By: Waterkeeper Alliance
In August, the independent state Authorities Budget Office (ABO) announced it was investigating the Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) to determine if the state’s laws and processes were followed as the Cuomo Administration sought to raid funds through the Clean Water Act to instead support construction costs of the New New York Bridge. The investigation was the first of its kind by the ABO, and found that the Cuomo Administration was responsible for several violations, as well as that the management of EFC, through it’s board members, had failed to provide proper oversight and ensure that the required public process was adhered to.
The ABO uncovered and identified breakdowns at virtually every turn of the process, including:
- The Cuomo Administration violated the state’s open meetings law.
- The plan was hatched in secret and failed to follow EFC’s own procedures for advancing such a proposal.
- The EFC board abdicated its authority to staff and did not independently engage or provide proper oversight and review.
- The EFC board has fallen into the troubling practice of deferring to staff even when issues are highly controversial or significant in size and cost.
- That there should be have been a public process.
The following joint statement has been issued by Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, Inc., Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper Alliance and Environmental Advocates of New York – the organizations that have filed suit against the state to block this plan altogether, which has already been rejected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is currently being appealed by the Cuomo Administration:
“We applaud the tremendous work of the ABO and the investigators who undertook this endeavor to uncover the truth. State agencies must adhere to the laws and processes in place to protect the public. Unfortunately, the ABO documented several outright violations of due process, as well as a fundamental breakdown in management of the EFC and its action.
The Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund exists for one purpose: to protect our water and public health by helping communities access the funds they need to upgrade their sewage and other systems. It is not designed for any executive to unilaterally repurpose funds away from their intended targets to fund unrelated projects. Our communities and environment suffer when clean water funds are not properly utilized, and the enormous unmet needs and growing infrastructure concerns in New York State made this an effort particularly poor public policy.
The concerns detailed in today’s report were raised from the very start by advocates, editorial boards, public officials and even the federal government. While it is unfortunate the Cuomo Administration rejected attempts to right this ship, the ABO has detailed the problems for public review which further strengthens the EPA’s rejection of this plan.
We would like to thank ABO Director David Kidera for this thorough review, and all the investigators who worked in this effort despite the hurdles placed in their way. We again encourage the Cuomo Administration to drop its current appeal, and identify ways EFC can better follow the state’s laws and procedures, while cutting red tape to get this money to the communities in need.”