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Probe Demanded into NY Clean Water Fund “Raid”

PHOTO: EANY's Peter Iwanowicz talks with reporters about what he calls the raid of state Clean Water Funds to pay for bridge reconstruction. Photo credit: Loren Baum.
PHOTO: EANY's Peter Iwanowicz talks with reporters about what he calls the raid of state Clean Water Funds to pay for bridge reconstruction. Photo credit: Loren Baum.
July 18, 2014

NEW YORK – The state Environmental Facilities Corporation calls it a loan, but this week's decision to reallocate $250 million in state Clean Water Funds to pay for Tappan Zee Bridge construction is prompting calls for an investigation – and more.

The EFC board gave thumbs up to the Cuomo administration's request to loan up to $511 million in Clean Water funds to help finance bridge reconstruction.

Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York says his group is among those calling for an investigation.

"Right now, the raid just involves money that was dedicated for New York City, but we don't think they're going to stop there,” Iwanowicz says. “We think this decision sets a dangerous precedent going forward."

An EFC spokesman says the loan will be paid back and recycled to pay for other clean water projects in New York.

Environmental Advocates of New York has requested the state Authorities Budget Office to investigate to ensure the agency is carrying out its responsibilities.

Iwanowicz says Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the money swap 10 days before the Public Authorities Control Board approved the plan, and some groups are considering legal action.

"There is no precedent for a raid, certainly nothing of this magnitude,” Iwanowicz maintains. “There have been, you know, decisions to move funds from energy authorities into the general fund, but this is the first time ever, somebody has raided clean water funds and dedicated them towards a bridge project."

While the EFC insists the money will be repaid with future statewide benefits, Iwanowicz sees little reason to believe its promise.

"Sure with a big wink and a big nod, 'Don't worry we're going to pay it back,'” he says. “I mean, we've seen this time and time again, where we borrow money from authorities and move it to another place, and everybody says it's going to be paid back – and it never is."

Iwanowicz says the timing of the move is especially bad because there are an estimated $36 billion in clean water related needs going unmet, statewide.


Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY