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TMCNet:  Group promotes 'green' cuts: Environmental Advocates says state could save money while helping environment

[November 26, 2008]

Group promotes 'green' cuts: Environmental Advocates says state could save money while helping environment

(Times Union (Albany, NY) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 26--ALBANY -- With the state scrambling to close its massive budget gap, an environmental group Wednesday offered targets, including a state-subsidized coal-fired power plant, dirty marine fuel, state-subsidized electrical power and a nanotechnology program near Utica.

Environmental Advocates of New York claimed that changes to these programs would mean $118 million in spending cuts or new revenue in the 2008-09 fiscal year, as well as protecting the environment and encouraging energy efficiency.

The report said pulling the plug on the Marcy project, a nanotechnology initiative that has no tenant, would save $600 million over the next five years and prevent construction in a federally protected wetland. Ending a low-cost electricity program for businesses through the New York Power Authority would save $100 million over that period.

Extending a sales tax on marine fuel to include so-called bunker fuel, a low-quality, high-pollution fuel used by oceangoing vessels, would generate more than $194 million in new revenue and likely help clean the air around the Port of New York and New Jersey by encouraging the use of cleaner fuels, according to the report.

Ending state support for an experimental "clean" coal-fired power plant in Jamestown would save $42 million in projected spending over the next five years.

"Instead of taking an ax to agency budgets and cutting staff to the bone, our leaders need to take responsible action to protect taxpayers and the health of our drinking water, our air and land," said Robert Moore, Environmental Advocates' executive director.

The state Senate will return to the Capitol on Dec. 15 to take another crack at cutting the budget; the following day, Gov. David Paterson will release his 2009-2010 budget. The governor has said the state could face a $15 billion deficit by the end of that fiscal year.

Moore said a hiring freeze instituted by Paterson to save money could cost the Department of Environmental Conservation up to 300 staffers over the next year due to retirements and departures.

Moore said the state-subsidized electrical power program for industry was "encouraging wasteful energy use" as the state strives to reduce its overall electrical consumption.

Under the program, created in 1997 to encourage businesses to retain jobs, more than 470 businesses get low-cost hydroelectric power through the state Power Authority. Those companies promised to keep at least 250,000 jobs in the state, but an audit found some promises were not kept.

According to the report, SI Group (the former Schenectady International chemical company) had promised 373 jobs at its Rotterdam Junction facility under the program, but has just 175. And in Albany, Albany International committed to 267 jobs but has 200.

"We are not saying that the state should get out of the subsidized power business," Moore said. "But we believe the program should show job growth, as well as encourage the companies to become more energy efficient."

Said Christine Pritchard, spokeswoman for the power authority: "Although we acknowledge the program is not perfect, it is a critical economic development tool geared toward stabilizing companies' electricity costs to compete in today's economic climate.

Brian Nearing can be reached at 454-5094 or bnearing@timesunion.com.

To see more of the Albany Times Union, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.timesunion.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, Albany Times Union, N.Y.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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