News Column

Groups Urge Thruway Authority Board to Stop Clean Water Raid and Focus on Fixing Financing of Tappan Zee Bridge

August 6, 2014



ALBANY, N.Y., Aug. 6 -- Riverkeeper issued the following news release:

Today the New York State Thruway Authority Board of Directors is slated to vote on Governor Andrew Cuomo's$256 million clean water raid to fund construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge. The Board is proceeding with the vote despite explicit statements from senior Environmental Protection Agency officials casting doubt on the validity of the loan, and a pending request to the New York State Authorities Budget Office to investigate whether the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation Board (EFC) violated its fiduciary duties by rushing to approve the loan without proper review. EPA has the authority to "claw back" the funds from the state if it finds the loan did not comply with federal law.

On Friday August 1, Groups sent a letter (http://www.riverkeeper.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Group-Letter-to-NYSTA.pdf) to the Thruway Board, urging them to reject this unwarranted and illegal raid on clean water funds to help fund construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

"The same day the EFC voted to approve the loan, there were two water main breaks in Syracuse that shut down streets and left workers and residents in the city without water due to aging infrastructure," said Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director at Riverkeeper. "This is just one example of a significant need for clean water projects that will go unfunded due to the State rushing this loan through. Using clean water infrastructure funds to pay for a transportation infrastructure project is improper and inconsistent with federal and state law, and sets a dangerous precedent."

Brendan Woodruff, fiscal policy associate at Environmental Advocates of New York said, "It is the Thruway Authority Board of Directors' responsibility to ensure good fiscal stewardship of their agency and they cannot credibly approve spending funds that could - and likely will - be clawed back by the federal government. Despite the constant repeated warnings that this plan is unsound, the Authority and the Cuomo Administration have ignored the looming threat of an investigation, and have yet to outline their claw back contingency plan. It would be the height of fiscal irresponsibility to barrel ahead."

"An affirmative vote today would continue the problematic funding framework for the New NY Bridge project," said Veronica Vanterpool, executive director, Tri-State Transportation Campaign. "The scant financial details shared with the public raise questions regarding a host of issues: toll structure, loan repayment schedules and amounts, the impact of the construction project on other statewide transportation needs, and adherence to Public Authorities Law. While the new bridge must be financed, this loan fund is not the right match for this project."

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Source: Targeted News Service


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