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Eleventh hour efforts at work for more state hazardous waste cleanup funding

Last-minute efforts aimed at convincing state legislators and the governor to spend more on cleaning up brownfields and superfund sites before the 2014 session ends are taking place in Albany and among advocacy groups.

On the heels of a tax credit and cleanup bill introduced last week by Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), several environmental groups Tuesday said it's the state's responsibility to act before capitol business shuts down.

"If the legislature leaves town without acting, our communities are going to be the ones who are going to be saddled with the burdens," said Katherine Nadeau, policy director with the Albany-based Environmental Advocates of New York.

On Long Island, there were nearly 600 brownfields, which are contaminated properties, at the end of 2013. Long Island also had more than 200 state superfund sites. State superfund sites are heavily contaminated and targeted by the state for cleanup.

"I think it's important to try and get something done on brownfields this year," said Sweeney, who added he was hopeful that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo would call a meeting on the issue. "Maybe we can move forward and get something done."

Sweeney's proposal would extend the state's Brownfield Cleanup Program tax credits, which serve as an incentive for developers to rehabilitate properties, for another 10 years. His bill would allow for refinancing the state's superfund program, while also allocating $100 million for it in the current budget.

The state's superfund budget has about $370 million remaining, which is expected to last into the 2017-18 budget.

Legislation introduced Monday in the state Senate would toughen the requirements to be eligible for the Brownfield Cleanup Program, among other measures, but does not allocate any additional money for programs.

Cuomo said last week that he supported the program, but there was enough time to address continuing it during the next legislative session, according to a statement. The program expires next year.

Laura Haight, senior environmental associate with the New York Public Interest Research Group, said Tuesday it was important to keep funding vibrant for the programs, to encourage developers to rehabilitate brownfields and to ensure that state superfund sites are cleaned up.

"These are complicated sites. It takes a long, long time to remediate them," Haight said. "It takes a longtime commitment of funds."

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