Another Voice: Voters Should Approve the Environmental Bonds Act of 2022 | Opinion
New York State has a long history of supporting environmental protection funding. Twenty-five years after the establishment of the nation’s first state park (our Niagara Falls State Park), the first Environmental Bond Act was approved by voters in 1910. This, along with the bonds approved by voters in 1916 and 1924, purchased the land and laid the foundation for the state park system.
The next wave of environmental bonds was passed between 1960 and 1972. During the same period of environmental awareness, New York voters approved five separate bonds that, for the first time, protected health public by tackling the effects of pollution. The 1972 bond, in particular, funded upgrades to sewage treatment systems throughout the state, including the Buffalo Sewer Authority.
The next environmental bond, passed in 1986, dealt with hazardous waste and funded the state’s Superfund program. A 1990 proposal, which would have focused on drinking water source protection (including proper closure of landfills) was narrowly defeated due to the national recession at the time. This proposal was repackaged in 1996, adding funding for environmental restoration of brownfields, and was passed by voters.
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In November, voters will be asked to approve the Environmental Bonds Act 2022 for Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs. This bond would fund four categories.
The first, Flood Risk Reduction and Restoration, will help shoreline resiliency projects along Lake Ontario and provide a source of funding to remove or repair aging dams to reduce flooding and restore fish habitats.
Second, improved water quality and resilient infrastructure have huge implications for Buffalo, as they will fund municipal stormwater projects to separate an aging combined sewer system. It also has funding to replace lead service lines, a huge problem in East Buffalo.
Third, open space conservation and recreation is something Friends of the Outer Harbor should embrace as they continue to work towards a natural and climate resilient passive park.
Finally, Climate Change Mitigation will provide funds to public universities to add green infrastructure and renewable energy to their buildings. It also contains provisions for urban heat relief and funding for communities such as Buffalo to replace trees lost over the past 60 years.
The Environmental Bonds Act of 2022 has the backing of a coalition of environmental and labor groups. As with any statewide ballot proposal, the bond law will appear on the back of the ballot. So don’t forget to flip it over and vote yes.
John S. Szalasny is a member of the executive committee of the Sierra Club Niagara Group.