GELF’s CLCPA Implementation Comments

Testimony of the Green Education and Legal Fund to the
Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation
Assembly Standing Committee on Energy
Assembly Climate Change Work Group on
Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) Implementation

May 13, 2021

My name is Mark Dunlea, and I am chair of the Green Education and Legal Fund, for whom I am submitting testimony.

I am also a legislative coordinator for PAUSE (People of Albany United for Safe Energy); an advisor to the steering committee of 350NYC; co-chair of the EcoAction Committee of the Green Party of the United States; and, a core member of SHARE (Sheridan Hollow Alliance for Renewable Energy).

The CLCPA was an important recognition by New York State of the urgency of the climate crisis. It has been successful in putting various climate goals into New York law, thus increasing how seriously various state agencies and officials pay attention to them. It was also critical in recognizing the need to invest climate funding to assist those communities – primarily low-income and of color – which have been the bear the brunt of climate change and air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels.

It is disappointing however that so little actual progress has been made over the last two years in increasing the amount of renewable energy in New York State, even with the increased goals, or in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Hopefully the recent actions by the Governor and legislature to overhaul the permitting process for large-scale renewables will begin to pay dividends in the near future.

New York needs to declare a climate emergency (A4567 / S918) to marshal all of the state’s resources in an effort to try to prevent climate collapse. It is too late to prevent climate change, with extreme weather accelerating and intensifying, but we can act to increase the chances that future generations will have a chance of a decent life. It is estimated that we have a little more than 7 years at our present rate of emissions before we use up our entire carbon budget that would keep global warming below 1.5-degree C.

In 2015, GELF drafted legislation – the 100% Renewables by 2030, Off Fossil Fuels Act (A04239) – that had faster timelines and stronger restrictions on the future use of fossil fuels than the provisions of the CCPA and CLCPA. President Biden has announced faster timelines than the CLCPA, such as a goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035 and a 50% reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2030 (rather than 40% in the CLCPA). The Climate Action Council (CAC) continues to focus on the slower timelines in the CLCPA. At a minimum, the CLCPA should be amended to reflect the faster national goals. It should also be amended to set clearer short terms goals (for 2022, 2024, etc.) and should give state residents the right to use the courts to enforce the provisions of the state’s climate laws.

In the nearly two decades since Governor Pataki first set goals to increase renewable electricity, the state has managed to add less than 5% from wind and solar. To meet even the low goals of the CLCPA will require the state to do annually what it took two decades to accomplish. The state needs to dramatically overhaul its approach to developing renewable energy.

Perhaps the biggest section missing from the CLCPA was a call to halt new fossil fuel infrastructure. New York has to stop using fossil fuels. Now. As the Governor has pointed out, other countries that have been more successful than NY in building renewables have not seen significant decreases in emissions. Various bills are pending to halt a least new power plants with fossil fuels (S5939/ A.6761, the Clean Futures Act) as well as all new fossil fuel infrastructure (A625 / S2835), (subject to restrictions related to FERC). There is also legislation to replace peaker plants with renewable energy (S4378 / A6251).

We urge the state to adopt a binding schedule that sets yearly closures of fossil fuel facilities starting in 2022 and which concludes with conversion of the entire electrical grid to 100% renewable energy by 2030 (2035 at the latest). Such a binding schedule should act in concert with a vastly accelerated deployment of renewable energy, grid modernization and energy efficiency, including unleashing the New York Power Authority’s capacity to help achieve this rapid growth.

The CLCPA and the Climate Action Council heavily relies on “tinkering” with the market to avoid climate chaos. The market has been the major factor in driving climate change; relying upon it to avoid climate collapse will fail. Even Pope Francis in his climate encyclical stressed the capitalism has failed to adequately meet society’s needs, and that we needed to create an economic and political system that focuses on promoting the common good rather than seeking to increase the profits and wealth of a few. We discuss below the need for public ownership and democratic planning and control of our energy system.

Another big difference between the legislation GELF drafted and the CLCPA was on the speed of developing and implementing a climate plan for the state. The CLCPA at the last moment also added an additional year, so that the plan will not be finalized until after the next Gubernatorial election. The slow speed in developing the plan does not reflect the urgency of the climate crisis. The State Legislature should not wait for the CAC plan before it enacts critical changes to the state’s climate laws, starting with a carbon tax and a halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure.

GELF continues to support an ecosocialist Green New Deal as first called for by Howie Hawkins in 2010 in his Green Party race for Governor (along with his call for a ban on fracking). We need to move to 100% clean renewable energy from all sources (not just electricity) by 2030 along with zero greenhouse gas emissions and an immediate halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure, combined with a strong Bill of Economic Rights with a guaranteed living wage job (and universal income), single payer universal health care, public housing and free college education.

I listened this week to the reports by several of the advisory panels to the CAC. While they contained many good ideas, they were often week on specific details and/or had overly slow timelines (e.g., upgrades of building codes to require renewable energy and conservation). There was little sense that we are in a climate emergency.

The 100% Renewables / Off Fossil Fuels Act also would require counties, and municipalities of more than 50,000, to develop their own climate action plans. Many communities have adopted various climate agendas but comprehensive plans with detailed action steps, goals and timelines are needed. This includes having local governments be proactive in determining local sites for large scale renewables. I listened earlier this week to the CAC advisory panel on local governments, which addressed good ideas such as smart growth and using the building codes to accelerate decarbonization. But as one of the CAC members pointed out, the panel was recommending a host of voluntary actions which in the past have been shown to be inadequate to the climate crisis we face. We saw this for instance with Mayor Bloomberg efforts in NYC to promote energy retrofits for large buildings in NYC.

Ensure that 40% of climate funds benefit EJ communities

One of the most important aspects of the CLCPA was the recognition that low-income and communities of color have been the principal victims of the government’s policy of primarily placing polluting facilities in such communities. Climate justice groups proposed that 40% of the state’s climate funding be directed to correct such injustice. Unfortunately, the bill language was significantly weakened at the last moment by Governor Cuomo. It is ok on rhetoric but weak on details.

There are also two separate categories – 40% for a host of government spending programs (e.g., housing) and 35% for climate and energy efficiency. Given that perhaps 40% of the state residents may meet the definition of “disadvantaged”, and that “benefits” can be broadly defined (we all benefit from reductions in air pollutions), the present provision may turn out to be largely meaningless.

The legislature needs to intervene to direct the CAC and the Cuomo administration to invest climate funds in such communities. It should at a minimum require a significant level of direct benefits in the communities where the projects are located. The job guarantees much be much more specific and robust; the state so far has talked more about pre-apprenticeship programs with the construction unions rather than specific job quotas. In addition, funds need to be allocated to enable EJ communities to move to renewable energy with support for renewable energy systems (microgrids, district geothermal, air heat pumps), extensive energy retrofits, conversion away from fossil fuels, electric trucks at facilities (to reduce diesel emissions), and local green economic development. The state needs to take affirmative action to correct the decades of pollution forced on these communities. (See separate section on Sheridan Hollow). One place to start is with the $200 million allocated to the Port of Albany for the construction of offshore wind towers.

Enact a State Carbon Tax; Make Polluters Pay

One of the weaknesses of the CLCPA is that is does not provide a funding stream for its various provisions, starting with the need to invest in disadvantaged communities. Funds are also needed for a Just Transition and to help mitigate the impact on low- and moderate-income people.

NYS presently funds its efforts to subsidize renewable energy (and nukes) through a regressive surcharge on consumers’ utility bills; this needs to be replaced with a more progressive form of taxation.

GELF supports a state carbon tax such as the proposal we helped draft (A77 – Cahill) or the Climate and Community Investment Act (A9856 / S3616 in 2020) by NY Renews.

A carbon tax must be set high enough to drive down emissions, while providing a significant rebate to low-and-moderate income New Yorkers to offset the regressive nature of any energy tax. It should invest in speeding up the transition to renewable energy. RGGI, cap-and-trade program subject to market manipulation, has failed to adequately drive down greenhouse gas emissions.

NYS DEC recently estimated the “value” of carbon at $53-421 per ton.

New York needs to adequately price carbon to reflect the true economic, health and environmental costs associated with its 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.[1]

A major 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.

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, 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.[2] Several years ago Gov. Cuomo had publicly raised the possibility of a regional gas tax to support mass transit.

In 2015, GELF helped draft carbon tax legislation (A77 Cahill / Parker).  The various options in the bill (e.g., price of carbon, how to invest the proceeds) were selected 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 (should be increased in view of DEC carbon value) and then increase in annual increments of $15 a ton up to $185 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.

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.

The Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA) developed by NY Renews would raise $15 billion per year from corporate polluters and uses it to create good, green jobs, invest in frontline communities, and build a renewable economy for New York State. One-third of the funds raised will go to community-based organizations in frontline communities for local programs like community-owned solar, making homes, apartments, and schools more energy-efficient, and investing in adaptation infrastructure. Additional funds will be available for current fossil fuel workers and host communities.

Research shows that the CCIA would create and sustain over 150,000 good, green jobs over the first decade. The CCIA includes strong labor provisions, including prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements. People in frontline communities, formerly incarcerated New Yorkers, women in non-traditional trades, and people coming off of unemployment will be prioritized for jobs building our renewable economy.

New York already has a limited carbon pricing scheme through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for electrical production. However, the Congressional Research Service[3] 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.

We are not supportive of the approach by the Transportation and Climate Initiative to introduce a limited carbon pricing to transportation, supporting instead the economy wide approach of a carbon tax. We especially oppose the possibility of expanding RGGI to transportation, giving its poor track record with electricity production and emission reductions. Cap and trade programs 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. The controversy of cap and trade for electricity in California was perhaps the major factor in blocking Mary Nichols from being selected by President Biden as EPA Administrator.

We continue to monitor the efforts by the NY Independent Systems Operators to develop a carbon pricing proposal for the wholesale electric market based on the Governor’s bailout of nuclear. We remained concerned about how the revenues will be invested, including how low- and-moderate income consumers will be protected against the regressive nature of any energy tax.

Public Ownership and Democratic Control of the Energy System, including transmission lines; Market is not the solution

The climate crisis has been driven by the overreliance upon market forces and the drive for maximization of profits within the energy system rather than a focus on the public good. No discussion takes place in the report on the benefits of an increased role of public ownership and democratic control of the state’s energy system. Even Pope Francis noted that we need system change not climate change.

NY should provide funding to local municipalities to build and own renewable energy systems, which would reduce the siting problems. And if Solar City has a business plan to put solar on homes for free in exchange for part of the savings in reduced energy costs, state and local governments should implement a similar program.

More than 50 communities in NYS already have public power, offering significantly lower electric rates than the investor-owned utilities. Local public power systems would enable governments to build and/or purchase its own clean, renewable energy sources for electricity, heating, and cooling and the smart grid infrastructure needed to accommodate distributed nature of renewable energy sources. It could oversee the development of community-owned solar and wind, including enabling the participation by low- and moderate-income consumers who often find themselves gentrified out of such initiatives.

Local public power systems could finance the construction of many forms of community energy projects. Rooftop solar and/or small-scale wind shared by a group of households with different solar and wind exposures could be built with the public power system financing the upfront costs and the households paying them off over time out of savings from lower cost renewables,

Democratic community control must go hand and hand with public ownership, starting with the need to democratize NYPA and LIPA.

Public ownership should also extend to the transmission lines. We recommended this to the Governor’s former Energy Czar (Richard Kaufman) when he argued to us that the transmission system was the biggest barrier to developing large scale renewables in New York State. Public ownership would reduce costs, eliminate the need to negotiate and coordinate with multiple private owners, and would reduce the practice of using excessive hookup charges to prevent new renewable energy facilities.

The NY Build Public Renewables Act would expand the mission of the New York Power Authority, adds more accountability, and makes it build 100% renewables. GELF continues to support the proposal made several years ago by Governor Cuomo to have NYPA build, own and operate new renewable energy facilities.

Public ownership and democratic control of our energy system is needed to accelerate the shutdown of fossil fuels and transition to clean renewable energy. It can provide the speed and scale needed to meet our rapidly closing deadline for climate action. We need to make energy decisions not based on maximizing profit and a high-rate of return on investment but on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This bill will reduce the state’s reliance on fracked gas, paving the way to a green economy sustained by clean public power. Among the bill’s provisions:

  • NYPA has the right of first offer and refusal to own, build, and/or operate any new renewable generation, storage, and transmission
  • NYPA will provide 100 percent renewable energy directly to all state and municipal properties by 2025 while phasing out existing non-renewable energy production
  • After meeting the state and municipal properties NYPA is enabled to sell renewable energy directly to consumers through usage of any utility’s transmission or distribution infrastructure at a rate the same as or cheaper than the local utility–a true public option for energy.

GELF also supports the goals of the NY Utility Democracy Act, which is being drafted:

  • Initiate the process for transitioning all of New York State’s distribution utilities into public ownership within two years.
  • New York State will, through either purchase or eminent domain, acquire all assets of all energy and gas utilities across the state.
  • Set a timeline for scaling down all gas infrastructure across the State while equally setting a timeline for scaling up renewable infrastructure to meet this new demand.
  • Create democratically elected utility boards to oversee the operations of the distribution utilities.

Oppose False Solutions such as Carbon Capture, Renewable Gas and BioEnergy being Promoted by the Cuomo administration to the CAC

Seven years ago, GELF and other climate groups requested that the state do its own study on how fast New York could move to 100% renewable energy for all sectors, not just electricity. A number of Stanford and Cornell scientists (Jacobson, Howarth, Ingraffea et al) had released a study[4] in 2013 detailing how New York could meet 100% of its energy needs by 2030 through development of off-shore wind (40%), on shore wind (10%) and solar (37%). The Jacobson study received some criticism in that it was not a detailed blueprint but rather plugged various federal energy databases into a spreadsheet to show the state could meet its energy needs without relying on fracked gas and other fossil fuels.

In 2015 GELF and others (e.g., Cornell) convinced the State Assembly to include support for such a study in their budget resolution. The Governor in January 2016 as part of his State of the State directed NYSERDA to complete a feasibility study by the end of 2016 about how fast the state could move to 100% renewable energy (without pre-determining the timeline)

The recently released report by NYSERDA (Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in New York State – see link) on how New York State can meet 100% of its energy needs through renewable, carbon-free energy is disappointingly short of details, cost-analysis, timelines, and action steps. Like most energy policy documents issued during the Cuomo administration, it tends to post questions and identify challenges rather than provide answers. It is largely a power-point outline of how NY could meet the climate goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act adopted last year.

It fails to break new ground or provide new research.

As NY Renews has noted “Commissioned by the state without approval of the CAC, this has become the defacto framework in which discussions take place. The report’s espousal of solutions that are likely not permitted under the CLCPA (e.g. renewable natural gas) and technologies that have failed at scale (e.g. carbon capture & storage) makes reliance on it particularly troubling. Work done by independent experts on decarbonization pathways have not been but should be considered.”

The study relies heavily on the development of carbon capture and sequestration, a technology that many scientists and prior Gubernatorial administrations have expressed concerns about with respect to its financial and technological feasibility. Food and Water Watch [5]have outlined the myriad problems with carbon capture. Last year Swedish climate activist Greta Thurnberg in her address to the United Nations chided the IPCC[6] (International Panel on Climate Change) for relying so heavily on the development of a miracle technology as a way to save future life on the planet. Many view CCS as potentially the largest corporate boondoggle[7] in history.

The study also promotes other troubling approaches such as biofuels[8] (not included in the CLCPA), “renewable natural gas[9]” (both are promoted to meet new winter peak demands from heat pumps), and the importation of hydroelectric energy from HydroQuebec. Hydropower that depends on the use of reservoirs has a significant negative climate impact[10] due to the methane emissions from such reservoirs. Others point out that the billions of dollars needed to provide for transmission lines for the project would be better invested[11] in the development of local renewable energy sources.

GELF continues to oppose the use of garbage incineration[12] or utility scale burning of wood[13] such as Vermont does as a way to produce electricity.

Support Demand Response

Demand Response (DR) is a well-understood mechanism to control periods of peak demand of electricity. Peaks are what drive infrastructure cost; peaks are also a particular challenge to renewables as one cannot simply switch on a fossil fuel-fired plant to satisfy demand. DR involves raising prices at times of low supply or offering consumers monetary incentives to cut usage. Given modern weather forecasting, this can be done in a predictable way so consumers can shift their usage to non-peak times. A 2009 FERC report estimated New York’s DR potential at 11%[14] of total demand. Puzzlingly, NYISO made a presentation to the CAC estimating DR only at 2-4% in 2040[15]. The changing patterns of electricity usage (e.g., battery-driven cars) will create greater time-flexibility of usage, so we should have even greater DR potential in 2040.

350 NYC in its testimony to the Power Generation Advisory Panel highlighted the importance of DR in a renewables-powered grid. DR was included in the panel’s recommendations. However, this is a qualitative recommendation, with no numerical target attached to it.

Say No to Nukes

Nuclear is not a climate solution.[16] Even in the best-case scenario, it would take far too long to bring new nuclear on line to have any meaningful impact on climate change.

I first began call to stop nuclear power as a student at RPI when I co-founded the New York Public Interest Research Group. One of the points I made was while one could debate the environmental and public health concerns with nuclear – and there were many – there was no debate that nuclear was far too expensive. That is still true today.

The legislature needs to end the PSC’s $7.6 billion subsidy 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.[17]

The Nine Mile Point, FitzPatrick and Ginna nuclear plants — like the Indian Point power plant slated to shut down this year — 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. As these plants operate beyond their anticipated lifespan, the possibility if not probability of a serious accident is significantly increased.[18]

Power the Empire State Complex and Sheridan Avenue neighborhood with 100% Clean Renewable Energy – Make Sheridan Hollow a Model Climate Justice Community

The Sheridan Avenue Steam Plant (SASP), which heats and cools the ESP complex, has polluted the low-income Sheridan Hollow neighborhood for more than a century, first burning coal, then oil and now fracked gas. In light of this century of pollution of Sheridan Hollow and Arbor Hill, the state should also invest in making the neighborhood a pilot program for moving environmental justice communities to 100% clean energy, with quality jobs and job training for members of the impacted community.

The $200 million being invested by the state in off shore wind towers at the Port of Albany is the perfect opportunity for the state to help not only the Sheridan Hollow community but the south end community where the Port is situated (including an adjacent public housing project)

GELF was pleased that two years ago the state legislature amended the budget to require that the $88 million previously appropriated for the Sheridan Ave. complex in Albany to power the state capitol complex (ESP) use 100% renewable energy to the extent practical, rather than adding two new fracked gas turbines. NYPA has agreed to scrap the turbines and will obtain electricity from a solar power complex outside of Utica. It also started the process to replace the chillers in the Plaza with ones that use electricity.

The transformation of the ESP Complex to 100% renewable energy should be a model for how New York transforms its energy economy away from fossil fuels and toward meeting the greenhouse reduction goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA

However, there are still six gas boilers used to provide the steam to heat and cool the complex. This continues to subject the surrounding Sheridan Hollow and Arbor Hill neighborhoods, both consisting predominantly of low-income, people of color residents, to pollution.  The Sheridan Avenue Steam Plant (SASP) has burdened the community since 1911, and the notorious ANSWERS trash to steam plant released heavy metals and other toxic chemicals into these neighborhoods throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The people who live there have high rates of health problems including asthma and cancer. Continued operation of the SASP is contrary to DEC’s Environmental Justice Policy (DEC Commissioner Policy 29), which provides that:

No group of people, including a racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic group, should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations.

Second, the SASP continues New York’s dependence on fossil fuels in contradiction to the CLCPA that calls for 40% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030. New York has committed to transition to a renewable energy economy. We must make the Plaza a showcase for the rest of the state and the country. To meet these aggressive climate goals we must, not only stop new fossil fuel infrastructure, we must also begin to shut down existing fossil fuel facilities.

The states of Oklahoma and Colorado heat and cool their state capitol buildings with geothermal energy and so does St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Stanford University recently replaced its co-generation fossil fuel power plant in favor of a heat sharing system with an energy savings of over 60%. A renewable energy solution incorporating geothermal technology for the Plaza would showcase New York as a climate leader and serve as a model for the nation.

Finally, renewable options are available now. If we are to transition our state to renewable energy, we must teach our workforce and state agencies how it is done. NYPA can use the Plaza as a training center for future projects. Nationally known geothermal expert Jay Egg has demonstrated, with a team of experts involved in the design and development of large-scale projects, that geothermal and thermal load sharing are thoroughly viable options for heating and cooling the Plaza. Therefore, the Legislature should require a complete examination of renewable alternatives. A study to convert the Plaza is the next step in transforming the Plaza, the Capitol and our state to a renewable energy future.

  1. SHARE requests $600,000 for a study to convert the ESP complex to renewable energy with the goal of eliminating steam production at the SASP. The study should prioritize geothermal and building efficiency measures and involve experts with demonstrated experience in geothermal and thermal load-share technology for large-scale systems. We call on NYPA to rapidly replace all the chillers that are powered by the SASP to chillers that run on electric power provided by renewable sources.
  2. SHARE called for a $250,000 in this year’s budget to provide funding for a study and plan to convert Sheridan Hollow and Arbor Hill to a 100% renewable energy community. Advocates and community residents are already pursuing a number of initiatives that have the potential to increase access to renewables and energy efficiency measures in the community, and significant funding may become available under the 35% mandate for “disadvantaged communities” in the CLCPA, and from other sources. This study would help position this key environmental justice community for just transition funding as it becomes available and ensure effective utilization of the various funding sources. Sheridan Hollow and Arbor Hill have endured a century of pollution to heat and power the state government; this environmental justice community should be first in line for public and private funding to make a transformation to a 100% renewable community. This transformation must bring quality jobs and job training to the community.

The states of Oklahoma and Colorado presently heat and cool their state capitol buildings with geothermal energy, as does St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and Skidmore College in Saratoga. NYPA, while having taken admirable steps to modify its original proposal, still has not provided a clear plan to heat and cool the ESP Complex with renewables. We call on the NYS legislature to provide resources necessary to transition the ESP complex and Sheridan Hollow to renewable energy, making them models of how to achieve our new energy future.

Speed up the Transition to Carbon Free Buildings

New York cannot achieve the goals of the CLCPA without the just and equitable implementation of energy efficiency and decarbonization of our homes and buildings.

New York must take many steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings. It should follow for instance the innovations adopted in California regarding strengthening building codes and standards to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and promote the use of renewable energy. New residential buildings in California by 2020 are required to be carbon free (or neutral), all buildings by 2030, and new residential buildings 3 stories and under must include solar by 2020. The CAC advisory panel is proposing slower timelines of 2025 for new single-family residences and 2030 for multi-family.

Title 24 California Building Standards Code is a broad set of requirements for “energy conservation, green design, construction and maintenance, fire and life safety, and accessibility” that apply to the “structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems” in a building.

New York should be more aggressive in requiring local communities to adopt energy building measures such as STRETCH[19]. NY should require all new buildings to use renewable electric heat and should increase the financial incentives to covert from gas and oil heating to air heat pumps and geothermal. NYC just said it will stop all new natural gas hookups. (The CAC panel generally support such policies but believe they should be voluntary on local governments.)

NY must fix the Green Jobs Green New York program on residential energy retrofits. The Cuomo administration, the utilities and the financial industry have consistently undercut the implementation of the Pay on Your Bill approach mandated by the state legislature.

Implementation of the Green Jobs Green NY program has been a major disappointment. On Oct. 9, 2009, Governor David Paterson signed the legislation which sought to provide energy efficiency repairs and retrofits to homes throughout the state, while saving customers money through future energy savings. Supporters projected that the bill would ‘green’ one million homes throughout the state and create 14,000 new jobs. Six years after its passage, the legislation’s results were far short of those goals. 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 2015, according to state officials. Despite the landmark use of on-bill financing by utilities, access to credit remains a major barrier. In addition, tenants have been reluctant to “incur debt” to enable energy upgrades to their apartment. [20] (see

At an Assembly hearing on climate before the CLCPA was passed, Walter Hang of Toxics Targeting stated “According to the U.S. Energy Department, homes can reduce their energy consumption by up to 30 percent by implementing simple energy efficiency methods such as switching to light emitting diode bulbs, installing programmable thermostats and weatherizing windows and doors. Deep energy efficient retrofits and install insulation and seal homes from drafts can achieve higher energy efficiency”. Hang recommended that a significant portion of CEF (Clean Energy Funds) funds be allocated an annual basis to launch a statewide deep retrofit insulation, weatherization and efficiency program.”[21]

Renewable Heat Now

Below are some proposals advanced by Sane Energy and the Renewable Heat Now campaign that GELF supports.

“#GasSunset” New York’s residents, housing developers, HVAC installers and utilities need clear signals on how and when it will be necessary to reduce GHG emissions. It is unacceptable that houses are still being built with fossil gas systems that will spew greenhouse gas emissions for the next 20 to 30 years. Further, continued oil to gas conversions must not be promoted or supported using ratepayer monies. We will not meet our climate goals as long as this continues. Builders do not seem aware that fossil fuel heating is becoming obsolete. A strong signal needs to be sent to them, and a sunset date for fossil fuel heating and cooling is a must.

According to the Sierra Club, there are  41 municipalities nationwide that have adopted building codes to reduce their reliance on gas. NYS should require every new building construction project to install 100% fossil-fuel-free heating and hot water equipment as soon as possible—certainly no later than the next code revision in 2023. Without clear target dates we will continue to see “business as usual.”

“#FollowCLCPA” GHG standards

It is critical to have greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data conform with the CLCPA. “Natural” gas is mostly methane. Methane over a 20-year time frame has a global warming potential 86 times that of CO2. We must consider all the sources of methane: production, transmission, storage, distribution and use of fossil fuels. This data will reveal the true global warming impact and the importance of adopting cleaner alternatives to burning fossil fuels. This is important to be able to determine if the measures we take will lead us to achieve the greenhouse gas emission requirements. We need to know the true climate impacts of our options in order to set valid goals.

“#HeatPumpsNotPipelines We need to know the number of buildings that need to be converted to heat pumps each year, otherwise we will not know if we will reach the CLCPA targets.

Direct utilities to reallocate funds used for expanding gas infrastructure and instead to invest them in renewable heating infrastructure.

“#FairPlayForHeatPumps” Let heat pumps be competitive. It is wrong to continue ratepayer and taxpayer-funded fossil fuel subsidies while we face a climate emergency. Until fossil fuel subsidies are eliminated, heat pumps will be hampered in competing with conventional heating and cooling.

Stop NYS Policies that Provide Fossil Fuel Subsidies NYPIRG and NY Youth Climate Leaders have been leading the way on eliminating counterproductive fossil fuel subsidies in the 2021-22 state budget.

End the 100-Foot Subsidy for Gas This forces ratepayers to pay for free gas pipes for new gas customers. As more ratepayers switch to renewable heating, fewer will be left to pay for the infrastructure that will become stranded assets.

Consider a 100-Foot Subsidy for District Loop Systems This will provide a similar, but thermal, service that will incentivize households, which might otherwise not be able to afford the upfront cost of an individual loop, to convert to a geothermal heat pump.

Recognize the Benefits of Beneficial Electrification The current electricity rate structure overcharges customers who install geothermal heat pumps because they help reduce peak demand. Explore a reduced electricity rate for LMI customers who install heat pumps.

Address Upfront Costs The biggest obstacle to widespread heat pump adoption is the initial cost. The Climate Action Council needs to find ways to provide low interest, long-term financing for carbon-free heating systems that are affordable for LMI New Yorkers. It is already in place for clean water infrastructure improvements and a similar model needs to be in place for NY’s heating sector decarbonization.

“#PlugBeneficialElectrification” Design and implement an outreach, education and client support strategy to support beneficial electrification measure adoption and to anticipate and counter opposition.

Build on and improve existing programs from NYSERDA for LMI customers. The utilities, the industry, the clean heating and cooling communities and the new clean energy hubs to provide coordinated, trusted, efficient and accessible education and support. A coordinated approach across the players is essential, and messaging and design should be guided by community contractors who are most familiar with their respective audiences.

Commercial and Industrial customers need competent advice Create an effective network of commercial energy advisors with the qualifications to work directly with developers, building owners, architects and engineers to help move the sector toward clean heating and cooling.

“#HeatPumpJobs” Create and implement a comprehensive, interagency and scalable workforce development pipeline program for education, training and retraining of the beneficial electrification workforce.

Create a clear and recognized clean heating and cooling career pathway in New York Link K-12, BOCES, Community College, union training and university programs so that young people can learn about this field in the early grades and have a clear understanding of how to go into these trades. An interagency task force including SED, SUNY, DOL, NYSERDA, Unions, Industry, EJ organizations and other stakeholders should be established to design, establish and guide this work, which should also be extended to other clean energy careers.

Train the implementers Develop innovation and training centers throughout the state to provide ongoing and accessible training in heat pump installation and building design for energy efficiency focused on providing services for the entire building industry, including but not limited to HVAC contractors, general contractors, plumbers, home performance contractors, architects, and engineers.

Seek and solicit allied industry/trade organizations acceptance and innovative ideas/efforts This collaboration will benefit the accelerated movement away from fossil fuels and can assist with the acceleration.

We also endorse the following proposals by NY Renews.

FUND ALL MANDATES! Regulations like building codes and appliance standards can drive energy conservation, emission reductions, and the demise of fossil fuel industries and technologies. Unfunded mandates, however, can threaten economically vulnerable poor and working-class households and disadvantaged communities. We must demand grants, incentives, and affordable inclusive financing at scale for all New Yorkers. Early and aggressive investments will ensure no one gets stranded on dirty and increasingly expensive fossil fuel distribution systems.

END STRUCTURAL RACISM IN THE HOUSING MARKET! Disinvestment and structural racism in the housing market has left far too many homes and commercial buildings in frontline communities unsafe, unhealthy, and in disrepair. An effective energy efficiency and decarbonization strategy must include direct investment in energy efficiency retrofit and electrification readiness upgrades to buildings located in disadvantaged communities and occupied by poor and working class, and BIPOC residents.

INVEST IN GREEN JOBSA business as usual approach to procurement, contracting, and employment is unacceptable. To deliver on the promise of the CLCPA, the state must invest in the growth of green jobs training and community-to-career pathways for workers who have historically faced barriers to employment – returning citizens, women, immigrants/refugees, and BIPOC communities.

SUPPORT AND PRIORITIZE MWBEs! The state must also commit to supporting the growth of Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) and cooperatives by ensuring access to contracting and procurement opportunities in the energy efficiency and building decarbonization sector.

PRIORITIZE BOTTOM UP SOLUTIONS! Top-down and market-based energy efficiency and building decarbonization “solutions” could transform frontline communities into zones of financial extraction and profiteering by private corporations and contractors. We must demand support for bottom-up solutions that position community-based organizations as innovators and demand drivers for energy efficiency services and clean heating and cooling technologies.


GELF supports a transportation policy that emphasizes the use of mass transit and alternatives to the automobile and truck for transport. We call for major public investment in mass transportation, so that such systems are cheap or free to the public and are safe, accessible, and easily understandable to first-time users. We need ecologically sound forms of transportation that minimize pollution and maximize efficiency.

Meeting the requirements of the new climate law, CLCPA, will require a reduction in vehicle miles traveled: that is, people will have to get out of their cars and onto public transport, bicycles (or other micro-mobility devices) or their own two feet.[22]

Massive subsidies to the auto and fossil fuel industries, as well as an unworkable approach by urban planners, maintain the auto’s dominance of our cityscapes. The present-day approach of upgrading streets to accommodate increased traffic generates new traffic because access is now easier, and people will now take jobs further from their homes or purchase homes further from their jobs. Some people shift from public transit to private cars due to the trip time in cars being shorter. As patronage for public transit decreases, public transit loses funding, becomes less viable, and service deteriorates thus encouraging even more people to use their cars.

Mass transit needs a lot of money, far more than state lawmakers agreed to in 2019. One committee convened by the Governor and State Lawmakers put the capital costs just for the MTA at $60 billion.[23] There is also a need to improve and strengthen bus service in the city – and statewide.[24]

NYC has more than two million cars. Transportation in NYC accounted for 29.7% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2015. Gasoline is by far the largest contributor to transportation GHG emissions, with approximately 80 percent of the total, followed by diesel with approximately 16 percent, and electricity (mass transit) with approximately 4 percent.[25] (NYC’s overall carbon footprint is the third highest for a city on the planet.[26])

The transportation sector emissions showed by far the greatest growth in New York State, with emissions increasing by nearly 20% from 1990 to 2015. This is due to an increase in the consumption of gasoline and diesel fuels associated with an increase in vehicle miles traveled in New York State.”[27]

As will all climate initiatives, any program to address transportation must be done in a way that centers environmental justice, racial justice, Indigenous rights, and equity. It’s also necessary that impacts on women and youth are prioritized. It is critical that disadvantaged and frontline communities receive a minimum of 35% of the funding and are centered in the policy strategies as they are most harmed by the impacts of pollution and climate change.

Some solutions being proposed within the CAC are concerning because they either do not help us achieve the goals of the CLCPA in the required timeline, or they do not prioritize disadvantaged communities to the greatest extent possible. These false solutions are listed below, and I would urge this panel not to recommend these policies:

Reduce the use of cars and other vehicles

Strategies to reduce the demand for travel need to be drawn up at all levels of government. These would aim to stimulate and support the development of new and more locally provided products and services to provide a basis for modal shifts, including those that remove the need for travel through the use of telecommunications. They would also include measures to generate demand for these through pragmatic steps to directly influence behavior, including education, training and support (mobility education).

Transport planning should follow a prioritization of modes of transport to produce a sustainable transport system, namely”

Walking and disabled access.


Public transport (trains, light rail/trams, buses and ferries) and rail and water-born freight.

Light goods vehicles, taxis and low powered motor cycles.

Private motorized transport (cars & high-powered motor cycles).

Heavy goods vehicles.


The planning of all transport infrastructure should be done at the most local appropriate level and in a fully democratic manner, involving full and open public consultation.

To reduce the need to travel, transport planning must aim to create mixed-use developments (e.g. shopping with housing and small business premises, etc.). The development and retention of local facilities must be supported through planning and financial measures.

NY should require the use of life cycle assessment and the Best Practicable Environmental Option approach for appraisal of transport infrastructure developments. These should be linked to sustainable development policies

Making Walkable Neighborhoods

Perhaps the best way to reduce emissions from transportation is to focus on solutions that do not require the use of an automobile – such as creating walkable neighborhoods. In Manhattan, only 22% of residents even own a car because it is easier to walk, use transit, or bike. NY needs to build tens of thousands of new apartments and housing units designed to create walkable neighborhoods.

Other steps include:

  1. Create and enforce pedestrian-first policies.
    2; Target vehicular speeds to support safe and comfortable pedestrian travel.
    3: Make communities walkable by improving the first mile/last mile connection. Improving walkability citywide is largely determined by how well walkable spaces interact with other forms of activeor sustainable transportation.

Investing in walkable cities, whether through allocating funds to repaint pedestrian walkways or building affordable housing close to downtowns, also attracts diverse populations and creates jobs. According to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, 63 percent of millennials and 42 percent of boomers would like to live in a place where they don’t need a car. And according to the National Association of Realtors, 62 percent of millennials prefer to live in a walkable community where a car is optional. If cities seem less automobile-dependent, chances are they are more appealing to a range of ages.

Walking also costs the city very little, unlike cars and even public transit.

People also tend to spend more money in walkable cities, stimulating the local economy. A 2008 report of San Francisco’s downtown found that public transit users and walkers spent less on each trip downtown but made more frequent trips, which meant they spent more money overall. Those in cars spent more money on one trip but frequented downtown less.

One also needs to address suburban / rural sprawl as well as promote bicycles.

People also tend to spend more money in walkable cities, stimulating the local economy. A 2008 report of San Francisco’s downtown found that public transit users and walkers spent less on each trip downtown but made more frequent trips, which meant they spent more money overall. Those in cars spent more money on one trip but frequented downtown less.

The National Association of City Transportation (NACTO) notes that in years past, the national city planning standard addressed people walking as an afterthought, which is why NACTO builds design guides to direct cities on how to become more pedestrian-friendly.

Promote Pedestrians and Bicyclists

Make streets, neighborhoods and commercial districts more pedestrian friendly.

Enact the 3’ Safe Passing Law to establish that a motorist must give bicyclists three feet of space between the bicycle and a vehicle when overtaking a bicyclist on the road.

Require AMTRAK and other train services in NYS to allow roll-on bikes.

Increase the greenery of streets.

Utilize traffic-calming methods, where the design of streets promotes safe speeds and safe interaction with pedestrians. Create auto-free zones.

Develop extensive networks of bikeways, bicycle lanes and paths. Include bike racks on all public transit.

Maintain free community bicycle fleets and provide necessary support for cyclists.

Adopt Vision Zero statewide. Vision Zero is the vision of a future without any traffic fatalities or severe injuries, while continuing to increase safe, healthy and equitable human-powered transportation. Core principles include: Traffic deaths and severe injuries are preventable; Human life and health are prioritized within all aspects of transportation systems; Acknowledgment that human error is inevitable, and transportation systems should be forgiving; Safety work should focus on systems-level changes above influencing individual behavior; and Speed is recognized and prioritized as the fundamental in crash severity.

Dramatically increase funding for Mass Transit statewide

Interstate and Intrastate Rail systems would help decarbonize long-distance travel, including reducing the use of airplanes. We need to expand mass transit, including light rail and buses, including upstate.

Rebuild MTA Infrastructure: The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) needs to invest at least $100 billion over the next decade in order to repair and upgrade tracks, stations, signals, and cars and expand transit services to underserved areas in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island.

Free or Reduced Fares to encourage the use of mass transit.

Electrify Transportation: Build an electrified rail and road transportation system across the state that includes recharging stations for electric vehicles, convenient and affordable intra-urban mass transit, inter-urban rail for intermediate distances, and high-speed rail for long distances.

Fund Public Transportation in New York City and throughout the state with:

  • Congestion Pricing
  • For-Hire Vehicle Trip Surchargeson taxis, Lyft, Uber, etc.
  • Progressive Carbon Taxthat uses part of the revenues to protect low- and middle-income households and part for investments in public transportation and clean energy
  • New York City Land Value Tax:Recapture for the city treasury the unearned increase in land values and rents due to social investments in transportation, infrastructure, housing, and business development.
  • Tax the Rich:More progressive income taxation
  • Stock Transfer Tax:Stop rebating 100% of revenues to stock traders.
  • Public Bank:Low-cost loans from a state-owned public bank

Other mass transit recommendations include:

Redirect resources that currently go to enhancing auto capacity into expanding human-scale transit options.

Encourage employer subsidies of transit commuter tickets for employees, funded by government Congestion Management grants.

Use existing auto infrastructure for transit expansion where possible. Light rail could be established in expressway medians through metropolitan high-density corridors.

Include land use decisions in transportation issues, with consideration of the need for mass transit to have a market and be viable, and with attention paid to cross commuting the practice of people commuting to a place where they could and should live.

Make transit passes tax-deductible to encourage workers and businesses to use public transport and make employee parking a taxable benefit.

Transfer ownership and operation of all intercity railroad trackage currently under control of freight railroads to responsible and adequately funded public agencies, as is done with highways, to provide for efficiency and safety of all rail traffic.

Clean Cars by 2025 – Increase EV Charging Stations

The Off-Fossil Fuels Act / 100% Renewables by 2030 Act. The bill included a provision that all new vehicles in the State be carbon free by 2025, similar to Norway. Senator Schumer’s national clean car initiative seeks to have all new cars carbon free by 2030. The state should adopt policies as least as ambitious as Sen. Schumer. A bill (S2758 / A4302) requiring all cars sold in New York to be electric by 2035 (other vehicles 2045) passed both houses and now heads to the Governor for his signature.

We support increasing financial subsidies to purchase electric vehicles and to greatly expand EV charging stations.

Cuomo announced a 10,000 EV charging stations goal in 2018 — his administration aiming to “make ownership of gasoline-powered vehicles obsolete.” The state appears to be lagging in the effort. Just getting to Cuomo’s goal will require construction to proceed over the next 14 months at a rate more than double the past year. And even if that threshold is met, clean energy boosters say the state needs to be more ambitious to cut transportation emissions to the level required under the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

A few years ago, New York had fewer than 2,000 separate public charging locations — a quarter of the roughly 8,000 traditional gas stations that dot the state, according to federal and state data. The state is behind in the rollout of fast chargers at service areas on the Thruway, a project that has languished for years and wasn’t complete by the 2020 target

New York remains far short of its 2025 goal to get 850,000 zero emission vehicles on the road as part of a multi-state agreement signed in 2013. There were about 56,000 of the vehicles registered in New York state as of October 2020, according to state data.

Factors such as cost parity with traditional fossil fuel vehicles, the number and availability of different models including SUVs or crossovers, and federal and state incentives are all likely to play a big role in the rate of adoption.

Other car-related recommendations:

Place a moratorium on highway widening, appropriating funds instead for mass transit and facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Mandate HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes on freeways, and lower tolls for carpools.

Discourage unnecessary auto use by eliminating free parking in non-residential areas well served by mass transit and establish preferential parking rates for HOV.

Regularly increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to levels that truly challenge automakers to improve the state of the art, using the fuel economy performance of vehicles worldwide for reference. Eliminate the distinction between cars and light trucks, the footprint loophole, the E85 loophole and the 8500-pound exemption. Eliminate the perverse incentives for alternative fuels that increase the nation’s petroleum consumption. Enact a Fee & Dividend system on the carbon content of gasoline, Diesel fuel and E85.

Enact a fuel-economy-based sales tax that creates a significant incentive for people to select more efficient vehicles, and for automakers to make them available in the United States.

Lead by example, using government procurement to put more high-efficiency and alternative-fuel vehicles into service.

Electrify truck stops, freight terminals and loading docks. Enact and enforce anti-idling regulations. Idling engines consume nearly a billion gallons of gasoline and Diesel fuel and emit ten million tons of carbon dioxide annually (2007 data).

Encourage carpooling programs, telecommuting, and other creative solutions to reduce commuter traffic congestion.

Include Transportation in a comprehensive carbon tax, not a limited cap and trade program (TCI)

We are not supportive of the approach by the Transportation and Climate Initiative to introduce a limited carbon pricing to transportation, supporting instead the economy wide approach of a carbon tax. We especially oppose the possibility of expanding RGGI to transportation, giving its poor track record with electricity production and emission reductions. Cap and trade programs 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. The controversy of cap and trade for electricity in California was perhaps the major factor in blocking Mary Nichols from being selected by President Biden as EPA Administrator.

Green Transit Green Jobs

The ElectrifyNY coalition has introduced the Green Transit Green Jobs  proposal. One bill requires all new transit bus purchases starting in 2029 to be of zero-emission buses (ZEB). The second would create contracting incentives for public transit agencies to procure these buses from manufacturers that utilize labor from high-need communities within New York State and create good green jobs.

This legislation will help decrease air pollution and protect New Yorkers’ health, while also helping to achieve the GHG emissions reduction goals in the CLCPA (which is too slow in its timetable). By transitioning all the buses in New York to zero-emissions electric vehicles, transit agencies would eliminate 900,000 metric tons of CO2 and save approximately $870 million in health costs.

The value of zero-emission buses in combating climate change is enormous. According to Bloomberg researchers, approximately “270,000 barrels a day of diesel demand will have been displaced by electric buses.” Experts estimate that the total greenhouse gas savings of converting all buses at 900,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which is the same as removing over 190,000 passenger vehicles (or 2.2 billion miles driven) from New York’s roads for one year.

The “Green Transit” component would task the New York State Department of Transportation with facilitating this conversion. NYSDOT would be explicitly tasked with considering ZEB purchasing in the disbursement of their five-year capital plans and would also help coordinate non-MTA transit agencies on purchasing, installation, and sharing of services.

The timeline included in the bill mirrors a commitment that the MTA has already made to purchase only electric buses starting in 2029. Other transit agencies, including the Capital District Transportation Authority and Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority, have already launched pilot initiatives or are planning to do so shortly. Governor Andrew Cuomo echoed similar principles in his 2020 State of the State address, calling for five of the largest upstate and suburban transit systems (CDTA, RGRTA, NFTA – Buffalo, Suffolk County, and Westchester County) to also take steps to shift to zero-emission bus fleets.

There are approximately 8,500 transit buses in New York State, most of which (5,800) are controlled by the MTA. There are at least twelve transit systems across New York State that have a minimum of 25 buses, and many more with fewer than that.

Green Transit Green Jobs also means more local, good-paying jobs because it will encourage electric bus manufacturing in New York and will contribute to the growth of a green economy that no longer exacerbates the risk to public health and our climate. There are 8,500 transit buses in operation throughout the state and transitioning all of them to electric vehicles will greatly improve the health, environment, and economy of the entire state and its people.





[5] The Case Against Carbon Capture: False Claims and New Pollution | Food & Water Watch (









[14] A National Assessment of Demand Response Potential, FERC, page 81, table A-2

[15], page 17. The equivalent term, Price Response Demand, is used here.






[21], p. 114




[25], table 1, p. 14; also p. 24


[27] – page S8