March 30, 2009
Governor Paterson announces key environmental protection initiatives in budget agreement
Expands Bottle Bill to Include Bottled Water, Raising $115 Million in Annual Revenue
Makes Critical Investments through the Environmental Protection Fund
Governor David A. Paterson today announced that the Budget agreement represents significant gains for the State’s environment through initiatives to increase recycling, prevent pollution and protect New York’s natural resources.
“Our commitment to New York’s long-term fiscal stability would be in vain if we did not also commit to programs that ensure our long-term environmental health,” Governor Paterson said. “Our expansion of the Bottle Bill, continued investment in the Environmental Protection Fund, and commitment to protecting New York’s parks, waterways and wildlife demonstrate our promise to improve the lives of every day New Yorkers while also producing a balanced, responsible budget.”
The Budget agreement breaks a 9-year logjam in the Legislature to enact a “Bigger Better Bottle Bill.” The bill improves upon the 1982 law by expanding the 5-cent deposit on carbonated beverages, like beer and soda, to include bottled water. Each year, nearly 2.5 billion bottles of water are sold in New York. The proposal also mandates that the State retain 80 percent of unclaimed bottle deposits. These deposits, previously held by beverage companies, will provide New York with an additional $115 million in annual revenue to help address the State’s fiscal crisis.
Senior Environmental Associate of the New York Public Interest Research Group Laura Haight said: “The expansion of the Bottle Bill would be one of New York’s most significant environmental achievements of the past decade. Governor Paterson deserves tremendous credit for his leadership and initiative in this effort, which would boost recycling rates and make our communities noticeably cleaner.”
Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said: “Governor Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Smith and Speaker Silver have crafted a responsible budget that maintains vital environmental investments. We commend Governor Paterson and Legislative Leaders for boldly making the Bigger Better Bottle Bill a key budget component in this agreement with the Legislature. These investments, made through the Environmental Protection Fund, will safeguard our majestic landscapes and Hudson Estuary – foundations of the region’s economy – while safeguarding drinking water, sustaining farms, and ensuring our waterfronts boost revitalization statewide. This is great news for New York during our Quadricentennial year.”
Under the Budget agreement, New York will also make critical investments through the Environmental Protection Fund with appropriations of $222 million to ensure that programs protecting New York’s water quality, open space, farmland and municipal parks remain intact. For the first time, 40 percent of the parks and waterfront revitalization funding will be targeted to underserved communities, up from 25 percent from previous years.
The Budget agreement will also address the following environmental-related initiatives:
New York will continue to pay full property taxes on all land owned for preservation. This will provide much needed revenue to local governments and allow the State to continue to acquire and protect open space and ecologically significant land across New York.
Hudson-Fulton Champlain Quadricentennial
This year, New York celebrates the 400th anniversaries of the voyages of English Captain Henry Hudson and Frenchman Samuel de Champlain, who led voyages along the Hudson River and Lake Champlain, respectively. In commemoration of their discoveries, and the 200th anniversary of Robert Fulton’s maiden voyage up the Hudson River, the “Walkway Over the Hudson” in Poughkeepsie will receive $8 million to complete the project to transform the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge into a spectacular park in the sky, the longest elevated walkway in the world. In addition, $750,000 will be available to establish public docks along the Hudson River and Lake Champlain. Finally, the Hudson River Valley Greenway will continue operation, but with a 20 percent spending reduction
Continued Operation of Ithaca Pheasant Farm and Other Conservation Efforts
The State-operated Reynolds Game Farm in Ithaca will remain open through use of funds generated by increases to hunting and fishing licensing fees. An estimated $16 million in revenue from licensing fees will be dedicated to the Conservation Fund to support fishing, hunting and trapping programs throughout the State, as well as wildlife protection and pollution reduction programs.