Environmental groups urge EPA to reject plan using clean water money for Tappan Zee Bridge

Doug Kerr/via Flickr
June 30, 2014

Environmental groups in New York are protesting a move by Governor Cuomo to use money from a clean water fund to pay for the Tappan Zee bridge rebuild. The groups are calling on authorities to reject the proposal.

The $511 million sought by Cuomo for the Tappan Zee project is controlled by the state’s Environmental Facilities Corporation, which approved the loan at its meeting last week. The groups opposing the move say that money is intended for use by local governments to improve wastewater treatment plants.

The Tappan Zee rebuild is a $4 billion project, and much of the funding hasn’t been secured, raising fears that there will be a dramatic increase in tolls on the new bridge.

The Cuomo administration defends this use of the money by saying that it would help the water and habitats around the bridge that spans the Hudson River 25 miles north of Midtown Manhattan.

Opponents argue that the vast majority of the money will go toward construction and dredging, not clean water-related projects.

Christopher Goeken, Legislative Director for the New York League of Conservation Voters, says he’s spoken with lawmakers who say this decision could easily spread beyond New York.

“And they’re concerned about the precedent that this would set in other states, maybe other states looking to build a causeway or a bridge intended for automobiles," says Goeken. "They would love to get their hands on this big pot of money and spend it in ways not intended under current law.”

The Environmental Protection Agency, which has oversight of the funds, wrote to the EFC raising several questions. The EPA and state agencies still will have to approve the loan.