Environmental Funding in New York State December 2014
December 14, 2014
Environmental Funding in New York State
Created in 1970, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
(DEC) is responsible for most of the State’s programs to protect wildlife, natural
resources and environmental quality. DEC programs range widely from managing
fish and game populations and overseeing the extraction of natural resources to
monitoring the discharge of pollutants and hazardous materials and cleaning up
These services are integral to New Yorkers’ public health and general well-being,
and to the State’s economy. As part of the Office of the State Comptroller’s
commitment to promoting transparency, accountability and sound fiscal
management in State government, this report examines DEC funding from State
Fiscal Year (SFY) 2003-04, the year that the Brownfield Cleanup Program was
enacted, to the end of SFY 2013-14.
The scope of the DEC’s mandate has expanded considerably since its inception, and
has continued to grow during the period examined in this report. Recent initiatives
from the Legislature, the Executive and federal agencies that require DEC action
have included development of a climate action plan, regulation of shale gas
production, addressing threats associated with crude oil transportation,
implementation of new federal clean air standards and management of varied
programs aimed at mitigating specific types of pollution.
As this report details, the number of DEC Full-Time Equivalent staff declined by more
than 300 from SFY 2003-04 through SFY 2013-14. All Funds spending rose 27.8
percent over that same period. When adjusted for inflation, spending was nearly flat,
with a cumulative increase of 1.7 percent over the period examined. According to
the Division of the Budget (DOB), DEC All Funds spending is projected to decline
over the next several years.
During the period examined in this report, State Funds spending by the DEC reached
a peak in SFY 2007-08, and as of SFY 2013-14 was down 15.1 percent from that
level. Federal dollars, including funding through the federal stimulus program,
bolstered the DEC’s budget substantially during the period, but federal support is
expected to decline to around its pre-stimulus level this fiscal year. The State’s
current Financial Plan projects that State Funds disbursements by the DEC will
decline in each of the next three fiscal years.
New York has created a number of dedicated funds for environmental purposes in
an effort to provide a reliable flow of resources to address long-term needs. At times,
however, the State has resorted to sweeps from certain of these funds to provide
budget relief, undermining the purpose of the dedicated funds.