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Source: Newsday

Opinion: Pushing for change

Lobbying for LI Sound

BY MICHAEL DOBIE

Posted: November 29, 2018
Originally Published: November 28, 2018

About two dozen environmentalists, elected officials, scientists and business reps from New York and Connecticut are in Washington Wednesday making the rounds of Congress as part of their annual Save the Sound lobbying campaign.

One notable change this time is that Democrats have retaken control of the House of Representatives. That means a change in the group’s focus for preserving Plum Island. Where it used to work with GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin, whose district includes Plum Island, now the group is setting its sights on Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi. Suozzi and fellow Democrat Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut are co-chairs with Zeldin of the Long Island Sound Congressional Caucus.

“Now Suozzi has to pick up the ball,” Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, told The Point. “We used to really work with Zeldin on this; now we have to really, really work with Suozzi and DeLauro.”

Esposito said she has had conversations with Suozzi’s staff about finally moving legislation forward to preserve the island, and that he is on board with the effort, “but he has to learn more about Plum Island. It’s not in his district, but now everything has changed.”

The group’s principal ask in its scheduled meetings with eight lawmakers, Esposito said, is to increase funding for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure. It’s asking the federal government to more than double its two state revolving funds, from $2.3 billion to $5 billion. The money is given to states to be allocated to local governments via low-cost loans, and New York is guaranteed 11 percent of the pie. So the increase being sought by the group would mean nearly $300 million more in New York.

The group’s other request is for another hike in dollars for the Long Island Sound Program. Over the last four years, working primarily with Zeldin, the group saw funding increase from $3 million to $12 million. Now it’s seeking $20 million, which Esposito says would put the Sound on equivalent footing with other estuary programs, like Puget Sound in Washington.

“We feel very strongly that these D.C. lobbying trips have really helped increase the budget to $12 million,” Esposito said. “Elected officials tell us that showing up matters.”