Should New York issue $4.2 billion in new bonds to pay for projects related to greenhouse gas emissions, flood risk, clean water, land conservation, and other climate-related matters? That is one of the things that New Yorkers were asked to decide in this year’s elections.
The “Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act” has already passed in the legislature, and last year New York voters approved a new statewide referendum guaranteeing a constitutional right to clean air and water, and a healthy environment.
This week, New Yorkers approved the Bond Act with a clear majority voting “yes” on Proposition 1.
The Bond Act is the only statewide ballot referendum this year, while NYC voters also voted on three additional referendums related to racial justice that will require updating the City Charter. All the measures were passed with unambiguous majorities.
The Environmental Bond Act includes $1.5 billion for climate change mitigation. Of that sum, $500 million would go to cover the cost of electrifying the state’s school bus fleet, and at least $400 million is earmarked for renewable-energy and efficiency upgrades in state-owned buildings. The act includes a “Clean Green Schools” initiative energy and air quality upgrades in 1,000 public schools. Other funding in this category would go toward pollution mitigation in marginalized communities and projects to blunt the effects of climate change.
The act also contains $1.1 billion for flood risk reduction. State agencies will get another $650 million to purchase land for conservation and rehabilitation. And $650 million will go to water infrastructure and pollution control initiatives. Outside of these categories, the state has leeway to spend an additional $300 million that hasn’t been specifically earmarked.
At least 35% of the total $4.2 billion will have to go toward improvements in areas disproportionately impacted by climate change and pollution.
“This is the first time in a generation that New Yorkers have had this opportunity to vote for environmental funding,” said Jessica Ottney Mahar, director of policy and strategy at The Nature Conservancy. “The bond act is focused on really big issues facing all of our communities.”