Cuomo Can Bypass Trump’s Anti-Climate Agenda Now, Lawmakers & Activists Say

With President-elect Trump’s inauguration only days away, individual states are preparing to lead the way on responding to climate change – how to prepare for it, and how to reduce its worst effects by cutting carbon emissions.

New York State has already shown that it is prepared to prioritize human health over fossil fuel extraction with its refusal in 2014 to permit high-volume fracking. Now Governor Cuomo is being urged to support what advocates say is the “most ambitious climate legislation in the country” – the Climate and Community Protection Act.

Details on the Bill

The bill, which has already passed the New York State Assembly, has four key objectives:

• Commit New York State to the use of 100% renewable energy by 2050, and 50% by 2030;
• Dedicate 40% or more of climate investments to environmental justice and low income communities;
• Create good local jobs in clean energy, and protections for workers impacted by the transition away from fossil fuels; and
• Use funding to “accelerate a worker and community-centered transition to a sustainable economy.”

Read the text of the legislation here.

“New Yorkers have witnessed firsthand the devastating loss of life, homes and livelihoods caused by Superstorm Sandy and tropical storms Irene and Lee,” said Assemblymember Steve Englebright after the bill passed the Assembly in June. Englebright chairs the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation committee and is the bill’s lead sponsor.

“These extreme weather events are related to climate change…storms, the migration of lobsters to cooler waters, new pests, and threats to public health all point to the undeniable fact that climate change is happening now, not in some distant future,” he continued.

“This legislation includes provisions to both minimize the potential impacts of climate change and address the impacts that cannot be mitigated. It will also advance environmental justice and provide new well-paying jobs in the field of clean energy,” Englebright concluded.

The Climate & Community Protection Act is also being pushed by NY Renews, which describes itself as a multi-sector, statewide coalition of 100 environmental, social, labor and economic justice organizations.

The group’s stated mission is to “move New York State’s economy off of fossil fuels and foster a just transition to renewable energy.”

Lawmakers and activists are urging Governor Cuomo to include the legislation in his 2017 budget. In the State Senate, a bipartisan majority reportedly supports the bill.

New Yorkers can contact the Governor’s office at (518) 474-8390, or via his webform, to share their thoughts.

The National Context

New York State has already set the goal of an 80 percent cut in fossil fuel emissions by 2050 (relative to 1990 levels), as has New York City. It is unclear if the incoming Trump administration will have any objectives related to climate change.

Trump has stated publicly that there is no scientific consensus on climate change, and that the U.S. should exit the Paris Climate Accords. He has appointed a series of fossil fuel advocates to high-level cabinet posts, including Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil as the new U.S. Secretary of State; former Texas governor Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy; and Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

One of the central arguments used to delay action on climate change is that cutting back on fossil fuel use and extraction will harm the U.S. economy and cause job loss.

NY Renews, which arose from organizing around the 2014 People’s Climate March, argues that New York State will be able to address climate change and socio-economic inequality with the same set of policies.

The coalition says that an economy centered around renewable energy has the potential to revitalize many local communities, and create thousands of new jobs, with the added benefit that jobs in solar, wind and hydro are safer for workers than jobs in the fossil fuel industry.

“This legislation offers tremendous opportunities to preserve and expand our workforce,” said Assemblymember Michele Titus, chair of the State Assembly’s Labor committee. “As our state begins to rely more on renewable energy, the demand for quality skilled jobs will also increase, offering hardworking New York families the job security they need and deserve.”

In Session’s Final Hours, State Lawmakers Push For More Environmental Protections

There are other issues at stake in Albany this week besides New York City’s rent laws and tax credits for developers. Members of the State Caucus of Environmental Legislators are calling for the passage of six “key” bills before the end of the regular legislative session.

The Environmental Caucus, chaired by Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh of Manhattan, is made up of state senators and assembly members, and describes itself as “nonpartisan.” Each of the bills backed by members of the Caucus has both Republican and Democratic sponsors, and most have advanced in one or both houses.

The Caucus provided the following summaries of bills that they have targeted for passage. Find out more info about these and other bills by checking the State Senate and Assembly websites.

Community Solar Program

(Paulin/Griffo, A07964/S5841 – In Assembly Energy Committee, in Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee)

This bill would create a pilot program allowing electric corporations to offer subscriptions for solar power.

Many New Yorkers are interested in improving the environment and protecting electric system reliability through the use of solar energy, but up-front costs and space limitations prevent many from owning or leasing their own solar energy systems.

Child Safe Products Act

(Englebright/Boyle, A05612/S4102 – Passed Assembly, in Senate Environmental Conservation Committee)

This bill would require the state Department of Environmental Conservation to publish a list of chemicals found in items meant for children that pose a risk to human health. Manufacturers of children’s products would be required to notify retailers when the merchandise they are selling contains one of the listed chemicals.

Sale of children’s products that contain the most harmful chemicals would be banned.

Microbead-Free Waters Act

(Schimel/O’Mara, A05896/S3932 – Passed Assembly, in Senate Environmental Conservation Committee)

This bill would ban the sale or distribution of personal cosmetic products containing microbeads, which are micro-sized pieces of plastic found in some facial and body wash products that slip through municipal water treatment plants and into bodies of water throughout the state.

The beads enter the food chain where they can be mistaken for food by fish and they are capable of absorbing toxins that pose a serious threat to human health and wildlife.

Hazardous Waste Loophole Bill

(Englebright/Avella A06859/S0884 – On Assembly floor, in Senate Environmental Conservation Committee)

This bill would require a comprehensive analysis of oil and gas drilling waste to determine whether its chemical content and characteristics make it hazardous. Such waste would be properly tracked and disposed of only at facilities equipped to safely handle it.

More than 500,000 tons of fracking waste have been transported from Pennsylvania to New York landfills. This waste is often hazardous- it can be toxic and flammable, and contain chemicals, metals, benzene, and other dangerous substances. New York State environmental regulations currently exempt oil and gas drilling waste from being treated as hazardous waste.

Financial Liability for Crude Oil Storage

(Fahy/Avella, A07625/S05751A – In Assembly Codes Committee, in Senate Environmental Conservation Committee)

This bill would require that companies have financial security to meet all responsibilities for cleanup and decontamination costs associated with the accidental release of crude oil.

The storage of crude oil has increased dramatically in the U.S. over the past five years. Rail transport of crude oil has increased from over 9,000 carloads in 2008 to over 400,000 in 2013, expanding the need for safe and secure storage facilities.

(The Cuomo administration is also taking steps to prepare for crude oil spills during transport.)

Paint Stewardship

(Peoples-Stokes A03304 or Stirpe/O’Mara, A06199/S4926 – In Assembly Ways and Means and Environmental Conservation Committees respectively, on Senate floor)

These bills would create a take-back program for leftover paint similar to those established for electronic waste, rechargeable batteries, and thermostats.

About 10 percent of paint purchased in New York goes unused. This results in about 3.1 million gallons of leftover paint each year in New York State which need to be properly disposed of.