On February 12, the New York State Senate held its first ever hearing on climate change. That’s a rather astounding fact, given that climate change has been on the national agenda for at least four decades, and a growing number of people have considered it to be the top threat to humans for at least 10 years.
Through all that time, of course, corporations that benefit from the use of fossil fuels have been pumping millions of dollars into efforts to deny climate change. A report from Greenpeace (www.bit.ly/kochgreenpeace) found that Koch Family Foundations alone “have spent $127,013,955 directly financing 92 groups that have attacked climate change science and policy solutions from 1997–2017.”
That kind of economic firepower has kept state governments from acting as forcefully as they otherwise might have to mitigate the impacts of climate change. But among New York State lawmakers, it seems the momentum now has become forceful enough that a truly significant act may become law.
It’s called the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA) and it has been championed for several years by NY Renews, a statewide coalition of over 160 organizations that are pushing to see the act become law. The CCPA would require New York’s electricity to be powered by 100% renewable sources by 2050, but it goes much further than that. For instance, it addresses the fact that vulnerable communities that have been the most adversely impacted by the use of fossil fuel benefit from the switch to renewables.
In testimony prepared for the senate's public hearing, Katherine Nadeau, deputy director of Catskill Mountainkeeper wrote, “The CCPA establishes a path forward that supports communities suffering the front line impacts of the climate crisis—including rural Catskills communities that rely on a stable climate for farming. As the world’s 12th largest economy, when New York innovates others follow, and this is a critical moment for our state to lead. Catskill Mountainkeeper calls on the Senate, Assembly, and the Governor to bring this vision of climate justice, climate action and good green jobs to life in our state’s laws.”
Critics of CCPA, such as the group Unshackle Upstate, say the act will cost taxpayers too much money. In a letter to Sen. Todd Kaminsky, chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, Michael Kracker, executive director of Unshackle Upstate, wrote, “Much of Upstate’s private sector employment is in manufacturing and agriculture. These energy-intensive industries are already facing tremendous strain, adding increased energy costs [through CCPA] will make New York even less competitive and lead to further outmigration of jobs and population.”
Supporters say CCPA will benefit by creating jobs.
“By passing the Climate and Community Protection Act, New York can take this moment of climate crisis and turn it into a moment of opportunity: to grow our state economy, to create new jobs, to bring relief to the communities most burdened by pollution and to protect those most vulnerable to the risks of climate change. Many states have taken up the mantle and have passed legislation or taken executive action that will move them off fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase investment in clean energy initiatives. This is a defining moment in history, and this bill will re-establish New York as a leader that other states can emulate in the fight against climate change and for a just transition,” wrote Jenny Veloz, a community organizer with the advocacy group New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.
There have been three senate hearings on CCPA thus far.
At the close of the hearings, NY Renews issued a statement on CCPA that said, in part, “Climate experts testified that the goals put forward are necessary and achievable; economists testified that fully implementing the CCPA will generate tens of thousands of good, green jobs; academics and business leaders testified that technology can support the CCPA goals; community leaders testified that a just transition toward a 100% renewable energy economy will lift-up frontline communities.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his State of the State address in January, proposed separate climate legislation called the Climate Leadership Act. Environmental activists say there is enough in common between the two pieces of legislation that they should be reconciled and passed.
The New York State Assembly has passed CCPA three times in the past. With Democrats now firmly in control of the senate, this looks like the year that the legislators will pass significant climate legislation over the objections of the fossil fuel industry.