11.23.11 – Lobby Day in Washington DC

A diverse group of NY & CT stakeholders joined together in Washington, D.C. to promote necessary federal funding for sewer infrastructure and protection of the Long Island Sound. In a packed meeting schedule, the large group met with members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives from New York and Connecticut to garner support for funding sewer infrastructure, both upgrades and new infrastructure, to help spur economic growth, protect the environment and increase jobs.

Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Audubon New York, Friends of the Bay and Audubon Connecticut were joined by Brandon Palanker, of Renaissance Downtowns, Al Caccese and Sean Mahar of Audubon NY, Patricia Aitken of Friends of the Bay and others.

Conservation, civic organizations, agency leaders and developers are collaboratively urging federal support of restored funding to clean water programs that are critical to the recovery of our nation’s economy and environment.  Since 2004, federal investments in vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure has significantly decreased, shifting the burden to cash strapped local governments.  While federal funding has continued to decline, the nation’s clean water infrastructure needs continue to grow.  The US EPA assessed national clean water needs at $388 billion. Projects to fix and improve antiquated sewage treatment systems in Connecticut and New York are estimated at $5 billion and $36 billion, respectively, over the next 20 years.

“Significant cuts to sewer infrastructure have been proposed at a time when the demands could not be greater, hindering states’ ability to put people to work and realize greater economic returns.  As Congress continues debate on the FY 2012 budget, we will be in DC to strongly urge returning the funding to 2010 levels of $3.5 billion for the nation’s State Revolving Funds,’ said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

According to a report published by Green For All “an investment of $188.4 billion spread equally over the five years would generate $265.6 billion in economic activity and create close to 1.9 million jobs.”  The same report stated that due to decaying or inadequate water infrastructure, “sewer overflows contaminate US waters with 860 billion gallons of untreated sewage, an amount that would fill 1.3 million Olympic-size swimming pools or cover the entire state of Pennsylvania with one inch of sewage.  This sewage contains pathogens such as bacteria, parasites, and viruses, as well pharmaceuticals, synthetic hormones, and personal care products.”

“As a developer, I am proud to work with the Citizens Campaign for the Environment to enable environmentally responsible growth throughout the Long Island and Connecticut regions. I believe this a model for others to follow which demonstrates that mixed-use transit oriented development can actually enhance the efforts of those who wish to preserve and improve our natural and living environments,” said  Brandon Palanker, VP of Marketing and Public Affairs for Renaissance Downtowns.

The groups will also push for the passage of the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act and urge federal funding levels to remain at $5.7 million for research, habitat restoration and water quality protection projects. The Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act, was introduced last year; however, the bill did not pass. This legislation is critical to the protection and restoration of the Sound’s ecological health and water quality conditions.

“From Long Island Sound to the Great Lakes, our communities are served by some of the oldest wastewater infrastructure in the nation which is threatening the integrity of these important engines of the regional economy” said Albert E. Caccese, Executive Director of Audubon New York.  “Continued funding through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Acts, and the Great Lakes Restoration initiative is desperately needed to put people to work upgrading these aging facilities and restoring the water resources that millions rely on everyday.”

Nancy Seligson, NY Co-chair of the LISS CAC, and Supervisor-elect for the Town of Mamaroneck, knows that advocating for LIS in Washington DC can make all the difference. “I’ve joined with environmental groups, elected and appointed officials, and union and industry representatives for 20 years to tell our legislators about the importance of LIS to our economy, environment, quality of life and region, and it can result in substantial funding.”

“There can be no more critical issue than protecting the health of our state’s waters, whether groundwater or the water in our harbors and bays.  Water dependent industries, such as sustainable aquaculture, fishing, recreational boating, and tourism contribute billions to the local economies of New York and Connecticut, and generate jobs which cannot be outsourced.  The availability of safe drinking water is key to future sustainable growth.  Investment in wastewater and stormwater infrastructure will not only protect our waters, it will help communities prosper and ensure economic success,” said Patricia Aitken, Executive Director of Friends of the Bay.