Those who care about clean drinking water, public safety and New York’s world-class outdoor resources are cheering Gov. Cuomo’s State of the State address, including announcement of successful negotiations to close the Indian Point nuclear plant by 2021.
Scenic Hudson has worked for decades to stop environmental damage to the Hudson River caused by the plant’s daily withdrawal of billions of gallons of water. The facility’s antiquated cooling technology is a major reason why populations of many fish species have declined. Indian Point’s shutdown also means some 20 million people living within 50 miles of the outdated plant no longer need fear a disaster like Three Mile Island. We salute Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Riverkeeper for their roles in reaching this historic agreement, and appreciate the commitment of Gov. Cuomo and plant owner Entergy to help plant workers find new jobs.
The governor continued building on his environmental leadership by proposing an unprecedented investment in water and wastewater infrastructure—including the protection of drinking-water sources—and renewal of a $300-million Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). In the Hudson Valley, failing wastewater systems are a top source of pollution, preventing people from swimming, fishing and enjoying clean water. Simultaneously, drinking water sources are at risk. Gov. Cuomo’s proposal will help solve these problems and support economic opportunity.
The governor’s $300-million EPF commitment is consistent with last year’s appropriation, the highest in fund history. It will support ongoing collaborative efforts to protect land, conserve family farms, create parks and revitalize waterfronts—all essential for growing the region’s $5.2-billion tourism economy and sustaining supplies of fresh food to local and New York City markets.
Perhaps Gov. Cuomo’s most exciting new initiative is creation of the Empire State Trail, which will link the Hudson River Valley Greenway Trail and Erie Canalway Trail—providing a recreational route from Manhattan to Buffalo. When completed in 2020, it will be the nation’s longest state multi-use trail. A major goal of the project in 2017 is to fill in “missing links” in the Greenway Trail, running from New York City to the Capital Region. Along with physically unifying the state, the governor’s visionary plan will create endless recreational opportunities, attract tourists from around the world and enable downtowns to thrive. But perhaps most important, it will bring together the diverse people of New York in a community of shared purpose and prosperity.
The executive budget includes a renewed focus on the Hudson River Natural Resource Damage claim, yet it is silent on how it will carry out the commitment of the governor and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to complete the cleanup of General Electric’s PCBs in the river and Champlain Canal, both clogged with contaminated sediments for decades. The DEC’s Superfund program should be able to jump-start additional river sampling and design work. However, significant capital will be required in the years ahead to realize the environmental, public health and economic benefits of picking up where the discredited Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cleanup has left off. With a change of leadership imminent at the EPA, perhaps the agency’s incoming Regional Administrator will be more receptive to working with the state and recognizing the overwhelming scientific evidence that additional remediation is essential to restore the health of the Hudson and protect residents who depend on the river’s fish for sustenance.
We at Scenic Hudson look forward to working with the Legislature and the Cuomo administration to achieve passage of the Executive Budget, enabling these initiatives to secure the funding needed to turn vision into reality and secure a healthy, prosperous New York State and Hudson Valley.