Environmental groups blast Paterson's raid on funds

SARANAC LAKE - Environmental groups are fuming over Governor David Paterson's deficit-reduction plan, which aims to use funds earmarked for energy efficiency and environmental programs to close the state's budget gap.

Paterson aims to sweep $90 million raised through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative into the state's general fund. The initiative consists of 10-states that charge power plants for emissions of carbon dioxide. The proceeds from the program are supposed to be used for energy efficiency and sustainable energy programs.

And the raids on environmental funds don't end there. Paterson also wants to dip into the Environmental Protection Fund to the tune of $10 million. That fund provides monies for projects like municipal landfill closure, water treatment plants and Forest Preserve land acquisition.

John Sheehan is a spokesman for the Adirondack Council, a not-for-profit environmental group based in upstate New York. He says enviro groups are disappointed that Paterson is raiding these funds before the money can be used for its intended purpose.

"This was supposed to be money that was collected during the auction of carbon allowances to power plants and then these revenues were going to go into a fund to help develop cleaner energy, energy conservation programs and green jobs," Sheehan said. "And the whole idea here was to stimulate the economy while also improving the environment and improving public health."

Sheehan says Paterson's raid on the money is illogical, because the funds were meant to save costs in the long term.

"Cutting this money makes absolutely no sense whatsoever," he said. "This is money that will save us money down the road by helping to wean us off of a very expensive fossil fuel system that is essentially bankrupting us by keeping us at the mercy of foreign oil producers."

These raids on environmental protection funds shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Last November, Paterson grabbed $50 million from the same fund.

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