Posts Tagged ‘EPF’

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What Paterson’s Deficit Proposals Mean For The Adirondacks

Late last week Governor David Paterson announced a two-year, $5.0 billion deficit reduction plan that he claims would “eliminate the State’s current-year budget gap without raising taxes, as well as institute major structural reforms.” The plan includes a second raid on the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), which the Governor swept clean of $50 million at the end of 2008, and a raid on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s (RGGI) carbon allowance auction proceeds. Those funds, amounting to about $90 million, had been slated for energy conservation and clean energy development.

“Energy conservation and clean energy development,” says Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan, “are two areas where the investment would have provided both real savings for the taxpayer and clear benefits to the environment and public health.” None of the money collected from the carbon auctions since the New York began participating in January has been spent on energy programs according to Sheehan, who added that “this may be the first time in history that a dedicated fund was actually raided for another purpose before one cent of it was spent on its intended purpose.”

The proposed $10 million dollar raid on the EPF is the second within a year. About $500 million has been diverted from the fund for non-environmental purposes since 2003. The EPF is supposed to fund major environmental projects and provide local tax relief for landfill closures, municipal recycling facilities, conservation agreements, and expansion of the state Forest Preserve.

“A month or so ago, we wondered aloud why the Governor wasn’t spending the Environmental Protection Fund money that had already been collected since April 1,” Sheehan wrote in a recent e-mail to the media, “Now we know why.”

The governor’s announcement comes just a week after he said he would cut ten percent from the budgets of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). The Governor’s plan announced late last year to cut state property tax payments to Adirondack municipalities that host state lands was rejected by the State Legislature this spring.

EXCERPT FROM GOVERNOR’S PRESS RELEASE:

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)/EPF Transfers
(2009-10 Savings: $100 million; 2010-11 Savings: $0 million)

This proposal would transfer $90 million in RGGI proceeds and $10 million from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to the General Fund. It is currently expected that RGGI proceeds through the end of 2009-10 will total $220 million, allowing the state to meet its $112 million commitment to the recently passed Green Jobs legislation, as well as this $90 million General Fund transfer. Additionally, it is fully expected that after implementation of the DRP, the State would still be able to meet its original 2009-10 EPF cash spending plan of $180 million, which is equal to record 2008-09 levels.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Adk Council Slams Paterson’s Adirondack Record

Here is a statement from the Adirondack Council’s Executive Director Brian L. Houseal on what he calls Gov. David Paterson’s “proposed give-away to polluters” under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). My favorite part is when Houseal calls Paterson out on his Adirondack record (which makes George Pataki look like a saint) – “the Paterson Administration has displayed unexpected hostility toward environmental initiatives and Adirondack issues.” Stand back.

The Adirondack Council strongly objects to Governor David Paterson’s decision to give away pollution rights to polluters participating in compliance with the 10-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Not only is the decision bad for the environment, it is also bad for the economy.

The decision is especially disappointing in light of President Barack Obama’s pledge to create a national cap-and-trade program similar to RGGI to control carbon dioxide emissions nationwide. It would be irresponsible to do anything to weaken the prototype program at this crucial moment. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Nature Conservancy, State Finalize Domtar Lands

The Domtar land purchase – now known as Sable Highlands and located in Franklin and Clinton Counties near Lyon Mountain – has been finalized with the protection of 104,000 acres, an area seven times the size of Manhattan. New York State purchased a conservation easement from the Lyme Timber Company on December 24, 2008 and that transaction ended four years of efforts to preserve the acreage once owned by Domtar Industries in the northeastern corner of the Adirondacks.

In addition to the continuation of sustainable forestry, the conservation easement also includes access to nearly 30,000 acres that have been off-limits to the public for decades, including Sugarloaf Mountain, the Norton and Plumadore Ranges, and Barnes, Grass, Figure Eight, and Fish Hole Ponds. Combined with the 20,000 acres of new state lands, the public now has access to about 50,000 acres in a part of the park that has had limited opportunities for public recreation in the past. The Sable Highlands includes 220 miles of permanent and seasonal streams, 2,600 acres of wetlands, and 20 lakes and ponds in the St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain drainages. Among the lands protected in the Domtar deal are Lyon Mountain (14,400-acre habitat for Bicknell’s thrush), Ellenburg Mountain (1,700-acre tract of roadless forest that adjoining 7,100 acres of Forest Preserve lands), Whistle Pond / Keniston Meadows (920-acre tract adjoining existing state Forest Preserve), and East Chazy Lake.

In December of 2004, Domtar sold all of its Adirondack holdings in Clinton and Franklin Counties to the Lyme Timber Company and The Nature Conservancy. Working in partnership with Lyme, the Conservancy, and local community leaders, New York State has now fulfilled an agreement to secure the permanent protection of those properties.

A few months ago, the state made an outright purchase of 20,000 acres as new public lands from The Nature Conservancy. The purchases help foster the Adirondack Park’s role as a conservation model for the world and is another important investment in the local forest products industry. Last week, the state purchased a conservation easement to protect 84,000 acres owned by Lyme Timber. This “working forest” easement promotes sustainable forest management and timber harvesting, restricts residential development and subdivision, and creates a balance of public recreational access and continued private recreational leasing on the property.

The recent state expenditures were previously budgeted to the Environmental Protection Fund from money provided primarily from a real estate transfer tax. Private contribution to The Nature Conservancy’s Sable Highlands Campaign since 2004 totaled some $4 million and also helped to offset the overall costs of conservation.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Adk Council: Budget Will ‘Savage Environmental Fund’

Governor Paterson released his budget proposals today and it doesn’t look good for the Environmental Protection Fund. Here is a note, just received from the Adirondack Council’s John Sheehan:

There is a great cause for worry about Gov. David Paterson’s first Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) spending plan, which was released today.

The governor proposes deep cuts in the programs supported by the EPF and proposes a fundamental change in the main source of revenue for the fund – from a stable, adequate source, to a speculative, untried funding scheme that has been blocked by the Senate for 20 years – threatening the EPF’s very survival. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

New Northern Forest Institute Announced For Newcomb

The DEC has officially announced that the historic Masten House (at left), on the site of the former iron mines in Tahawus in Newcomb, Essex County, will be the site of “a new leadership and training institute that focuses on the research and management of northern forests.” Northern forests is intended to mean the area that “extends from Lake Ontario at Tug Hill, across the Adirondacks to northern Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.”

Regular Almanack readers know that Eliot Spitzer’s budget called for $125,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund to be put toward SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s purchase and rehabilitation of the Masten House – that had apparently fallen through, late in the budget process, but was apparently found somewhere in DEC’s budget..

The DEC’s press release notes:

The project is a cooperative effort that will enhance forest preserve and wildlands management research and contribute to the local economy. ESF will run the Northern Forest Institute (NFI) on a 46-acre portion of a property owned by [Open Space Institute’s] Open Space Conservancy and leased on a long-term basis to the college for $1 a year. Establishment of the institute is being aided by a $1 million grant from Empire State Development to OSI and $125,000 from DEC to ESF. In addition, DEC has committed $1.6 million over the next four years to ESF scientists who will conduct three research projects on visitor demand, experiences, and impacts, as well as a training program for DEC employees responsible for managing recreational visits to New York State forest preserve lands.

The NFI will focus on meeting the educational and research needs of professional audiences, including representatives of state agencies, business leaders, and educators. The institute will also serve the general public, particularly college and secondary school students.

Here is some history of the Masten House from DEC:

Masten House is within the state historic district that encompasses the former town of Adirondack at the southern entrance to the High Peaks Wilderness area. The town was settled in 1826 and was home to one of the region’s first iron mines and early blast furnaces. The village was resettled in the late 19th century as the Tahawus Club…

The eight-bedroom Masten House was built in 1905 near secluded Henderson Lake and was used as a corporate retreat by NL Industries, which operated a nearby mining site. Masten House is within the state historic district that encompasses the former town of Adirondac at the southern entrance to the High Peaks Wilderness area. The town was settled in 1826 and was home to one of the region’s first iron mines and early blast furnaces. The village was resettled in the late 19th century as the Tahawus Club. Then-Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was staying at Tahawus in 1901 when he learned that President William McKinley had been shot. [Actually, as is noted by a commenter below, Roosevelt already knew McKinley was shot, he thought that the President would be OK and so went to Tahawus].


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Spitzer’s Budget Proposals: Adirondack Edition

The latest on Governor Eliot Spitzer’s Budget Proposals courtesy of John F. Sheehan
Communications Director of The Adirondack Council:

Below is a summary of the NYS Budget as it relates to the Adirondack Park and the NYS Environmental Protection Fund.

Adirondack Park Agency

Budget same as last year ($6.2 million; $700,000 is federal money)

Staff remains the same at 72

$350,000 increase for computers and cars (located in DEC’s capital projects budget)

Olympic Regional Development Authority

– State Budget would rise to $8.6 million

– Total budget $32 million – they get most of their revenue from lift tickets

– $400,000 increase (benefits, retirement)

– staff level stays the same at 203

Department of Environmental Conservation

– Total budget $1.1 billion

– Decrease of $31 million from last year

– half of that decrease caused by reductions in federal aid

– DEC will eliminate some local and regional initiatives to compensate

– Total employees up by 4 to 3,752 (two of the 4 are likely to be assigned to invasive species control programs)

Environmental Protection Fund

Total of $250 million (guaranteed in statute) – $25 million could be added if the Bigger Better Bottle Bill is approved

Land

$66 million of the $250 is for open space protection statewide – that means purchases of new public lands and parks, conservation easements (development-limiting agreements with private landowners).

The other $184 million will go into the two other broad categories: Municipal recycling and solid waste projects and state parks, historic preservation and zoos/botanical gardens.

Additional Projects/Other Changes

Masten House – $125,000 from the EPF goes to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to purchase and rehabilitate the Masten House, on the site of the former iron mines in Tahawus, Town of Newcomb, Essex County. It will become a forestry research facility for the college, which owns nearby Huntington Experimental Forest. The college is based in Syracuse.

There are also three new categories in the EPF from which money may be drawn for specific purposes:

1. Air quality enforcement (only vague details available)

2. Renewable solar energy (community college tech training programs)

3. Farmland protection (plastic-waste and pesticide management programs)

Smart Growth Back at Department of State

This grant program to encourage environmentally sound community planning rises from $2 million to $2.5 million. It was transferred back to the Department of State, where the program started, after spending one year under DEC’s supervision in 2007.

The Sweep-Out

This is the worst news of the day, but not quite unexpected. Due to the $4.5-billion budget shortfall projected by the comptroller, the Governor will “borrow” $100 million of the unspent funds of previous EPFs. This is the largest sweep-out proposed since Governor Pataki started this distasteful practice more than five years ago.

Since the EPF was created in 1993, a total of $322 million in unspent EPF revenue has been diverted to other state purposes. If the Governor’s proposal is accepted, that amount would jump to $422 million in unredeemed IOUs. That would be nearly two years’ worth of missing revenues.