ALBANY, NY—Three environmental advocacy groups have filed suitin New York State Supreme Court here in an attemptto block $511 million in federal environmental funds New York Stateis seeking in connection with the construction of the new$3.9-billion Tappan Zee Bridge.

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Earlier this year New York State applied for $511 million infunds from the federal Clean Water State RevolvingFund. On June 24, the Board of Directors of theEnvironmental Facilities Corp. voted to provide$511 million in loans to the New York State ThruwayAuthority for 12 projects related to building the newbridge. Allocation of those funds required EPA approval.

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The EPA in a Sept. 16th letter granted just $29.1 million inClean Water Revolving Fund financing and declared ineligible forfunding $481.8 million the state had sought for the new Tappan ZeeBridge. After receiving the denial, New York State officials saidthe state would appeal the ruling.

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The lawsuit filed by Riverkeeper, theWaterkeeper Alliance and EnvironmentalAdvocates of New York seeks to invalidate New York State'sproposal to apply $511 million from the Clean Water State RevolvingFund for bridge construction projects that include dredging, piledriving and demolition. The environmental groups also seek a courtorder to enforce EPA's decision and discourage any further attemptto divert clean water funds for improper purposes.

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“The EPA took an important step in disallowing the brunt of thisloan. However, Albany has vowed to appeal EPA's decision,” saysPaul Gallay, president of Riverkeeper. “The surestway to protect this vital funding source for its intended purposeis to make sure the court has jurisdiction to enforce the CleanWater Act as necessary.”

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“We were deeply disappointed to learn of the state's plan todivert federal Clean Water Act funding for a major constructionproject that certainly won't improve water quality,” saysWaterkeeper Alliance executive director MarcYaggi. “Allowing this misuse of funds could set adangerous national precedent spurring other states to raid federalmonies designed to give us clean water. In the vernacular of thisholiday season, the state's economic trick isn't a treat for ourwaterways and communities.”

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The groups charge that the bulk of the sought afterenvironmental funds would pay directly for construction costs,including more than $100 million for construction-related dredgingand dredge disposal, $30 million for “armoring” the 12-foot-deepdredged trench with stone and gravel, and $65 million for removalof the existing bridge.

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“The Environmental Facilities Corporation, the New York StateThruway Authority, and the Public Authorities Control Board haveall unanimously approved a loan from the Clean Water StateRevolving Fund to finance those aspects of the New New York Bridgeproject that will implement existing plans to protect, restore andpromote the Hudson River Estuary,” said JonSorenson, director of public information for the New YorkState Environmental Facilities Corp. in a prepared statement. “Thisfinancing will reduce project costs by up to $35 million and helpkeep future bridge tolls as low as possible. EFC intends tovigorously defend its right to finance Clean Water Act projectsthat benefit the Hudson River Estuary, as well as the tollpayers ofNew York State.”

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John Jordan

John Jordan is a veteran journalist with 36 years of print and digital media experience.