Happy Earth Day!

There’s much to celebrate this Earth Day, and a lot to look forward to over the coming year. After years of scarcity and borrowing from it, Governor Cuomo proposed and the New York State Legislature approved a $300 million Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), restoring the Environment as a clear government priority. This means cleaner water, more open space, an improved waste treatment infrastructure, and preservation of farm land and historic places. This year, the overall boost included a new, clear focus on Environmental Health and Environmental Justice.

Over the years, we advocated for full funding for a statewide network of Children’s Environmental Health Centers of Excellence, to correctly diagnose and treat pediatric diseases and disorders of environmental origin as well as determine their cause in order to avoid them in the future. This year, it has received its full funding of $2 million for the first time, and New York’s children will benefit. For years we have urged the state to create a Pollution Prevention Institute, to help companies reduce their waste and frequently save money in the process. This year, resources for pollution prevention, while still modest compared to the EPF overall, are at an all-time high, demonstrating the Governor’s commitment to preventing the legacy that contamination of the environment leaves behind for future generations.

But what’s perhaps most visionary and exciting in this year’s Environmental Protection Fund is the addition of two new categories; those of Environmental Health and Environmental Justice. These funds are not yet all allocated, which allows the State to make use of emerging opportunities and act outside the purview of a circumscribed reality. In other words, to dream. And imagine. Which brings us closer to a future that provides for environmental health and justice for New York’s people and communities.

Like the famous musical question “If I Had a Million Dollars” poses, what environmental health or justice project would you propose for the million dollars under the Environmental Health category? Would you test people or products for toxic chemicals? Would you monitor air quality in urban settings? The money would be well-spent implementing a Child Safe Product Act, another stated priority of Governor Cuomo. And hey, working together, by next Earth Day, we'll have even more to celebrate.

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