Island’s groundwater, which will examine saltwater intrusion, surface water impacts, contaminant transport and sustainable yield.
- Promoting Hunting and Fishing Recreational Activities: Under Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative, the 2016-17 budget provides $3 million for State land access projects and $4 million for hunting and fishing infrastructure. The 2015-16 budget also created a new capital account which, along with federal Pittman-Robertson funds, will be used to manage, protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat, and to improve and develop public access for fish and wildlife-related recreation. This year’s commitment builds on the previous $6 million in funding for 50 new projects to provide access to approximately 380,000 acres of existing State lands for recreation, including boat launches, bird-watching areas, trails and hunting blinds, and $8 million for upgrades and improvements to fish hatcheries statewide.
- Expanding “New York Works” funding for Environmental Resources: Since 2011, Governor Cuomo has providedmore than $680 million for direct environmental projects such as dam repairs, coastal resiliency, wastewater upgrades, and park investments. These funds have also provided recreational infrastructure; e-Business; plugging of abandoned oil and gas wells; grants for municipal brownfield cleanups; and water quality improvement projects for wastewater treatment systems.
- Enforcing Oil Well Safety: Initiated a stepped-up effort to bring oil wells into full compliance with all regulatory requirements, to prevent groundwater pollution and other harm to the environment.
- Revising Solid Waste Regulations: Issued comprehensive draft regulations to update solid waste regulations to address emerging concerns relating to mulch facilities, disposal of construction and demolition debris and other solid waste issues.
- Launched the Excelsior Conservation Corps (ECC): As announced in Governor Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda address, the ECC is a new AmeriCorps environmental education and stewardship program for 18 to 25-year olds. This year, Members are performing meaningful environmental projects across New York State’s parks and lands while gaining hands on-experience and skills in conservation careers. The program is funded through $1.9 million in combined state and federal funding.
- Vetoed the Port Ambrose LNG Project: In November 2015, Governor Cuomo vetoed the Port Ambrose Liquefied Natural Gas Deepwater Port, because of security and economic concerns along with the project’s potential to negatively impact off-shore wind development. The project required approval from both Governor Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Christie under the federal Deepwater Port Act. Governor Cuomo detailed his full position in a letter sent to the U.S. Maritime Administration.