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Environment budget: Wins and losses

Environment budget: Wins and losses

ALBANY — The 2022-23 state budget includes what environmental activists call a mix between victories for items they pushed for, and disappointments for policies and changes they didnt get.

Final votes were still being cast as of Friday press time, but some environmental and climate-related issues were already clear thanks to the conceptual agreement between Gov. Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders were present the day before.

The plus side is the expansion of protections to freshwater wetlands, which supporters claim will increase wildlife habitat as well as provide vital buffers against flooding due to increasingly severe storms.

Roger Downs from Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, conservation director, stated, “These long-awaited, historic wetlands regulatory reforms” will make our communities more resilient.

Although slowly implemented, the new legislation reverses some cuts to federal wetland conservations made by the Trump Administration. They will reduce 12.4 to 7,4 acres the size wetlands that are required permits for impactful activity. Permits will be required for smaller wetlands that have ecological significance. Permit fees are expected to rise.

Another major win was the addition to $200 million of an environmental conservation bond issue, which went before voters in November. The amount now stands at $4.2 billion.

The Restore Mother Nature Act, if passed, would fund a range of initiatives including habitat and wildland restoration, expanded fishing opportunities, fighting invasive species, and other initiatives. The measure would also allocate $500,000,000 for the electrification of New York’s school buses.

The bond act of $4.2 billion is up significantly from the $3B level that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo was the first to propose this bond act in 2019.

Environmentalists were disappointed that a mandate was not given for the electrification of new buildings. Also, the new building codes have been made more energy efficient. The 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of the state, which aims at reducing carbon emissions, calls for electrification of buildings. However, there is no set timetable. This has been met with resistance by builders and labor unions who view it as increasing construction costs and possibly slowing down sales.

See Also

Technology such as solar panels and electric-powered heat pumps or heat exchangers, as well a geothermal pump, are seen as cleaner options to traditional forms like oil or natural gases.

Some of these new technologies have a high initial cost, however.

According to Liz Moran of Earth Justice, climate change activists had hoped that electrification would be mandated by 2024.

The budget does include a tax credit for geothermal heat pump installations.

rkarlin@timesunion.com 518 454 5758 @RickKarlinTU

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