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May 9, 2011

Remarks from Environmental Protection Commissioner Cas Holloway Upon DEP Being Awarded the 2011 U.S. Water Prize by the Clean Water America Alliance

"Thank you to the Clean Water America Alliance for recognizing DEP with the US Water Prize for the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan. It is an honor to be Among the inaugural recipients of this award, and to stand with New York City's colleagues and peers today. Thanks also to Bob Perciasepe for his comments on the work of DEP in this initiative, and to EPA for its recently re-affirmed commitment to Green Infrastructure, and the watershed-based approach necessary for green infrastructure to succeed.

"We are proud and humbled to be recognized among our peers as leaders in finding sustainable ways to deliver drinking water and treat wastewater for 9 million New Yorkers. When it comes to improving water quality and reducing CSOs in a city as dense and impermeable as New York, there are no magic bullets. No one-size-fits-all solution to a challenge that will have different solutions in different parts of the City.

"In some places, grey infrastructure will make sense, and will be cost-effective and necessary to deal with the problem. But we think in most places this end-of-pipe solution not only costs more than green, it doesn't perform as well – and has other environmental tradeoffs, like the GHG emissions that come with pumping CSOs to treatment plants. Green infrastructure, on the other hand, accomplishes 2 or 3 environmental benefits at the same time. Clean water, cleaner air, and cooling effects that lower overall energy needs. And green infrastructure is something local communities understand and support. In New York City we are in the middle of our first green infrastructure grant program, and we're getting great proposals. When people can see where their water and sewer dollars are going and why they're needed, it makes higher water bills easier to explain.

"It also enables us to tailor solutions to each community – and spread investments throughout the city, rather than forcing one community to be home to a fifty million gallon tank for everyone else. But make no mistake; there's much more at stake in the green versus grey approach than the value of co-benefits like cleaner air. At stake is the affordability and sustainability of our water and wastewater infrastructure itself.

"In New York we're raising water rates for the 17th straight year. At 7.5 %, it's the first single-digit increase in 5 years, but that's little comfort considering that rates have increased by 91 percent since 2006 alone. The pace of investment is unsustainable without federal help. And embracing green infrastructure, which we estimate could save New Yorkers 2.4 billion, is a great step for EPA to take.

"To truly succeed, though, I believe we have to go further. As I said the last time I was here with many of you at the NACWA conference, to succeed, I believe EPA And state regulators need to treat local governments as partners, committed, as they are, to solving the water quality challenges we all face. Back then, the message from EPA was that an adversarial framework was necessary – that cities should view the agency as "the bad guy" to justify rate increases to our residents. We don't need another bad guy; and I'm sure the public utilities here will agree with me that as attractive as that paradigm sounds, it doesn't work. Much more productive is the watershed approach that green infrastructure requires – and administrator Jackson's support for it is a fantastic boon to New York City's efforts, and efforts across the country.

"Thank you again for recognizing the hard work of DEP’s staff."

More Information

NYC Department of Environmental Protection
Public Affairs

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