From the Morning Memo:

During a CapTon interview last night, Rep. Paul Tonko chided Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature for sweeping $41 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative into the general fund in the recently passed 2015-16 state budget.

“It is something that very much concerns me,” the Amsterdam Democrat said. “Because we have environmental, energy and economic recovery policy that all work in tandem, and when you sweep those dollars away, you’re not going to do the transformational pieces that get us to a better outcome.”

Tonko, the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on the Environment and Economy, is also a former member of the Assembly, where he chaired the Energy Committee, and ex-head of NYSERDA.

He resigned form NYSERDA in 2008, shortly before his successful congressional run. That was the same year New York entered into the 10-state agreement known as RGGI.

RGGI, at the time, was the first-in-the-nation plan to combat climate change by charging polluters and using the money for alternative energy and other programs. It’s essentially a cap-and-trade program, and New York’s involvement was spearheaded by then-Republican Gov. George Pataki.

This year’s $41 million sweep from the climate change program was actually more than the $36 million Cuomo initially proposed in his executive budget – a rare example of the Legislature actually making a bad situation worse when it comes to environmental policy.

It’s unclear exactly what all the money will be used for, but there’s an understanding that some of it will go toward the Environmental Protection Fund, which supports a variety of programs.

Environmentalists weren’t thrilled by this approach, however, likening it to robbing Peter to pay Paul.

This isn’t the first time a governor moved money from the RGGI fund to help plug holes elsewhere in the budget. In 2009, then Gov. David Paterson took $90 million from the fund to help balance the state’s spending plan at a time of fiscal crisis. The money was legally classified as a loan, but it has never been repaid.

New York collects about $728 million a year through RGGI, and has used the money to fund energy efficiency and alternative energy programs that are supposed to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and, in turn, combat climate change.

Environmentalists are worried this latest sweep will make the program vulnerable to a lawsuit from conservative interests that have long wanted to blow it up. In 2012, a state court rejected a challenge to RGGI by a group financially supported by the Koch brothers.

RGGI also includes Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican eyeing a potential 2016 presidential run, pulled his state from the initiative in 2011, and is now facing a lawsuit as a result.

UPDATE: The administration took issue with my characterization of the swept money being designated for purposes that are not entirely clear, and provided the following breakdown of where the money is going:

Residential Solar Energy System PIT Credit 13
Biofuel Production Credit 3
Clean Heating Fuel Credit 3
Alternative Fuels and Electric Vehicle Recharging Property Credit 1
Green Buildings Credit 1
Sales Tax Exemption for Residential Solar Energy Systems 1
Sales Use Tax Exemption for Commercial Solar Energy Systems 1

Total: $23 million.

The remainder will be going to the EPF, “including” programs that reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change.