GELF NYS Senate Climate testimony

Green Education and Legal Fund
156 Big Toad Way, Poestenkill NY 12140 – 518 860-3725 –

Testimony of the Green Legal and Education Fund Inc.
To the New York State Senate Hearing on Climate Change (CCPA)
Feb. 12 , 2019

My name is Mark Dunlea and I am chair of the Green Education and Legal Fund (GELF). Thank you for the opportunity to testify on how to strengthen the CCPA (Climate and Community Protection Act CCPA: A3876 / S2292) and to enact the best climate legislation possible.

While the CCPA has worthwhile proposals on environmental justice and labor standards, the CCPA largely incorporates the state’s existing climate policies, starting with the 2009 Executive Order initially issued by Gov. Paterson and since renewed by Gov. Cuomo. The United Nations recent IPCC report warned that the world has 12 years to take dramatic unprecedented action to avoid climate destruction. The inadequate government response to climate change that the IPCC warned against are the type of existing policies in NYS that the CCPA incorporates. It is not the answer.

The NYS Off Fossil Fuels Act / 100% Renewable Energy by 2030 (OFF Act: A5105 / S5908 in 2018) has a faster timeline for climate action than either the CCPA or the Governor’s budget proposal, and many of other stronger climate provisions including on a Just Transition. While the Governor has recently announced increased commitments to climate action, including a Green New Deal, most of his initiatives are being done administratively rather than through legislation. His budget proposals focus on finally convening the Climate Action Council and creating the state climate action plan authorized in the 2009 Executive Order.

The Senate should also support the Green New Deal legislation introduced by Sen. Sanders, which combines a 2030 timeline for 100% clean renewable energy with a strong New Deal agenda of economic justice, including a guaranteed living wage job and universal health care.

The Senate should combine the best of the provisions of the NY OFF Act, the CCPA and the Governor’s proposal into the strongest climate legislation possible.

  1. We need to move to 100% clean renewable energy, net zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.

The OFF Act sets a goal of 2030. This is based on the “Jacobson” study by Stanford and Cornell professors. 2030 is also the target date of the federal Green New Deal proposal. 2035 for electricity and transportation is the target date for the federal OFF Act, which last session was sponsored by every Congressional Democrat from NY except one. The US conference of Mayors has 2035 as a goal.

The Governor has proposed that 70% of our electricity come from renewable energy by 2030, and by 100% carbon free by 2040. He continues however to use the state’s existing 2009 goal of an 80% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2050. NYSERDA for two years has done a study on how fast we can get to 100% but won’t release even a draft. The CCPA calls for 100% clean energy by 2050, but was amended to list the Governor’s updated goals on electricity.

The OFF Act has provisions to ensure that renewable energy goals by individual utilities are met. It also calls for carbon offsets by putting carbon back into the soil through regenerative agriculture.

  1. The state needs to enact a ban on the development of new fossil fuel infrastructure and start a phase-out of existing fossil fuels.

The OFF Act calls for a halt to new fossil fuels infrastructure; the CCPA and the Governor do not directly address this issue. The state needs to strengthen its monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane leakage. The state needs to be clear that the use of natural gas must be ended.

This is a critical issue Throughout the world we have seen greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise even as the use of clean renewable energy like wind and solar has significantly expanded.[1] We must be clear that we have to immediately halt any new fossil fuel infrastructure while we rapidly phase-out existing uses of fossil fuels.

  1. The state needs strong commitments to a Just Transition and Environmental Justice. It must ensure that low and moderate income people are able to participate in the renewable energy future.

The CCPA has strong worker standards that should be adopted. The OFF Act has detailed Just Transition provisions to ensure that the needs of existing fossil fuel workers and communities dependent upon such plants are meet. Funding must be dedicated to assist disadvantaged communities.

  1. The legislation needs to set targets and goals for transportation and buildings, both of which account for a third of the state’s carbon footprint.

As the OFF Act proposes, NY should adopt California’s requirement that new residential buildings to be net zero carbon emissions, with solar, by 2020; all new buildings must by zero emissions by 2030. The state needs to strengthen programs to energy retrofit buildings. We also need to move to clean renewable heat (geothermal, air heat pumps for buildings). When public housing replacing old gas boilers, it needs to switch to renewable heat.

The OFF Act sets a goal for all new vehicles to be Zero Emissions by 2025. The State needs to dramatically increased its investments in recharging stations and other infrastructure to make this happen. Funding for mass transit statewide must be significantly increased.

  1. The State needs to adopt a strong climate action plan, with clear two-year benchmarks, timelines and activities. There should be an annual report to the legislature.

Similar to California, the OFF Act requires climate plans for county and local governments (of more than 50,000). There must be ways for labor and community groups to fully participate in the planning process, not the fossil fuel industry. There must be a commitment to energy democracy.

The debate over whether 2030, 2040 or 2050 should be our timeline for 100% clean renewable energy is critical. Even more important however is what is our goal for increased renewables and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, 2021, and 2022.

The state has consistently failed to achieve the various climate change goals that Governor starting with Pataki have adopted.

While the Governor requires a climate action plan, the CCPA only requires a scoping document.

  1. The various climate action plans need to be legally enforceable.

Like California, the right for citizens to legally enforce the climate plan should be included in the legislation. State and local agencies must be required to adhere to the climate plan; the provisions within the CCPA to do this must be significantly strengthened.

  1. Neither nuclear power or biomass are clean, safe, renewable energy sources and should be phased out.
  2. The State should support public / community ownership and democratic control of the energy system.

Public ownership is one way to accelerate the development and siting of large-scale renewable energy systems while lowering costs. The state should increase its support of Community Choice Aggregation and municipal utilities to enable local communities to democratically determine how their energy needs are met. NYPA should be empowered to build renewables and to provide energy to more customers.

The Climate Crisis Threatens Life on the Planet – And New York is moving way too slow

The United Nations last month announced that we have 12 years left for an emergency worldwide mobilization – unprecedented in human history – to halt the use of fossil fuels and eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. They also made clear that we need to try to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees (C), rather than the 2 degrees which has been the target of much of New York’s climate policy. The higher target of 2 degrees is reflected in the 2009 Executive Order on climate; the various climate goals set by the Governor; and the various bills the Assembly have passed since 2009 (including the Community and Climate Protection Act).

Even 1.5C of warming would have brutal consequences, according to the report. Poor people, in particular, would suffer as the threat of food and water shortages increase in some parts of the world.[2]

The legislature should not reinforce out-of-date climate targets previously adopted by NYS that promote a goal of degree centigrade, as the CCPA repeatedly does. For instance, the target for reducing carbon levels should be 350 ppm, not the 450 ppm articulated in the CCPA.[3] We are already over 410 ppm.

Failure to take such dramatic action increases the likelihood that human civilization as we presently know it will cease to exist. Floods, sea level rise, wildfires, heat waves and droughts will make parts of the planet uninhabitable.  Climate refugees will likely be in the hundreds of millions. Support systems involving energy, food and water will break down, leading to wars over such resources. Hundreds of millions, if not billions, could die. The UN warns that civilization as we know it may cease to exist. Scientists now provide analysis over the possibility of the extinction of the human species.

The situation is dire and requires New York to commit to a full-scale emergency climate mobilization.

It is important to recognize that the IPCC’s warning is overly optimistic. In each of its prior statements on climate change, the worst case scenario has been the most accurate – though often overly optimistic. Scientists are cautious by nature in making conclusions and usually refrain from bold recommendations. In addition, they have to get countries like Saudi Arabia, the US, Russia and Brazil to agree to the wording. And the recent IPCC warning relies on a miracle even with the 12 year warning. It admits we will blow well past the tipping point but hopes we develop the technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere, something we are nowhere close to doing after tens of billions in research.

The NY Times Magazine several months ago devoted its entire Sunday edition to the proposition that life on the planet is doomed since we lacked the political leadership to take action to stand up to the fossil fuel companies.

Pope Francis was correct when in his climate treatise he said we could not solve climate change unless we also solved injustice, since it is the same mentality that allows the wealthy to exploit the poor that drives humanity to exploit the planet. We need to change our political and economic system, our values, to focus on meeting the needs of all not just enrich the wealthy.

Accelerate the Timeline to Achieve 100% Renewable Energy, Zero Carbon Emissions

In the last month Governor Cuomo announced his support for a Green New Deal and said he wanted New York to be the national leader on climate change. The Governor deserves praise for such objectives, and for stating strong support for a Just Transition and environmental justice while significantly expanding his commitment to several renewable energy, storage and efficiency goals, especially offshore wind.

Yet the state still needs to significantly accelerate its climate agenda. The sobering reality is that 16 years after Governor Pataki announced bold goals to increase renewable energy – and 8 years into the Cuomo era – New York gets a mere 4 to 5% of its electricity from wind, solar and geothermal energy[4]. Setting goals is one thing, achieving them is something else. California in contrast announced last year that it expects to get 50% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020 – ten years faster than they planned.[5]

New York’s poor performance to date on renewables hinders job growth and economic development in our state. Still, nationwide, jobs in the renewable electric industry already outstrips those in the fossil fuel industry by 5 to 1.[6] In NYS, the US Department of Energy estimates that jobs in clean energy outnumber those in oil, coal and gas by 13 to 1, though most of the jobs are in “energy efficiency,” which including 30,000 in HVAC. NYS has about 13,200 jobs in solar and wind and 5,850 in hydro.[7] California in contrast has 157,000 in solar and wind (mainly in solar).

Cuomo’s climate agenda has focused primarily on electricity – which accounts for less than 25% of the state’s carbon footprints. Progress has been even slower on transportation and the heating / cooling of buildings, with each accounting for about 1/3 of the state’s carbon footprints. Energy efficiency has been neglected.

NYS itself officially a year ago dramatically revised its estimate of sea level rise to 6 feet by the end of this century. Studies by Dr. James Hansen and other scientists, along with NOAA, found that the ice shelfs are melting so rapidly that it possible that sea levels may rise up to 9 feet by 2050. NYC is one of the three most vulnerable cities on the planet to rising sea levels.  It is also possible that there will be parts of the US where humans cannot go outside by the end of this century.

New York is relying far too much on the “market” that helped create the climate crisis to now solve it. (Yet ironically the Cuomo administration has resisted a carbon tax to correct the market.) The Governor’s announcement of a Green New Deal however seems to reflect the recognition that NY needs a far more aggressive intervention that requires a significant increase the investment of public funds. A major purpose of government should be to set the goals, pathways and benchmarks for the economy to meet the public good.

The IPCC says we need an unprecedented worldwide emergency mobilization to avoid catastrophic climate change. We need to focus first on how fast it is important to make the transition to 100% clean energy and then figure out how we mobilize the resources and talents are needed to achieve what may seem impractical if not impossible. We need a response similar to what we saw in the US after Pearl Harbor or after President Kennedy set a goal to land a person on the moon.

While Governor Cuomo has proposed a goal of 100% clean electricity by 2040 (and 70% renewables by 2030), he still is calling for only an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This is inadequate.

The state’s climate goals should also reflect the fact that the first 80 to 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions are relatively straightforward while the last 5 to 10% will be the most technologically and financially challenging. Thus rather than the straight line used in most proposals, the quickest reductions in emissions and increases in renewable energy should be front-loaded in the earlier years and then more slowly phased in over the last 5 to 10 years (depending upon the timeline enacted),

We also need to avoid using carbon offsets to meet this goal (e.g., paying people elsewhere to plant trees). We need to avoid language the provides the opportunity for fossil fuel industries to continue the business-as-usual practices of extraction, transport and combustion.

The Need for Detailed Climate Action Plans – at the State, County and Local Level

The Governor in his budget calls for the creation of a Climate Action Council to oversee the development and implementation of a state climate action plan.

It should be noted that a climate action plan is required under an existing 2009 Executive Order.[8] (A draft plan has sat on the DEC website for 7 years.[9] ) The EO also established a Climate Action Council. It is disturbing that so little has happened over the last decade to further this official state policy, one that Gov. Cuomo re-issued.

The NY Off Fossil Fuels Act has stronger climate planning process than either the Governor or the CCPA (which actually only calls for a scoping document, and has weak requirements for compliance by state agencies). Our proposal also follows the California model in requiring that counties and local governments with 50,000 residents also adopt and implement such a plan. It is critical that state and local agencies must be bound by such plans and that citizens have the right to legally enforce such plans.

Halt all new Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

We need to halt any more fossil fuels infrastructure. Putting money into new fossil fuel infrastructure will intensify the pressure to burn fossil fuels during the 30 plus years of the operating life of the investment while diverting needed funds from renewable energy and efficiency.

The State has the right to deny water permits for such projects but should also play an aggressive in convincing FERC to deny such permits, seeking to protect the public health and safety of New York residents.

While New York has halted fracking in New York, we continue to allow the state to be flooded with imported natural gas from neighboring states. methane is 80 times more potent short term as a greenhouse gas compared to carbon. New York must reject natural gas as a cheap bridge fuel to a clean energy future; in reality, it is a gangplank to climate disaster.

Oppose Reappropriation of $88 Million for New Fracked Gas Turbines for Empire State Plaza

GELF opposes the appropriation of $88 million for the addition of two new large “fracked” gas power plants at Sheridan Avenue in Albany to provide heat and power for a Microgrid serving the Empire State Plaza. The current proposal by NYPA increases New York’s dependency on fossil fuels, perpetuates an inherently inefficient method of heating and cooling with steam, exacerbates climate change, and subjects a low-income community of color to decades of continued pollution.

Last year the legislature added on authorization to the funding that it could be used for renewable energy. The legislature and the Governor should now agree in this’s budget that it must go to renewable energy. If funds are appropriated for an Albany Microgrid, it should be conditioned upon the issuance of a new Request for Proposals to solicit renewable energy alternatives that do not result in more gas being burned in Sheridan Hollow.

This does not preclude the immediate replacement of outdated emergency diesel generators and changes to testing protocols that would reduce their run time.

Require New Buildings to be Net Zero Carbon Emissions

Buildings account for more than a third of the state’s carbon footprint. California already requires new residential buildings to be net zero carbon emissions by 2020 (and to incorporate solar); all buildings have to meet such goals by 2030. New York needs similar programs. It must also figure out how to mandate energy retrofits of existing buildings,

We support the efforts of the Renewable Heat Now campaign to accelerate the adoption of ground-source (geothermal) and air-source heat pumps in New York.[10] We support mandatory building retrofits to invest in cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades. We support amending state building codes to requires all new buildings to have net zero greenhouse gas emissions.[11]

On Oct. 9, 2009, then New York State Governor David Paterson signed the Green Jobs/Green New York (GJGNY) bill into law. Supporters projected that the bill would ‘green’ one million homes throughout the state, and create 14,000 new jobs. Six years past its passage, the legislation’s results are mixed at best.[12] Only a few thousand homes were retrofitted, and it’s estimated that the program yielded only a thousand or so new jobs—1,069 as of two summer ago, according to state officials. The implementation of this program unfortunately has been impeded by the Cuomo administration, utilities and the financial community. The legislature needs to take action to enable it to achieve its goals.

Increase Funding for Mass Transit – Congestion Pricing – 100% New ZAV Vehicles by 2025

We support the acceleration of efforts to expand mass transit and to move to 100% Zero Emission Vehicles. New York should work with California to adopt goals similar to Norway which requires 100% of all new car sales to be 100% ZAV by 2025. California has committed 10 times the funding that NY has to support the transition to all electric vehicles like charging stations. California already has 6 times as many cars.

Enact ecological and progressive taxes to fund $100 billion subway fix.

GELF supports a multi-year $100 billion capital spending plan to fix the MTA, expand it to so-called “transit deserts,” and improve commuter trains from the suburbs. The $100 billion for these capital improvements should be funded by a variety of revenue sources, including congestion pricing, a carbon tax, land value taxation, and increased taxes on the incomes and stock trades of the wealthy.

The Fast Forward modernization plan proposed by transit authority president Andy Byford calls for $19 billion in capital spending the first five years and $18 billion more the next five years for a total of $37 billion. The Regional Plan Association estimated it will take another $62 billion to extend subway lines to the city’s unserved “transit deserts” and make needed improvements to commuter rail service.

The new revenues will also help stabilize the operating budget and enable free or reduced fares, as many cities around the world are now doing. Lower fares will help struggling working-class commuters and serve as an incentive to use public transit and reduce the negative impacts of cars in the city.

The MTA acts too much like an ATM for Wall Street. At 16% of the operating budget, debt service for the capital plan consumes far too much of the operating budget. 52% of the capital budget is finance by bonding. It is better for average taxpayers to tax the rich upfront than to borrow money from them and pay them interest for it.

Congestion pricing, the carbon tax, and land value taxation are ecological taxes on resource-depleting and environmentally-damaging activities that diminish the finite commonwealth of land, air, water, and life-sustaining ecosystems. Eco-taxes are generally progressive because they shift taxation away from incomes and savings earned by labor.

But we need to also increase state income taxes on the wealthy. The share of all income in New York City going to the top 1% has increased from 12% in 1980 to 41% today. Income taxes on high personal incomes, corporations, and stock trades were cut over the same period, while public austerity budgets, including for public transit, have become the norm.

GELF supports the clawback of a portion of the $10 billion annual windfall to New York corporations from the Trump corporate tax cuts that is not used by companies to raise worker pay or create new jobs. He would end the rebate of the Stock Transfer Tax to Wall Street brokers, which has generated between $6 billion and $16 billion a year over the last decade. He also wants to a more progressive state income tax, including graduated brackets on multi-millionaire incomes, which he said would yield $10 billion a year in additional revenues.

GELF supports the congestion pricing proposal in the Fix NYC Higher-Range Plan. Based on an $11.52 round-trip fee into the Central Business District below 60th Street, it will generate $1.5 billion a year.

Energy Democracy, Public Ownership, Just Transition

New York State should promote energy democracy, with community control / ownership of the energy system, ensuring that low and moderate income New Yorkers can participate in our energy future.

GELF supported the Governor’s Article VII proposals last year to allow NYPA to own renewables. We support public ownership of much of the energy system at both the state and local level in order to reduce costs and to ensure that the energy systems meets public needs rather private profits. We need a Just Transition to ensure that workers and vulnerable communities are assisted.

We support proposals to increase the investments in a Just Transition to clean energy. The NYS Off Act has the strongest provisions related to providing training and a paycheck to existing workers in the fossil fuel industry and to assist towns relying upon property tax payments from fossil fuel plants

We need to avoid the gentrification of our energy system, ensuring that low-income individuals and communities can fully participate in our clean energy future. We need to support energy democracy, including the development of community shared renewables, Community Choice Aggregation, and public ownership / worker / community cooperatives.

We support the proposal by Assemblymember Barrett to provide a tax credit to farmers who practice regenerative agriculture to reduce their carbon footprint and return carbon to the soil.

We continue to oppose the Governor’s $7.6 billion subsidy to Exelon to keep open a handful of old, failing upstate nuclear plants. GELF is a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed by Clearwater challenging this nuke bailout. The state failed to adequately evaluate alternative approaches on how to spend $7.6 billion to create jobs and promote clean energy.

We support New York allowing Community Choice Aggregation in NY to operate under rules similar to those in California, giving CCAs the power to negotiate directly for the purchase of electricity in order to support the development of local renewable energy sources. GELF is on the steering committee of a CCA being organized in the Capital District.

To build large renewable energy projects in New York takes 6  to 10years for the permit process; places like Kansas take less than a year. The State must devote resources to solving this barrier. One solution is to have municipal power systems develop renewables, as is done widely in other places like Germany. With public power, the proposal is viewed as a common good and tends to have more public acceptance and support.

The state should provide upfront funding to any local government, including schools and other districts, that want to construct a publicly-owned renewable energy system in their community.

The state should evaluate the proposal by NYC Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to create Public Banks as a financing mechanism for the transition to renewable energy.

Enact a State Carbon Tax; Include Funding in State Budget for a Study

Make Polluters Pay

The “Jacobson” study a few years ago showed that NY could move to 100% clean energy by 2030 based on existing technology estimated the transition cost at around $480 billion. While much of this involves redirecting existing funds from the fossil fuel industry to renewable energy, and routine expenditures already budgeted for system and distribution upgrades, it still requires new additional spending of tens of billions of dollars a year.

New York needs to adequately price carbon to reflect the true economic, health and environmental costs associated with tis use. New York should enact a carbon (greenhouse gas) tax or fee to accomplish this purpose (this needs to include methane). The prime purpose for carbon pricing is to make polluters pay for the damages they cause while accelerating the transition to clean energy sources by making fossil fuels reflect their actual costs.

The Governor used the social cost of carbon to justify his $7.6 billion bailout of three small upstate nuclear plans. This had led the NYS Independent Systems Operator to seek similar handouts for other electric producers, a proposal which the Governor has embraced through the Public Service Commission.[14]

The biggest obstacle to clean energy is that the market prices of coal, oil and gas don’t include the true costs of carbon pollution. A robust and briskly rising carbon tax will transform energy investment, re-shape consumption, and sharply reduce the carbon emissions that are driving global warming.

A carbon tax is an “upstream” tax on the carbon content of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) and biofuels. A carbon tax is the most efficient means to instill crucial price signals that spur carbon-reducing investment. A carbon tax can also be used to recapture some of the costs pushed on to taxpayers and consumers from burning fossil fuels,

The International Monetary Fund estimates that worldwide we provide $5.3 trillion in annual subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. We need to stop paying to make the world inhabitable for humans. In New York, it is estimated that allowing the burning of fossil fuels increases health care costs by $30 billion or more while leading to at least 3,000 annual deaths from air pollution.

It would be better to enact a robust national carbon tax. However, since the present Congressional gridlock on climate change makes this unlikely, New York should take the lead and enact a state carbon tax. In Canada, British Columbia has successfully implemented a provincial carbon tax. The tax has helped BC reduce its carbon emissions 3.5 times more than the rest of Canada while their economy performed slightly better than the rest of the country.

There is significant interest in the northeast in a regional carbon tax. Northeastern states are continuing to examine the possibility of some form of regional approach to address transportation / gas under the Climate and Transportation Initiative.[15] Several years ago Gov. Cuomo had publicly raised the possibility of a regional gas tax to support mass transit.

GELF helped draft carbon tax legislation[16] which has been introduced. We actively support A107(Cahill) / S2846 (Parker).  We are also supportive of the polluter pay carbon tax proposal that has been developed by NY Renews, including its proposals for investment in a Just Transition and environmental justice.

In the Cahill / Parker bill, we selected the various options included in the bill after surveying several hundred climate change activists – we adopted the positions with the most support.

The proposed carbon tax would start at $35 a ton and then increase in annual increments of $15 a ton. 60% of the revenues would be rebated to low and moderate income consumers. The remaining forty percent will support the transition to one hundred percent clean energy in the state, to support mass transit to reduce carbon emissions, and to improve climate change adaptation. Such funds shall include payments and subsidies for renewable energy, energy conservation and efficiency measures, improvements in infrastructure, improvements in mass transit capacity, agricultural adaptation measures, protection of low-lying areas including coastlines, and emergency responses to extreme weather events.

At the base rate of $35, according to Prof. Sara Hsu of SUNY New Paltz, the revenues would amount to over $3.5 billion. In Year Two of implementation, with an increase of $15 per ton, the revenue would be $6.2 billion, in Year Three, $7.9 billion, in Year Four, $9.5 billion, and in Year Five, $11 billion. At the last point, revenue would amount to $14.3 billion. It is estimated that the initial carbon price of $35 a ton would increase the cost of gasoline by 35 cents a gallon. At $180 a ton, the cost would rise by $1.58 per gallon.

We recognize there are differences of opinions as to how to best invest the revenues: offset the regressive nature of any energy tax; do a 100% rebate of the tax to consumers (e.g., 100% fee and dividend); invest in the transition to renewable energy; and to meet other social needs such as job creation. The issue of what revenue options the legislature agrees to is less important than adopting a carbon price high enough to effectively reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted.

As an interim step, we urge the legislature to include funding in the state budget for a study of the impact and potential of the various levels and variables for a state carbon tax. Oregon and Massachusetts have conducted such studies. A 1919 / S4598[17]

New York already has a limited carbon pricing scheme through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for electrical production. However, the Congressional Research Service[18] concluded that the pricing was set too low to have any significant impact on reducing carbon emissions. It is presently around $6 a ton. The emission reductions resulted from invested the proceeds from auctioning the carbon permits into renewable energy. The recent effort to reform RGGI regionally to set higher goals fell far short of what advocates were calling for but some highest goals for carbon emission reductions was agreed to. There is the possibility that RGGI may expand to gasoline as other cap-and-trade programs have done. Cap and trade programs however are subject to market manipulation and often shift the pollution burden to poorer communities and nations, which is why they were condemned by Pope Francis.

End the $7.6 Billion Tax for Nuclear Subsidies

We urge the Senate to pass legislation to direct the Public Service Commission and other relevant state entities to halt the mandate that consumers provide $7.6 billion in subsidies to keep old, unsafe, uncompetitive nuclear power plants open in upstate New York. Energy efficiency measures and newer, cleaner, renewable sources of power are more cost-effective, better for human and environmental health and create more jobs.

The Nine Mile Point, FitzPatrick and Ginna nuclear plants — like the Indian Point power plant you negotiated to shut down by 2021 — are inefficient and dangerous power sources and should be decommissioned.  Most of these plants were built in the Vietnam era.  New York’s overburdened ratepayers simply should not have to fork over billions of dollars in higher utility bills to subsidize such aging, economically uncompetitive nuclear plants.

Utility reports filed with the state show that more than 800,000 consumers in New York State are already in arrears on their utility bills. Many more New Yorkers currently struggle to pay electric rates that are among the highest in the nation. Increasing the monthly charges for these vulnerable New Yorkers will only make a bad situation worse.

Higher utility bills will also place a strain on businesses, schools, charitable organizations and local governments. New York communities are already straining against the limits of the local property tax cap. We cannot afford to see our municipal energy costs go up even further to bail out an industry that brings no economic development to our communities. We want to keep this money in our own communities to support our own local needs, including our own municipal energy efficiency and clean energy projects.

New York State’s proposed multi-billion-dollar subsidy, which is essentially a “ratepayer tax,” is also a misallocation of resources that New York should be investing in energy efficiency and cleaner, safer alternative energy sources.

The $7.6 billion ratepayer-funded subsidy to keep nuclear plants open will save only about 2,000 jobs in one region of the state, and only until the subsidy expires in 2029. A job creation or retention initiative financed statewide by consumers should have a positive impact throughout the state, not only one community.

Unfortunately, the Public Service Commission, which approved the $7.6 billion ratepayer-funded bailout without any legislative involvement or approval, failed to evaluate alternative proposals for how most effectively to create jobs, help local taxpayers and promote clean energy. Further, in a matter of weeks, the price tag for this bailout soared from $59 million to $7.6 billion – a staggering sum, and far more than the state is investing in renewable energy.

In July of 2017, Amory Lovins, who served as a consultant to the state in its REV process, released an analysis which debunks the notion that highly unprofitable, economically distressed nuclear plants should be further subsidized to meet financial, security, reliability and climate goals. The analysis showed that closing costly-to-run nuclear plants and reinvesting their saved operating costs in energy efficiency provides cheaper electricity, increases grid reliability and security, reduces more carbon, and preserves (not distorts) market integrity—all without subsidies.[19]






[4] Net Generation by State by Type of Producer by Energy Source (EIA-906, EIA-920, and EIA-923), – lines 46674-46686

[5] California Public Utilities Commission, “Renewables Portfolio Standard,” Annual Report, November 2017, – p. 1






[11]; and,

[12], see chart page 7