Voter’s Guide to the Environmental Obligations Act 2022

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Open space, clean water and clean air are priorities for the funds in the Environmental Bonds Act of 2022. Photo by Carl Heilman II

What you need to know before voting

By Gwendolyn Craig

On the back of ballots this Nov. 8, the state seeks voter approval to borrow up to $4.2 billion for the Clean Water, Air, and Environmental Bonds Act of 2022. green jobs. If approved, the funding would support climate change mitigation, flood reduction and restoration projects, open space conservation and water quality improvement projects. At least 35% of total borrowing must support initiatives in disadvantaged communities.

Below are answers to some questions voters may have before heading to the polls to vote on this measure.

flood risk
The bond law would allocate funds to fight flooding, a recurring problem in the Adirondacks park. This bridge in Hadley was washed away by flooding from Paul Creek during the Halloween storm of 2019. Explorer file photo by Mike Lynch
How would Adirondack Park be impacted by its passage?

Adirondack Park could see funding for projects in broad bond law categories. Of the $4.2 billion, at least $1.1 billion is proposed for restoration and flood risk reduction; $650 million for open spaces and recreation; $1.5 billion for climate change mitigation; and $650 million for water quality and water infrastructure. About $300 million is undesignated.

Who supports him?

The measure, proposed under Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul, has the support of many lawmakers in her party and some Republicans. Many Adirondack Park environmental groups and organizations are in support. The Business Council of New York State and the New York State Association of Counties also support the initiative for its pledge of financial assistance to local governments to strengthen infrastructure and fight climate change. The bond law also promises to support 84,000 jobs, according to a study backed by a coalition of environmental organizations called New Yorkers for Clean Water and Jobs.

Governor George Pataki
George Pataki was governor the last time an Environmental Bond Act passed and preserved hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness in the Adirondack Park.
When was the last law on environmental obligations?

The last time the state approved such environmental borrowing was under Republican Governor George Pataki in a presidential election year in 1996. $1.75 Billion Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act Almost Spent, although records show early 2022 or so $82 million remains and $100 million is authorized to borrow.
Explorer spent more than six months reviewing records and interviewing members of the Pataki administration, environmental officials and state agencies to see how the majority of the latest environmental bond law was spent. He found that no verification had ever been carried out. Full accounts were never made available. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, responsible for the bulk of the funding, had issued a handful of annual reports tallying expenditures and allocations. The last public report to state lawmakers was just over two decades ago, in March 2001, when $1.3 billion was appropriated, but $647 million was actually spent.

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