The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the stimulus package signed into law by President Obama in February 2009, provides for billions of dollars in additional funding for a variety of existing environmental projects and programmes, including:

  • water quality and wastewater infrastructure projects;
  • drinking water infrastructure projects;
  • brownfield remediation;
  • the clean-up of leaking underground storage tanks;
  • the clean-up of Superfund sites; and
  • projects designed to reduce diesel emissions.

Stimulus projects may be entitled to expedited environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act.

One of the largest chunks of stimulus money for environmental projects has been set aside for water quality protection projects. Specifically, the act includes $4 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides funding for water quality protection projects for:

  • wastewater treatment;
  • non-point source pollution control; and
  • watershed and estuary management.

Project applicants should apply directly to the state under the existing process for receiving revolving loan funds. The act funds will be allocated by individual states according to their determination of a particular project's priority (ie, whether construction can begin within 12 months). Typical projects would include new construction or upgrading of municipal sewage or wastewater treatment plants. In addition, projects that address green infrastructure or water efficiency goals will receive priority. Of the $4 billion provided for clean water funding, $431.6 million has been allocated to the state of New York.

The act provides an additional $2 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which funds projects protecting drinking water supplies. Again, project proponents must apply for funding from their respective state agencies and project construction must begin with a year of the act's passage. The EPA has estimated that $86.8 million of these funds will be available in New York. Typical projects qualifying for drinking water funds include those that replace or repair infrastructure in order to facilitate compliance with national drinking water standards or to further Safe Drinking Water Act health protection objectives. Programmes designed to protect drinking water supplies through land acquisition, conservation easements or other non-job creating mechanisms will not be eligible for funding under the act.

The federal brownfields programme will be infused with an additional $100 million under the act. Such funds will be made available through brownfield competitive grants and may be used for the assessment and clean-up of brownfield sites and associated environmental job training initiatives. The act further provides for $600 million for the federal Superfund, which will be used to clean up heavily contaminated sites identified by the EPA. The act also sets aside $200 million for the clean-up of petroleum leaks from underground storage tanks.

Finally, the act commits $300 million for grants and loans that are available to regional, state, local, tribal or port agencies to fund projects designed to reduce diesel emissions. The Diesel Emissions Reduction Act awards priority to projects that maximize public health benefits and prove cost effective. Examples of typical uses of such funds include diesel-reducing retrofits to vehicles and stationary diesel engines.

For further information on this topic please contact Daniel Riesel at Sive Paget & Riesel PC by telephone (+1 212 421 2150) or by fax (+1 212 421 2035) or by email (driesel@sprlaw.com).

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