Vice-Chair, Conservation: John Omohundro, 315-265-8365
In a recent issue of the North Wind I summarized the staffing and funding squeeze that the local NYSDEC office faces. Now the NY State Comptroller has published a report that clearly shows this is a problem statewide.
In “Environmental Funding in New York State”, Thomas DiNapoli shows that staff and funding for the entire department have not kept up with inflation and increased responsibilities. DEC spending has risen 1.7% in ten years, in real dollars, while state funding has declined 15%. Federal money made up the shortfall, but it was “soft” money and will disappear now. DiNapoli forecasts that the department will have to reduce spending in each of the next four years, until it is only 75% of current levels. I can remember years DEC officers couldn’t attend meetings I was part of because they had to ration gas.
Meanwhile, staffing has shrunk, too, by 10%. Enforcement, pollution, and waste management have all experienced deep cuts. At the same time, new programs have been added: brownfield cleanup, greenhouse gas initiative, and waste tire recycling - all good ideas.
Most years, the Environmental Protection Fund, which the citizens approved in 2000, has been raided of its mandated funding to aid the balancing of the budget. Your legislators did this even though the money in the EPF does not come from tax dollars. Lately we environmentalists have considered ourselves lucky when Albany only sweeps a little out of the EPF. During the recession, maybe this was necessary. But now?
It’s not possible to protect New York’s incredible natural heritage with just good intentions. We need to agitate for better funding of the EPF and the DEC.
DiNapoli’s report may be found online at www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/environmental/environmental_funding_nys_2014.pdf