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Enviros Pitch Plan for Greening New York's Economy

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(Originally published at Ecocentric)

On January 5th, in his State of the State address, Governor Andrew Cuomo articulated a bold and ambitious agenda to confront the Empire State's economic woes and reinvent state government.

Recently, to highlight the environmental challenges facing the state, a coalition of environmental, energy, transportation and public policy groups released a package of proposals "designed to bolster economic development" while confronting such critical issues as "hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, reducing energy use, and providing resources for the state's environmental agencies."

The package of proposals, known as Green Memos to the Governor & the State Legislature, "fills in the blanks with the details and policy proposals that will help the Governor achieve his vision of a 'clean, greener' New York," said David Gahl, Policy Director, Environmental Advocates of New York.

As illustrated by his public statements and position papers, Governor Cuomo clearly sees the connection between sensible environmental policy and economic development. As explained in the coalition press release, "Green Memos describes how to construct those links. For instance, in the fight to reduce climate-altering pollution, creating policies that support the growth of legitimate renewable energy systems can generate new jobs, as documented in other states. Fixing the state's incentives to clean up contaminated brownfields can help communities rebuild. But shortsighted decisions, such as ignoring inspections of hazardous waste generating facilities or cutting staff charged with responding to oil spills, could result in long-term burdens for New York's taxpayers."

"These memos highlight priority areas that need action by the Governor and Legislature," said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment." As New York State wrestles with numerous challenges, there must be a renewed focus on protecting our environment and public health. Protecting our natural resources is not a luxury item that can be dispensed with in a difficult budget year, but rather it's a necessity to help drive and benefit our local and state economies."

Put another way, Darryl Banks, Deputy State Director for Conservation Strategies and External Affairs for The Nature Conservancy in New York, explains, "Environmental investments should be part of the economic recovery plan for New York State. As Governor Cuomo and the Legislature work to tackle significant issues as part of the budget and beyond, we hope that they recognize and utilize the economic benefits associated with sound environmental policies and sustainable investments as part of their plans."

As business leaders weigh in on their key issues, Cuomo will need to carefully prioritize his policies and initiatives. The future of New York State depends on boosting the economy without sacrificing the environment. The two - the economy and the environment - go hand in hand. This is a key connection that that many policymakers and business leaders have yet to fully embrace. (Of course, some do.) There are many community-based examples and best practices that effectively illustrate this connection.

New York State can and should be at the forefront of these best practices and initiatives.

(Originally published at Ecocentric)