Archive for the ‘Clean Water Fund’ Tag

EPA Cuts Loan Sought for New NY Bridge Project

Tuesday the Environmental Protection Agency said no to most of a no- and low- interest $511 million loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF) – to be disbursed in two parcels – that the state eyed for its bridge project.

Aerial view fr Westchester/Credit: NYS Thruway Authority

Aerial view fr Westchester/Credit: NYS Thruway Authority

“EPA has concluded that five of the twelve Tappan Zee Bridge-related projects as proposed, totaling $29.1 million, are eligible  . . . and that seven of the twelve projects as proposed, totaling $481.8 million, are not eligible for CWSRF funding,” EPA Region 2 Clean Water Division Director Joan Leary Matthews wrote in a letter dated September 16.

These will be omitted from the Intended Use Plan (IUP). Meantime, EFC continues to fund other necessary projects.

Matthews’ 13-page letter to NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation President and CEO Matthew J. Driscoll, and DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens (who also chairs the facilities board) dated September 16 is here (www.epa.gov/region2/tappanzeeletter.pdf).

“Construction progress on the New NY Bridge project will not be affected in any way by the EPA Region II action,’ Thruway Executive Director Thomas J. Madison assured via a statement today. “The project remains on budget and on schedule and, as we’ve said all along, the intent is to pay for the new bridge using any potential increases above current toll rates at the bridge – not system-wide Thruway toll revenues.”

Signs informing drivers of toll plaza lanes/Courtesy of Steve Alpert at http://www.alpsroads.net.

Signs informing drivers of toll plaza lanes/Courtesy of Steve Alpert at http://www.alpsroads.net.

A source associated with the topic mused, “The payment of $3.142 billion to TZC is already committed, so there can be no savings there, and it is hard to see shaving much from the balance up to the total of $3.9 billion as much of that is needed to track TZC as it does its job.”

So the money will come from somewhere. Now might be a good time to launch the toll and financing task force. “When it gets underway, the committee will examine a range of funding sources, including tolls,” the source said.

At the Thruway Authority’s August 6 meeting, Chairman Howard P. Milstein noted some legislators “think there’s a surplus of $4 billion, and (that it) should be used for the bridge,” citing the $3.3 billion New York State is set to receive from a recent record settlement with France’s largest bank that will be added to its general fund.

Why not? PACB Budget Director Bob Megna had said he’ll “move as hard as he can to get the money moved to infrastructure like the Tappan Zee Bridge.”

eligible projects

Critics opposed to the governor’s plan were pleased.

“(Hudson) Riverkeeper said this loan wouldn’t pass federal review and sure enough, the EPA has struck almost all of it down,” President Paul Gallay said. “Good for them. Now, the state needs to take the half billion dollars it tried to loan to itself for the bridge and spend it properly – on the state’s crumbling wastewater infrastructure.”

Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (92nd AD), who represents the Tarrytown side of the bridge, applauded the EPA “for rendering a common-sense interpretation of the law” and chided the state for “hiding the true cost of the project in an environmental fund” dedicated elsewhere.

In late June, the state’s Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) decided by unanimous (5 to 0) vote to loan the Thruway Authority $511.45 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF). And in July, three voting members of the PACB agreed to its request for half of the $511 million.

EFC Director of Public Information Jon Sorensen responded, “While this loan is not integral to the overall bridge construction, the projects identified here will clearly provide significant benefits for the Hudson River Estuary. EPA Region II is simply wrong in its assessment. We will appeal this decision.”

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

Thruway Board Unanimously Says “Yes” to Interest-Free Loan for New NY Bridge Project

Yesterday, the Thruway Authority unanimously approved a $255.7 million interest-free loan from the state Environmental Facilities Corporation’s clean water loan fund to help finance the new bridge.

Tappan Zee Bridge/Courtesy of Severin St. Martin

Tappan Zee Bridge/Courtesy of Severin St. Martin

Half of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s original $511 amount, the money was initially intended for statewide clean water projects like sewage treatment.

“All the project elements articulated were developed during the early phase of the project, (during) environmental review,” Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas Madison said. Pursuit of the EFC loan “wasn’t even contemplated. Some think it’s a financial gimmick. It’s a prudent and innovative approach to look at all possibilities.”

Critics challenged the idea, and claimed it set a dangerous precedent with lasting dire consequences.

“This loan misappropriates funding that Congress provided to fix New York’s aging water infrastructure and restore the health of our rivers,” Hudson Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said after the decision was announced.

Bridge construction activities — dredging, pile driving, design and engineering work — “do not meet the legal standard for the Clean Water Act loan program” for implementing the adopted plan for Hudson River estuary restoration to quality for funding,” Gallay said.

Not surprisingly, he said, EPA is reviewing this loan and can disallow it.

Riverkeeper will be right in the middle that fight, rwhich is where our members rightly expect us to be, whenever government action runs this far afoul of the environmental laws designed to protect the Hudson River.”

“We are mindful of concerns raised,” Thruway Chairman Howard P. Milstein said in a statement. “The Thruway Authority remains committed to an unprecedented level of environmental protection on the New NY Bridge project.”

Courtesy of the Westchester County Archives

Courtesy of the Westchester County Archives

Milstein said the loans will save $35 million in finance costs, and ‘will also help keep tolls on the new bridge as low as possible.”

Last December, the project was awarded an historic $1.6 billion Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan, the largest in its history, which is limited to 33 percent of total project costs.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

Assemblyman Tom Abinanti Opposes $511M Clean Water Fund Loan for Bridge; NYSTA Responds

Tappan Zee Bridge/Courtesy of Severin St. Martin

Tappan Zee Bridge/Courtesy of Severin St. Martin

State Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (92nd AD) — who represents the eastern shore of the Hudson River extending north and south of the Tappan Zee Bridge — issued a statement this afternoon re Governor Andrew Cuomo’s using $511 million from the Clean Water Fund to partially pay for the new bridge.

Abinanti said the proposed use will lessen monies available for appropriate use, is counterintuitive and will harm, instead of help, the river, and will create a hidden taxpayer subsidy for the cost of construction.

Costs for preventing or mitigating harm to the river due to bridge construction “should be paid for by Thruway Authority users and included in an appropriate financing package for the bridge construction,” he said, adding the state should be held to the same standard as private developers are responsible for environmental impacts.

He said the interest-free loan “masks the true cost of the project,” and said it transfers cost of bridge construction from Thruway system users to taxpayers “by using interest free an environmental fund that is subsidized by the taxpayers.”

“If Assemblyman Abinanti is against the Environmental Facilities Corp. loans and the many important environmental protection measures they will support on the New NY Bridge project, then he must also be in favor of higher tolls on the new bridge,” NYSTA Director of Media Relations and Communications Dan Weiller responded.

Emphasizing the new bridge’s safety for drivers, and the inclusion of a shared use path, Weiller said it “will support economic activity throughout the lower Hudson Valley and beyond,” adding Abinanti’s opposition is “hard to understand” when it comes to potentially higher tolls.

Abinanti said the Thruway Authority indicates its inability to justify taking the money, thus it cited tolls, and its lacks of plans to pay for the new bridge “so they will borrow money from anywhere, no matter how inappropriate.”

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

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