In his 2020 State of the State speech, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo led with a proposal to issue a $3 Billion ‘Restore Mother Nature Environmental’ Bond Act. The administration is calling it the nation’s most aggressive habitat restoration and flood reduction program. Additionally, the program appears to contemplate funding beyond the $3 billion, noting that the program will be funded “in part” by the bond issuance. In New York, such a bond, if authorized by the legislature, would have to be approved by the voters this November.

The proposed program appears focused on shoreline restoration and protection of water, wetland, and forest resources through state spending on natural shoreline treatments, wetland and floodplain restoration, and open space and forest conservation, presumably through state and local land acquisition. The proposed program will address reducing flood risk and revitalizing “critical fish and wildlife habitats by connecting streams and waterways, right-sizing culverts and dams, restoring both freshwater and tidal wetlands.” The proposal includes the creation of a “Conservation Corridors Program” focused on floodplain and wetland restoration, which areas often provide critical habitats for fish and wildlife. Other spending proposals for the bonded capital include upgrading dams and culverts to prevent flooding, moving residences out of dangerous flood plains, investing in fish hatcheries and fishing access sites, responding to harmful algal blooms, upgrading wastewater treatment plants near Lake George, expanding artificial reefs off the coast of Long Island by 2022, and doubling the size of the current Long Island Shellfish Restoration Initiative to plant an additional 200 million shellfish off the Long Island coast.

The proposed $3 billion investment focused on natural flood protection and habitat restoration appears to be the largest state investment of its kind. The governor’s policy proposal will need to be fleshed out in the coming weeks, as the executive branch proposes bill language for the bond act in its fiscal year 2021 budget, and engages with the New York legislature on the amount and parameters of the spending over the coming months, culminating in the state budget, expected to be passed by April 1, 2020. The details of the $3 Billion Restore Mother Nature Environmental Bond Act could have significant implications for resource protection, municipal planning and infrastructure improvement, and state-land preservation efforts. More details will follow as the budget process plays out over the next several months in Albany. If passed, the bond act would go to voters in November 2020.

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Photo of Steven C. Russo Steven C. Russo

Steven C. Russo co-chairs the Environmental Practice and chairs the firm’s New York Environmental Practice. He focuses his practice on environmental law and litigation, environmental permitting, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) review, toxic tort litigation, environmental crimes,

Steven C. Russo co-chairs the Environmental Practice and chairs the firm’s New York Environmental Practice. He focuses his practice on environmental law and litigation, environmental permitting, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) review, toxic tort litigation, environmental crimes, Brownfields redevelopment, government, energy and the environmental aspects of land use and real estate law. Steven is equally experienced litigating in federal and state courts, as well as counseling his clients with regard to environmental liability risk and due diligence, permitting, Brownfields, and impact assessment and review. He also practices election and campaign finance law.

Prior to joining the firm, Steven was the Chief Legal Officer of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. There, he supervised approximately 90 attorneys in Albany, as well as the agency’s nine regional offices. He also supervised the agency’s legislative affairs department and Office of Environmental Justice. At the agency, Steven initiated a reform of the state’s environmental review regulations and assessment forms, completed the issuance of new power plant siting regulations pertaining to environmental justice and carbon emissions and revised the agency’s environmental audit policy.

Photo of Zackary D. Knaub Zackary D. Knaub

Zackary D. Knaub brings deep New York government experience to his Environmental and Government Law & Policy practices. Prior to joining Greenberg Traurig, Zackary served as Interim Chief Counsel and First Assistant Counsel to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, and before that, as Assistant…

Zackary D. Knaub brings deep New York government experience to his Environmental and Government Law & Policy practices. Prior to joining Greenberg Traurig, Zackary served as Interim Chief Counsel and First Assistant Counsel to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, and before that, as Assistant Counsel to the Governor for Energy and the Environment. In these roles, Zackary advised Governor Cuomo and his administration on all legal issues related to executive actions, policies, and legislative initiatives. He coordinated the legal affairs and operations of over 100 State Executive Agencies, State Authorities, Public Benefit Corporations, and boards, and oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Office of the Governor’s Counsel. Zackary managed the development and negotiation of major legislation and gubernatorial initiatives. He supervised negotiations of all legislation in the Governor’s annual $175 Billion state budget and managed outside counsel in litigation. His public relations experience includes advising press and operations staff on crisis management strategies and public messaging of complex legal and policy initiatives.

Zackary has also defended and prosecuted environmental and commercial cases in state and federal courts, and before administrative tribunals, arbitration panels, and mediators for a wide range of businesses in areas of law including federal and state environmental laws, intellectual property, Federal Acquisitions Regulations, employment law and policy, insurance coverage, and environmental risk management.