Call Cuomo and Legislative Leaders to Demand Strong Climate Action
We need calls and emails to the Governor and legislative leaders urging them to pass the strongest climate bill possible before the session ends in late June.
General message: We need NY to enact the strongest climate change agenda possible. We should move to 100% clean renewable energy for all sources including transportation and buildings as fast as possible, with a target date of 2030. We need to halt new fossil fuel projects. We need to support a Just Transition and commit 40% of climate funds to disadvantaged communities. We need enforceable detailed climate plans at the state and local levels, with two-year benchmarks and annual review and updates. We need to give citizens the right to sue to enforce the climate plans.
Other issues that could be addressed are a halt to nukes, a state carbon tax and public ownership of the energy system.
Governor Cuomo: 518 474-8390, press 1; contact form
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie: 518-455-3791; Speaker@nyassembly.gov
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, (518) 455-2585; email@example.com
Assembly Environmental Chair Steve Engelbright – 518-455-4804; EngleS@nyassembly.gov
Senate Environmental Chair Todd Kaminsky – 518-455-3401; firstname.lastname@example.org
Join the campaign for the OFF Act for a lobby day at the State Capitol on Tuesday May 21 and testify at / attend the Assembly hearing on climate change in NYC on May 17. Please also submit letters to the editor in support of climate action.
Climate change bills
Our goal is to combine the strongest provisions from the various climate bills into the final deal.
The Governor’s Climate Leadership Act has some strong proposals on renewable electricity (e.g., 70% renewables by 2030) with mandates for individual utilities. Legislative leaders, especially the Assembly, are pushing for the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA – A3876 /S2992), which has particularly strong measures on environmental justice and labor. The OFF Act (Off Fossil Fuels / 100% Renewables by 2030, A3565 /S5526) has the fastest timelines with a mandate of 100% renewable energy, net zero greenhouse emissions by 2030; a halt to new fossil fuel projects; the strongest Just Transition requirements, and strong enforceable plans at the state and local levels.
The Freedom from Fossil Fuels Act (S5200 / A7479) by Senator Metzger also halts new fossil fuel projects while setting a fast goal for renewables for electricity (2030 if possible, 2040 if not) and requiring regional climate plans; it also expressly gives citizens the right to sue to enforce the law. The Green New Deal (S2878b / A5344a) by Sanders and Ortiz calls for a plan for 100% clean energy by 2030 and may be amended to also call for a halt to new fossil fuel projects. It also implements an economic bill of rights including a guaranteed living wage job and universal health care. There is also a fossil fuel moratorium proposal by As. Carroll (A5399 /S5518)
Update from Cuomo (Politico May 9)
“Cuomo’s Green New Deal wasn’t included in the state budget but lawmakers and others are continuing to push significant climate action this session. Dale Bryk, Cuomo’s Deputy Secretary for Energy and the Environment, outlined the major sticking points, including the administration’s preference for “carbon neutrality versus zero emissions.” That’s “not because we want to plan trees in Indonesia and not reduce air pollution in over-polluted communities … it’s more to have flexibility because we want to be able to do sustainable biofuels… carbon capture and storage,” she said. Another difference is around targets and timetables. The Climate and Community Protection Act, which many Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups support, calls for zero emissions by 2050. Cuomo wants more analysis of when it’s feasible and economic to achieve that goal. Bryk also indicated concerns about the hard 40 percent allocation of clean energy funds under the CCPA to environmental justice communities. While investing in those areas is important, she said it’s not about specific spending. “It’s results. Let’s make sure our programs are the best and really deliver that quality of life,” Bryk said.”
A Green NYS Legislative Climate Action Plan for 2019
Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity. It threatens the quality of life for future generations, including the continued existence of human and other species. The United Nations’ IPCC warns that the world has 12 years left for unprecedented coordinated action globally to slash greenhouse gas emissions and to move to clean, renewable energy. NYS formally estimates that temperature rise will be up to 10 degrees F by 2080, which would be catastrophic. (https://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/94702.html)
- New York should declare a climate emergency as a public health and safety crisis, empowering government to take needed action, including speeding up the siting of renewable energy projects. The declaration will include a commitment to reach zero carbon emissions within as short a time frame as possible.
- Governor Cuomo has set a goal that 70% of the state’s electricity should be produced by renewable energy by 2030, up from the current estimate of around 30%, mainly hydro. 100% of the state’s electricity would be carbon free by 2040. We should amend these goals, to be enacted into law, to be at least 70% of all energy from all sources be clean renewable energy by 2030 and 100% by 2035. Such goals would also be mandated for all utilities providing energy in NYS. These goals will include buildings, transportation, energy efficiency and regenerative agriculture.
GELF continues to support enactment of the OFF Act (A3565 / S5526) with its goal of 100% clean renewable energy by 2030 and an immediate halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure.
- An immediate halt to all new fossil fuel infrastructure. (OFF Act; Freedom from Fossil Fuel, S5200 / A7479)
4 Create a Green New Deal (S2878b / A5344-A) task force to establish a plan to go to 100% clean energy by 2030 and provide for economic justice including a guaranteed living wage job, single payer health care, affordable housing, and free quality education for all including college. GELF supports increased public / community ownership and democratic control of our energy system.
- Ensure that state’s climate action includes Environmental Justice and a Just Transition with significant dedicated funding and an inclusive role for such constituencies.
- Require NYSERDA to immediately release the study on how fast NY can move to 100% clean energy that Governor Cuomo directed NYSERDA to do 2 years ago.
- Climate plans should be required by the state, county governments and municipalities of more than 50,000. All actions of government agencies shall be required to be consistent with such plans. Such plans shall be legally enforceable by New York residents and community groups. The plans shall have two-year benchmarks for action and shall be reviewable and updated by the relevant legislative body annually.
- The state shall divest its public pension funds from fossil fuels (A1536 / S2126).
- The state shall enact a carbon tax (A39/ S3608 or S3616) to hold polluters accountable for the damage they cause.
- The state shall set a goal to have all new vehicles to be zero emissions by 2025 and shall work with California and other states to adopt such goals nationwide. It shall amend its building codes to require all new buildings by 2022 to be carbon free.
There are numerous details that are being debated. The climate movement is largely publicly absent in resolving those details. This has not been a transparent process – the opposite to the approach needed to protect the future of life on the planet. And the fossil fuel industry, utility companies and the various energy-related companies are all working hard to push their own initiatives, which in many cases are weaker than the various climate bills.
The Governor, the CCPA, and legislative leaders are not calling for a halt to new fossil fuel projects, which is critical to the ramping down of greenhouse gas emissions. Groups also want to strengthen the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions, starting with methane leakages.
Little is being said about how to provide the funds to pay for all of this, which will cost hundreds of billions of dollars in investments (though much of it could be diverted from existing energy expenditures). The various state carbon tax bills are not being considered. The Governor and lawmakers have in general expressed their opposition to increased taxes on the wealthy.
Most of the detailed proposals from the Governor have focused on electricity and energy efficiency (though these need to be codified), with few details on buildings and transportation. However, as some advocates such as Tony Ingraffea have noted, “eliminating emissions from other sectors (transportation, heating, and industry) will require the electrification of those end-user systems, eventually making electricity the largest piece of our energy portfolio”.
The details would largely be left to a climate plan, which is at the center of the various climate bills (though the CCPA calls for a scoping document). Cuomo’s updated goals for offshore wind, solar, etc. are not set in law, not even in regulation through the PSC. Cuomo has said he wants to do much of his climate plan through the update of the state energy master plan (which as usual is off to a late start).
NY is not formally participating in the regional effort with other states to develop climate policies on transportation, which has drawn the ire of the national environmental groups among others.
Cuomo is opposed to setting a firm date for 100% “clean energy” for all sectors. Instead he is continuing to push for the existing goal of an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. This is a major point of disagreement, as noted above. Cuomo is calling for more “study. However, GELF and others more than 2 years got Cuomo to direct NYSERDA to do a study as to the timeline to get to 100% clean energy in all sectors. NYSERDA is refusing to release the draft; and instead of finishing it, they plan to roll it out in parts as they update the State Energy Master Plan.
The climate community is divided over whether to allow for the concept of “net zero carbon emissions.” Some feel that creates too many loopholes and may shift the burden onto poor countries and communities. Others however want to promote strategies such as regenerative agriculture to put carbon back into the soil and to deal with the reality that some industrial processes require temperatures not yet achievable with renewables.
As noted above, Cuomo wants to include carbon capture and storage as well as biomass, all of which have problems.
A major issue largely being ignored in the discussions is the role of nuclear power which presently provides around 20% of the state’s electricity. The OFF Act calls for the phase out of nukes by 2030. Cuomo’s goal for 2040 for 100% of the state’s electricity to be “carbon-free” incorporates nuclear.
A critical part of the CCPA is its calls for 40% of “certain” climate funds to go to disadvantaged communities. The definition of funds in the bill however is more narrow than most people realize. A major negotiating point will be how much funds to allocate and how to spend it (e.g., what type of projects would qualify). Cuomo also talks about other ways to implement policies to help disadvantaged communities apart from funding.
There also needs to be ways to ensure effective participation by EJ, low-income, labor and climate groups in developing and implementing that state’s climate agenda. Representation on a “state climate council” is also being debated. Most of the legislative bills have assumed it would be part of DEC; others like the Governor want NYSERDA to have a major role (e.g., be co-chair)
The call for labor standards – prevailing wages – is also narrower in the CCPA than most people realize. Yet it is still drawing the opposition of the solar industry which claims it will drive up costs 25% or so. As provided for in the CCPA, Cuomo has extended prevailing wage to large-scale renewable projects funded by the state.
The details of a Just Transition also have to be resolved. The OFF Act guarantees jobs and wages to displaced workers and provides funding to communities dependent on tax payments from the fossil fuel and nuclear industry.
Another issue largely ignored is the need for public / community ownership and democratic control of energy systems. A proposal last year to have the NY Power Authority build and own renewables was defeated as least partially due to opposition from the renewable energy systems. NYPA was given permission in this year’s budget to finance such systems and to supply electricity to more systems such as CCAs.
The agriculture sector needs a far more central role in climate action than is presently being discussed.