Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1290 Thu, 20 Jun 2019 13:23:24 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Max & Murphy Podcast: Landmark Climate Legislation in Albany https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8619-max-murphy-podcast-landmark-climate-legislation-in-albany https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8619-max-murphy-podcast-landmark-climate-legislation-in-albany water environment climate protection

Ord Falls Rapids upper Hudson River (photo: NYS DEC)


June 19, 2019 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Landmark Climate Legislation in Albany

priya mulgaonkarAfter the passage of the landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in Albany, Priya Mulgaonkar from the NYC-Environmental Justice Alliance and NY Renews coalition joined the show to discuss the legislation, what it does and does not do, where activists, legislators, and Governor Cuomo found compromise, and what comes next in the fight against climate change and toward a renewable economy.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Landmark Climate Legislation in Albany Wed, 19 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
De Blasio Administration Doesn't Support Council Bill to Create Department of Sustainability & Climate Change https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8611-de-blasio-opposes-council-bill-to-create-department-of-sustainability-climate-change https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8611-de-blasio-opposes-council-bill-to-create-department-of-sustainability-climate-change Costa Constantinides City Council

Council Member Constantinides (photo: Jeff Reed/City Council)


At a recent hearing of the City Council Committee on Environmental Protection, the de Blasio administration expressed its opposition to a bill that would establish a New York City Department of Sustainability and Climate Change.

The bill, Intro. 1399, was introduced in February by Council Member Costa Constantinides, a Queens Democrat and chair of the environmental protection committee.

It would make New York City among the first in the nation to implement a municipal-level agency dedicated to sustainability and climate change, according to Constantinides, and would repeal the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and replace it with the new department, led by a commissioner. This change, going from part of the mayor’s office to a separate department, would likely mean more funding and staff for the responsibilities involved, signifying greater emphasis on the city’s efforts to fight climate change and prepare for its effects.

The commissioner of a Department of Sustainability and Climate Change would be responsible for all matters pertaining to recovery, resiliency, and sustainability, the three main pillars of the work involved as the city takes additional efforts to deal with and fight climate change. The department would develop and coordinate the implementation of policies, programs, and actions to meet the long-term needs of the city.

The proposed bill would also establish a Sustainability Advisory Board with members to include, at a minimum, “representatives from environmental, environmental justice, planning, architecture, engineering, oceanography, coastal protection, construction, critical infrastructure, labor, business, and academic sectors.” Most members would be appointed by the Mayor though it would also include the Speaker of the City Council and the chair of the Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection or their designees.

“It’s time for us to make as a city a larger investment, a deeper investment, and one that when this mayor leaves, and when this City Council leaves, that we’re leaving behind a stronger apparatus, an apparatus that would be in perpetuity in relation to climate change,” Constantinides said during the hearing.

But Mark Chambers, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, testified before the Council committee at the June 12 hearing, which also dealt with two other bills related to reducing methane emissions and leaks in the city, and expressed the de Blasio administration’s opposition to the bill to create a new department.

After highlighting what he deemed the many successful initiatives of the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, and the Mayor’s Office of Climate Policy and Programs, Chambers said a new department is not necessary. Key measures and structures are already in place to ensure that resiliency, sustainability, and recovery are embedded in all New York City agencies and initiatives, Chambers argued.

“Climate change is a cross-cutting issue requiring the specialized expertise of almost every city agency. By giving the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency and the Mayor’s Office of Climate Policy and Programs the power to coordinate agency efforts, we are able to act with the urgency that our residents demand,” Chambers said in his testimony.

“Having said that, while the administration believes that our current climate teams are structured appropriately to meet the challenge, New York City residents need every tool at our disposal in this fight,” he continued. “We share your goals that were put forward in Intro. 1399 to prepare New York City for the impacts of climate change, build a more sustainable city and effectively respond to and recover from climate emergencies. In the coming months, we look forward to discussing strategies for effectively meeting these goals together.”

“I completely agree that doing more is not only advantageous but it’s absolutely necessary. To your original point about the benefits of making sure there is a legacy of this work, making sure that it has to continue, one of the hallmarks of our approach to our climate work is codifying it wherever possible,” Chambers said in his testimony. “So it’s not just working with the Council, it’s also with changing the energy codes, changing the building codes, changing the zoning codes to make sure that it is not subject to just prioritization but it’s become a culture of how we do work internally in the city as well as how the city at large has to redefine our environment.”

Constantinides acknowledged the work that the mayor’s office and the City Council have done to address climate change, its threats and impacts, but said the city needs a single agency to act as a conduit for all resiliency work moving forward. “The men and women of MOS and MOR have done an outstanding job and I want to thank them for that,” he said in his opening statement. “We cannot expect, however, that the several dozen employees in this office have the capacity to manage the sustainability policies for the over 300,000 strong city workforce. We want to give them more help.”

The new department would implement and monitor sustainability initiatives in New York City that have been launched in recent years such as the city’s commitment to an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 and the city’s initiative to install 1 gigawatt of solar capacity citywide by 2030 -- enough to power 250,000 homes -- among many others. Led by Constantinides, the City Council just passed, with de Blasio’s support, sweeping legislation to mandate major carbon emissions reductions and green upgrades at the city’s largest buildings, and the de Blasio administration is moving ahead not only with continued recovery efforts from 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, but new resiliency efforts like the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project.

The proposed bill would also require the commissioner of the Department of Sustainability and Climate Change to present a long-term sustainability plan for the city that would detail interim goals based on planning and sustainability indicators. The city would have to achieve each interim goal by no later than April 22, 2030 and long-term goals no later than April 22, 2050. (April 22 is Earth Day.)

Additionally, the commissioner must prepare and submit to the mayor and the speaker of the City Council an initial report on the city’s performance with respect to the identified sustainability indicators and long-term planning and sustainability efforts no later than April 22, 2020.

At the hearing, Constantinides asked Chambers how a new mayor would affect the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability’s current $17 million budget. “The discretion would still stand with the mayor, whether it’s agency or whether it’s mayoral office,” Chambers responded.

After Chambers and other representatives of the de Blasio administration testified, members of the public appeared before the Council to discuss the bills at hand, raising some questions about the proposed department bill.

“I’m concerned that there do not appear to be any enforcement mechanisms if agencies fail to meet their stated goals,” said Amy Ruther of the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. “I’m also concerned that the members of the Sustainability Advisory Board are all appointed, not elected, and they are not required to seek input from the communities that their decisions will impact the most.”

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by Jewel Antoine, Gotham Gazette

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De Blasio Administration Doesn't Support Council Bill to Create Department of Sustainability & Climate Change Mon, 17 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Cuomo, Legislative Majorities Reach Deal on 'History-Making' Climate Bill https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8610-cuomo-legislature-reach-deal-on-climate-bill https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8610-cuomo-legislature-reach-deal-on-climate-bill Cuomo climate

(photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


The state Senate, Assembly, and Governor Cuomo have reached an agreement on a version of the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA), setting the stage for passage of a bill to significantly reduce New York’s greenhouse gas emissions and transition the state toward a green economy. The bill has previously passed three times in the Democratic-led Assembly, but stalled in the Senate, which was controlled by Republicans for virtually all of the past several decades until this year.

As support for the CCPA mounted in recent weeks, Cuomo had questioned the bill, criticized its supporters as "playing politics" with important policy matters, and explained that key differences on the bill related to timelines and goals around moving to renewable energy, as well as how and where new state environmental funding would be allocated.

Compromise was reached over the weekend as the three parties negotiated a host of issues, and came to a number of agreements, just ahead of the scheduled end of the Albany legislative session on Wednesday.

The agreed-upon bill sets ambitious standards to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, including transitioning to 70 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 85 percent emissions reductions by 2050. Between 35 and 40 percent of the money allocated by the bill’s transition requirements will be invested in communities most vulnerable to climate change. The bill will also create provisions for wage and labor standards for state-supported “green jobs” or those that improve sustainability.

“I believe we have an agreement. I believe it's going to pass,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said on WAMC radio’s The Roundtable on Monday morning. After repeatedly calling the bill both too ambitious and not ambitious enough, and dismissing advocates and elected officials pushing for it as promising too much too quickly because they wanted to score political points, Cuomo indicated at the end of last week that he was hopeful to reach a deal on a climate bill. The governor has also repeatedly cited his own version of a “New York Green New Deal,” with targets for reductions in emissions and transitions to renewables.

“We all knew we had to make some compromise to get a three way agreement, but we’ve done a lot of good stuff in this bill. We’re going to see New York lead the world,” Assemblymember Barbara Lifton said at a Monday press conference hosted by legislators and the broad NY Renews coalition that has been organizing behind the bill. Lifton was an early supporter of the CCPA when it was first passed in 2016.

In recent weeks NY Renews had helped secure majority sponsorship of the CCPA in both houses and rolled out high-profile endorsements of the bill from much of the New York congressional delegation, including both Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

A key area of compromise was reached around the mandated investments in hard-hit and vulnerable communities, areas of the state in need of “environmental justice.”

“Climate change especially heightens the vulnerability of disadvantaged communities, which bear environmental and socioeconomic burdens as well as legacies of racial and ethnic discrimination,” the proposed bill reads. “Actions undertaken by New York state to mitigate greenhouse gas should prioritize the safety and health of disadvantaged communities.”

Cuomo had maintained that his lack of support for the CCPA stemmed from “a question of the distribution of funding.”

“Taxpayers' money is taxpayers' money and if it's taxpayers' money for an environmental purpose, I want to make sure it's going to an environmental purpose,” Cuomo said on WAMC Monday. “This transformation to the new green economy is very expensive and we don't have the luxury of using funding for political purposes.”

Monday’s press conference hosted by NY Renews was celebratory, even if some advocates were slightly disappointed by the compromise and the governor’s claims that legislators backing the CCPA were “playing politics.”

“This is not just a moment for New York but has implications for the world,” climate equity campaign strategist Adrien Salazar said.

Because of its investment in disadvantaged communities, the CCPA is a widely intersectional bill, Senator Jessica Ramos of Queens said at the press conference.

“The CCPA is a huge, history-making piece of legislation, but it can only be the start,” Ramos said.

“While DC sleeps through a crisis, NY steps up,” Long Island Senator Todd Kaminsky tweeted Monday. Kaminsky serves as the chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee and lead sponsor of the bill.

The bill is expected to be voted on in both legislative houses on Wednesday, the final scheduled day of the session.

[READ: Pushed on Climate Legislation, Cuomo Tries to Set Himself Apart]

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by Noah Berman, Gotham Gazette

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Cuomo, Legislative Majorities Reach Deal on 'History-Making' Climate Bill Mon, 17 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
For the Earth's Sake, Enforce Bus Lanes with Cameras https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8605-climate-change-enforce-bus-lanes-with-cameras https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8605-climate-change-enforce-bus-lanes-with-cameras mta usb wifi

(photo: MTA/Patrick Cashin)


Transit policy is climate policy. In New York, transportation emits 30% of the city’s carbon pollution and 34% of the state’s. Since it’s easier to drive less in a city than in suburban and rural areas, much of that is carbon we can easily spare. When shrinking New York’s carbon footprint, transportation emissions are low-hanging fruit.

Granted, the challenge is stiff. Car registrations in the city are rising, up 9% in the past four years. The city’s own government vehicle fleet has grown 19% in size and 25% in miles traveled in the past five years. City agencies hand out an estimated 150,000 placards that privilege public employees to park their personal cars on our streets, encouraging them to drive rather than ride transit.

Car culture is resilient throughout the city. In many communities, a car is a status symbol. Many immigrants, low-income New Yorkers, and New Yorkers of color drive for a living. Taxi drivers protested the recent enactment of congestion pricing. Even progressives in Greenwich Village and Chelsea objected to shuttle bus service for L train riders displaced by construction.

To their credit, our leaders have made major commitments to transit. Governor Cuomo and the Legislature passed congestion pricing to fund major subway upgrades. Both Mayor de Blasio and the MTA made historic promises and have begun to improve bus service. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson successfully championed reduced transit fares for low-income riders in the city budget and made a public pledge to “break the car culture.” Comptroller Scott Stringer has produced game-changing reports on bus service and commuter rail.

But there’s a lot more to do. Shifting decisively away from cars and toward transit will require major policy change. If done right, it will make the city more equitable, enhance the quality of life for millions of New Yorkers, and help save everyone on the planet from out-of-control climate change.

First, it’s crucial that the governor fully implement congestion pricing. Congestion pricing has the potential to directly cut citywide carbon emissions by nearly one million tons annually. By cutting congestion, congestion pricing will also indirectly cut emissions even further by making it easier for families and businesses to locate or stay in the city rather than leave for more carbon-intensive lifestyles in the suburbs or beyond.

Second, congestion pricing revenue must be dedicated to fixing the subway. Despite recent improvements in performance, our subway system remains in crisis. While jobs, population, and tourism numbers hit record highs, our subways have been losing riders for three years running, a longer decline than any since the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. The system desperately needs modern signals, new subway cars, and elevators that will provide access to New Yorkers with disabilities.

Third, the city and the MTA must deliver on the promise of better bus service in every neighborhood. Today, our buses are the slowest in the nation, mired in traffic, and bogged down with countless stops along convoluted routes. Bus ridership has been falling for over a decade, along with average speeds.

The mayor needs to build out a robust bus lane network in tandem with the MTA’s redesign of each borough’s bus map. Truly turning bus service and ridership around will require prioritizing buses and riders along crowded commercial streets. It will also mean changing the spacing of bus stops so that buses can get up to speed and keep moving, delivering faster and more reliable service. Properly spaced bus stops should be upgraded with amenities like shelters, benches, legible maps, and countdown clocks.

These commitments will take years to be achieved. Meanwhile, there’s one transit policy item on this session’s Albany legislative agenda that can make a real difference, really soon. Assemblymember Nily Rozic and Senator Liz Krueger are sponsoring legislation (A6777/S1925) that would reauthorize and expand the bus lane camera program citywide.

Dedicated lanes are essential to quality bus service but are only as good as they are enforced.

To effectively prioritize bus riders on busy city streets, bus lanes must be kept clear of obstructions. The NYPD has only so many officers and myriad other responsibilities. Enforcement cameras nudge drivers to steer clear and leave bus lanes to bus riders.

Curbing climate change requires a broad range of policy tools. Many of them involve better transit. Before the end of the session this month, the state Legislature and governor have an important opportunity to put bus riders and the climate first. They should take it.

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Danny Pearlstein is Policy and Communications Director of the Riders Alliance. On Twitter @RidersNY.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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For the Earth's Sake, Enforce Bus Lanes with Cameras Sun, 16 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Pushed on Climate Legislation, Cuomo Tries to Set Himself Apart https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8588-pushed-on-climate-legislation-cuomo-tries-to-set-himself-apart https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8588-pushed-on-climate-legislation-cuomo-tries-to-set-himself-apart gov cuomo us climate brown

Cuomo, middle, with Jerry Brown, left, & John Kerry (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


Gov. Andrew Cuomo doubled down on his plan to fight climate change and his opposition to the  Climate and Community Protection Act on Friday amid increased pressure to pass the legislation.

The bill ­– which intends to move the state’s economy to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, invest clean energy funds in disadvantaged communities, and provide higher wages for green jobs – has significant support in both houses of the Legislature, but Cuomo has said that it is both too ambitious and doesn’t accomplish enough.

The CCPA “actually doesn’t do, in my opinion, any of the main goals or initiatives,” Cuomo said in an interview with WAMC radio on Friday.

For the second time last week, he strongly downplayed the CCPA as smart policy. A coalition of advocacy groups, unions, and elected officials at various levels of government has been intensifying its push for the bill as the June 19 legislative session end date inches closer. On Tuesday in Albany, an estimated 250 legislators and activists will rally for passage of the CCPA, according to a media advisory from the NY Renews coalition.

Casting aside the CCPA, Cuomo last week touted his own environment and green economy plan as nation-leading, and specifically argued it is stronger than California’s.

“I believe we’ll pass the bill, or we could pass the bill,” Cuomo said on WAMC. “But our climate change agenda is the most aggressive in the country and it has nothing to do with the bill that’s pending.”

The CCPA has majority sponsorship in both Democrat-controlled house of the Legislature, but it’s unclear where it stands for the two majorities as end-of-session negotiations intensify on a range of issues and bills. Earlier last week, Cuomo told WNYC radio that the CCPA and push behind it – which recently added endorsements from most members of Congress who represent New York City as well as both U.S. Senators from New York – is “political,” explaining his belief that its supporters are over-promising the kind of speed at which New York’s entire economy can go green.

“I believe this is the most pressing issue of our time but I don’t want to play politics with it,” Cuomo said on The Brian Lehrer Show on June 4. “I know the politics is we can do everything by tomorrow. I’ve never done that,” Cuomo said.

In January, the governor unveiled his solution, which he’s called the New York Green New Deal, though many activists have taken issue with his branding. CCPA supporters call that legislation, and its stronger socioeconomic justice elements, the true New York Green New Deal, while supporters of the even more aggressive Off Fossil Fuels Act say that’s actually the real deal.

Daniela Lapidous, a coalition organizer for NY Renews, the coalition aggressively pushing the CCPA, said that when it comes to transitions to renewable energy, the CCPA is more aggressive than California’s climate change policies, but not Cuomo’s solution.

Cuomo’s plan aims for New York to have 70 percent of electricity produced by renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent clean electricity by 2040. Comparatively, California’s climate change policy aims for 50 percent of electricity consumed from renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent clean electricity by 2045.

The CCPA would have an economy-wide shift to renewable energy and would put New York at 100 percent renewable by 2050.

California has long been considered a leader on climate change policy in the U.S. In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown announced his plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, at the time the most aggressive benchmark enacted by any state government, according to a California news release.

Since then, California has continued to implement policies working to transform the state’s environment, climate change, and green economy goals. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a sustainability plan on April 29 that aims to create 300,000 green jobs, increase the percentage of zero-emission vehicles in Los Angeles to 80 percent, and source 70 percent of water locally – all by 2035.

Lapidous said a key difference between the CCPA and Cuomo’s proposal is that the governor’s isn’t on the table for this session.

“When Governor Cuomo talks about his proposal, that’s not on the table for the Legislature this year,” Lapidous said. “They’re working on the Climate and Community Protection Act and we want to work with the governor’s office to make the strongest Climate and Community Protection Act possible. But it’s not about two proposals that are competing in the New York Legislature right now. It’s about whether Governor Cuomo is going to help pass the CCPA or block [it].”

Cuomo also falsely said Friday that when he proposed his solution, it was before a Green New Deal was being discussed nationally.

"I proposed a Green New Deal before there was a Green New Deal being discussed nationwide," the governor stated. In fact, the federal Green New Deal was formally proposed as a congressional resolution in early February by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), but it didn’t originate there or then.

It was born out of the global financial crisis in 2006, when some Europeans began calling for climate action as a means to democratize the world economic system, according to the Green Party.

Thomas Friedman further popularized the Green New Deal in a 2007 column for the New York Times, where he wrote that this type of legislation would “turn the tide on climate change and end our oil addiction.”

The roots of the Green New Deal in New York are from the 2010 governor’s race, under the platform of the Green Party candidate, Howie Hawkins.

Additionally, Matthew Miles Goodrich, the New York State Director of the Sunrise Movement, a climate change organization that has worked on developing the federal Green New Deal legislation, said Cuomo’s plan isn’t really a Green New Deal.

“The plan that Cuomo has put forward in no way shape or form resembles a Green New Deal and just calling it a Green New Deal does not make it so,” Goodrich said. “In any case, the only climate plan on the table right now is the Climate and Community Protection Act, which does have some of the key components of a Green New Deal.”

These key components address climate change, but also social and economic inequality. Since Cuomo’s plan doesn’t focus justice for and investment in communities that have been on the front lines of environmental pollution, it’s not a Green New Deal, Goodrich added.

Cuomo admitted as much on WAMC Friday, saying, “The issue and contention is how we distribute environmental funds and if we distribute the funds based on political criteria or solely on the basis of environmental impact.” But Cuomo has also said the CCPA timelines for an overhaul of the entire economy are unrealistic, pointing out vast sectors, like transportation, and challenges facing such a shift.

The governor is working with the Legislature to come up with a compromise that includes elements of his plan and of the CCPA, a spokesperson said. State agencies are already working to make Cuomo’s climate plans reality, the spokesperson added.

Cuomo is also working towards economy-wide carbon neutrality as soon as is practical, the spokesperson said. The governor also said on WAMC that he plans to announce a multi-billion dollar wind turbine program, which he said would be the largest in America. He didn’t specify when that program would be announced or start.

Lawmakers and supporters are unsure whether the CCPA will pass by the end of session, but some say the idea of the legislation dying is deeply troubling. Neither Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie nor Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, both Democrats, has committed to passing the legislation this session, even though the Assembly has passed the CCPA several years in a row (with it having no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate that lost power this year).

Senator Todd Kaminsky, the lead sponsor of the CCPA in his chamber, recently led a press conference calling for its passage. Three of his colleagues, Senators Robert Jackson, Jessica Ramos, and Julia Salazar, will be among those rallying on Tuesday in the capital, per NY Renews.

“We're really counting on the Legislature to deliver what they promised to do for New Yorkers, which is protect our safety and health, especially in those communities of color and low-income communities,” Lapidous said. “We're really counting on the Legislature there. But if Governor Cuomo were to get in the way, I think it would be really devastating for New York.”

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by Caitlyn Rosen, Gotham Gazette
     

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Pushed on Climate Legislation, Cuomo Tries to Set Himself Apart Mon, 10 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Support Grows for Aggressive Climate Legislation Cuomo Calls Unrealistic https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8575-support-grows-for-aggressive-climate-legislation-cuomo-calls-unrealistic https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8575-support-grows-for-aggressive-climate-legislation-cuomo-calls-unrealistic nature climate change

(photo: Governor's Office)


As the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA) gains increasing support from state and federal legislators, the state Assembly and Senate will soon decide whether or not to vote on the bill, which now has a majority of sponsors in both houses of the Legislature but not the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The CCPA, described by many as New York’s attempt at a Green New Deal, has three major components. The bill would end reliance on fossil fuels by moving the state’s economy to 100% renewable energy by 2050, invest 40% of clean energy funds in disadvantaged communities, and provide higher wages for environmentally-friendly jobs.

In recent days, the coalition supporting passage of the CCPA, called NYRenews, has announced endorsements from officials including Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and most other members of the New York congressional delegation (Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, Grace Meng, and Max Rose are the only members of the New York City delegation not to endorse the CCPA).

According to Steve Englebright, the lead Assembly sponsor of the CCPA, the bill is “based on the timeline scientists recommend to avoid catastrophe.”

In spite of growing support for the bill, it’s unclear if the two legislative majorities will make it a top priority for end-of-session negotiations -- the session is scheduled to end June 19 -- and Governor Cuomo has not included it in his recently-released top 10 priorities for the state over the next few weeks.

“I believe this is the most pressing issue of our time but I don’t want to play politics with it,” Cuomo said on WNYC radio’s The Brian Lehrer Show on Tuesday. “I know the politics is we can do everything by tomorrow. I’ve never done that,” Cuomo said. The governor repeatedly indicated to Lehrer that he wants to move aggressively to fight climate change but that the CCPA is not a realistic piece of legislation given its requirements to overhaul much of the economy.

Cuomo made headlines, and waves, last month when he said he “does not foresee anything specific for the end of the session” regarding climate change legislation.

The CCPA has passed in the Assembly every year since 2016, but a Republican-controlled Senate did not put the legislation up for a vote. With Democrats now controlling a wide majority in the Senate, hopes have been high that the bill would reach Cuomo’s desk. Legislators appear content to work with the governor to negotiate an agreement on new environmental regulations rather than force his hand. Often in Albany, the more contentious issues that find compromise are combined into a budget or end-of-session omnibus package.

Cuomo has warned of the possible economic impact of the CCPA. “When you talk about this transition for the economy, think about what you are talking about. No carbon emissions, new airplanes, no trains that run on diesel, all electric cars, closing all the power plants. This is a massive transformation,” Cuomo said on WNYC.

Still, the bill’s sponsors, activists, and others are pushing back against his pessimism. According to Englebright, the bill is not attempting to “do everything by tomorrow. 2050 is a time horizon well beyond tomorrow,” he said on Wednesday’s Brian Lehrer Show.

Leaders in both the Senate and the Assembly have indicated support for the CCPA, though they have not assertively pushed it of late. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie indicated the CCPA as one of his priorities in an agenda for the Assembly released at the start of the new session in January, but he has not been forceful about it of late. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins was non-committal on Friday’s Capitol Pressroom radio show, when asked about the status of the CCPA, saying she is “personally committed to doing the best climate change package.”

“We have a working group going on right now to see what we can do before the end of session as it relates to the CCPA. I believe we’re going to have something before we leave,” Stewart-Cousins told Capitol Pressroom host Susan Arbetter.

State Senator Todd Kaminsky, lead sponsor for the CCPA in the Senate, also said the CCPA is a priority, but the Senate is still ironing out some details. Kaminsky said he would like to see the bill include more provisions for energy efficiency and interim goals.

“Heastie has given us the compass direction on this,” Englebright said Wednesday on WNYC, appearing with Kaminsky. “I anticipate that we will pass it again this year. Speaker Heastie is committed because he understands the importance of this for all the people of the state.”

Activists, led by the extensive NY Renews coalition of labor unions and advocacy groups, are pressing hard.

“There's no time to waste on protecting New Yorkers from climate change, creating green jobs, and making sure we do it with racial and economic justice at the center,” said Bill Lipton, director of the New York Working Families Party, in a Wednesday press release from NY Renews touting that the CCPA had achieved a majority of sponsors in both houses.

Kaminsky and Englebright are optimistic about the CCPA”s chances, seeing similarities in the CCPA and Cuomo’s proposed climate regulations as a part of the budget passed in March.

“It has the same framework as the CCPA, so I don’t think we’re all that far apart in terms of where we are as a state decarbonizing our economy,” Kaminsky said.

A difference between the CCPA and Cuomo’s budget proposal lies within the 40% investment of clean energy funds into disadvantaged communities, Englebright said. These communities have often suffered disproportionately from lapses in environmental care, so it is especially important they receive investments in renewable energy, good jobs and training, Kaminsky said.

The deadlines for moving away from fossil fuels are also different, and while Cuomo’s benchmarks are focused on the state’s electricity, the CCPA is focused on the entire state economy. (Some legislators and activists want the more aggressive Off Fossil Fuels Act passed, but there appears little formal discussion of the legislation as the legislative session winds down.)

The CCPA also has the potential to increase economic investment in the state, Englebright said. If implemented it could “unleash the genius of American capitalism and New York innovation,” he said.

Despite Cuomo downplaying the CCPA, with its rising popularity, some, including Kaminsky and Englebright, expressed confidence the bill will be voted on this session.

“We have the votes – what are we waiting for,” Lipton said.

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by Noah Berman, Gotham Gazette

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Support Grows for Aggressive Climate Legislation Cuomo Calls Unrealistic Wed, 05 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Pass the Off Fossil Fuels Act, New York’s Strongest Climate Change Bill https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8528-pass-the-off-fossil-fuels-act-new-york-s-strongest-climate-change-bill https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8528-pass-the-off-fossil-fuels-act-new-york-s-strongest-climate-change-bill climate crisis

(photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)


Grassroots climate activists hope that before state lawmakers adjourn for the summer they will strike a deal with Governor Cuomo to adopt the strongest climate legislation possible.

And let’s be clear: the strongest climate bill is the NYS OFF Act (A3565/S5526), not the more publicized Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA).

The Off Fossil Fuels Act, for 100% renewable energy by 2030, grew out of the successful grassroots campaign to ban fracking in New York. It seeks to implement the study done by Stanford and Cornell professors showing how the state could by 2030 obtain 100% of its energy from solar, wind, geothermal, and conservation. It includes the critical component of calling for a halt to all new fossil projects, a measure not included in either the CCPA or by the governor in his agenda. Forty state lawmakers are sponsoring the OFF Act.

The CCPA deserves praise for making environmental justice and a “just transition” central objectives of any climate action. But its climate policies are centered around enacting into law a ten-year-old Executive Order from the Paterson administration. The bill that the State Assembly passed every year since 2009 to do that was changed three years ago to the CCPA, adding environmental justice and labor provisions.

Our understanding of climate change has itself changed a lot in the last decade, especially so in the last three years. The climate goals in the CCPA were rejected by developing countries at the Paris climate talks. They rebelled against the industrial polluter nations which want a goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, insisting the target be lowered to 1.5 degrees.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently warned the world that it had to significantly step up its climate actions as we have less than 12 years left to save life on the planet. The IPCC is a conservative body, due to the nature of “scientific consensus” and because its pronouncements need to be approved by the fossil-fuel centered countries like Saudi Arabia, the United States, Russia, and Brazil. Every study by the IPPC has understated the speed and severity of climate change. As one of its authors has said, for an accurate read, take our worst case scenario and double it.

Even Governor Cuomo upgraded his climate goals following the IPCC report, now calling for 70% of state electricity to be renewable by 2030.

I spent more than three decades organizing for a variety of low-income community groups to end poverty and promote economic justice. We cannot solve the climate crisis without ensuring that the poor and workers benefit from the transition. While dedicating jobs and climate funding to lift up disadvantaged communities, we need to advocate for policies that ensure such communities are not blown, washed, or burnt away by extreme weather.

We need to remember that it is the developing world that is home to the principal victims of climate change. Half of the residents of Puerto Rico were without electricity and drinking water for six months – and they are part of the United States (despite how the Trump administration may approach them)!

Scientists now openly discuss the possibility of human extinction and/or the end of civilization as we know it. The Extinction Rebellion has risen to demand an end to greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. A majority of Congressional Democrats from New York sponsor the federal Green New Deal with its 2030 timeline and the federal OFF Act with a goal of 2035. How can New York pursue a timeline decades slower?

We have to enact bold, even radical, climate measures that increase the chances of humans surviving climate chaos. We have to reject the approach of embracing incremental measures that politicians, paid for by fossil fuel campaign contributions, find “reasonable.”

New York lawmakers need to take the best ideas from the OFF Act, CCPA, Cuomo’s agenda, and the half-dozen other climate bills. Climate activists need to weigh in on the details of the dozens of issues being negotiated by legislative leaders.

The just transition provisions of the OFF Act are stronger than the CCPA in guaranteeing jobs and wages for displaced workers and assisting communities dependent on tax payments from existing fossil fuel plants. The climate funding for disadvantaged communities in the CCPA is more limited than what its supporters believe. A key fight will be over how much funding is allocated and for what type of projects.

We need to develop detailed climate plans with short-term benchmarks with no more than two-year intervals for review and update. New York is not even close to achieving its goals for renewable energy established by the Pataki administration in 2002. Lawmakers need to allocate probably $10 billion a year to support the transition, an issue that has been largely ignored.

Local governments must also develop climate action plans, especially to site large-scale renewable energy projects, which at present are largely impossible to approve.

Many of the enforcement provisions in the CCPA were weakened by the Assembly. Those provisions should be restored, such as state agency compliance and the right for citizens to sue to enforce the law.

Far more action is needed on transportation and buildings, with each accounting for more than a third of the state carbon footprint.

New York cannot afford to waste this opportunity to adopt the best climate agenda. The devil is in the details. We need to listen to our children who want a world that gives them a chance for a decent future.

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Mark Dunlea is Chair of the Green Education and Legal Fund. On Twitter @DunleaMark.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Pass the Off Fossil Fuels Act, New York’s Strongest Climate Change Bill Thu, 16 May 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Care about Climate Change? Care About Scooters https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8506-care-about-climate-change-care-about-scooters https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8506-care-about-climate-change-care-about-scooters climate change scooter 2

(photo: Lime)


Solving our biggest global crisis of a rapidly warming planet means considering everything through the lens of potential solutions, even something as small as the electric scooter.

Micromobility is rightfully capturing the keen attention of urbanists around the world -- including the much-discussed e-scooter. And New York is poised to take advantage as well.

Simultaneously, New York is considering various necessarily ambitious policies to combat climate change and legislation to authorize local governments to roll out micromobility programs. Statewide, transportation is the number one source of carbon emissions, so these revolutions are closely related.

But New York must act decisively -- and quickly -- on both issues if it is going to start reducing its carbon footprint at a rate that allows it to reach its global warming goals and to prevent the harmful health effects of local pollution.

A recent International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report concluded we have 12 years to prevent the worst of climate impacts. Subsequent reports find our climate pollution emissions have continued to accelerate. Arctic melting has, as well. New York has already felt the dramatic and tragic effects of climate change, enduring the terrible power of Hurricane Sandy.

So any chance to significantly reduce the effects of climate change must be taken, especially when it improves other aspects of daily life. That’s where micromobility offers a tremendous opportunity.

Take the electric scooter itself, an under 50-pound mode of transit. Scooters stand in stark contrast to one- and two-ton cars, and the energy it takes to move them and space consumed to park them. Right now, two-thirds of trips made by car are under one mile. That’s a massive waste of energy when a large number of those trips are just one able-bodied person who could easily -- and often more quickly -- use a carbon-neutral option like a scooter.

People have noticed this when they have access to scooters, and the change trend is already well underway. They have taken shared scooters on over 50 million rides in the last year alone.

Moreover, independent studies by city transportation departments and internal company research have both found a roughly one-third, or often more, mode-shift in cities from scooters. This means one out of every three scooter rides is a trip not taken by ride-hailing, taxi, or personal vehicle, and when most vehicles are still one to two ton gas burning cars, that's a big deal for climate pollution.

It is also a big deal for public health, as local pollution afflicts people with health complications like asthma, and more often the urban young and old and people of color, a threat equal to a history of smoking.

For the New York City metro area, 100,000 shared scooters and bikes could easily prevent more than 300,000 car trips each day. That would also prevent nearly 50,000 tons of carbon annually and 4 tons of asthma-inducing particulates.

Right now, we need government leaders at all levels to have an Apollo-like mindset to the climate crisis and, as a result, measure every major policy decision through the lens of the climate fight. Scooters and electric micromobility are just one of the myriad of solutions we will need to deploy now to have a chance of making an impact on this global challenge.

We’ve done this before. During World War II, every major policy decision was put through the filter of the war effort. That allowed us to turn our economy into a giant cog of mission-oriented productivity, going, for example, from a production of just 3,000 bombers to a staggering 300,000 in those few years.

It’s time to make bold changes in the effort against this climate crisis. If this is our modern World War III, we'd better get moving, big and small, on city streets across the globe. New York can do its part by authorizing micromobility statewide right now.

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Andrew Savage is vice president of sustainability and a founding team member of Lime, a mobility company that makes scooters, bikes, and more. He is a veteran of local, state, and federal government. On Twitter @limebike.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Care about Climate Change? Care About Scooters Mon, 13 May 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Governor Cuomo Has Just Weeks to Embrace a Real Green New Deal for New York https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8497-governor-cuomo-has-just-weeks-to-embrace-a-real-green-new-deal-for-new-york https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8497-governor-cuomo-has-just-weeks-to-embrace-a-real-green-new-deal-for-new-york Cuomo environment

Gov. Cuomo (photo: governor's office)


As debate over the Green New Deal has seized the nation, the young people of Sunrise Movement have been challenging politicians to answer a simple question: What is your plan?

In April, the New York City Council rose to that challenge with a series of bills that sets a high-water mark for urban climate action across the globe. Mayor de Blasio is expected to sign the Climate Mobilization Act soon.

Governor Cuomo, meanwhile, has allowed the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA), the most ambitious climate legislation in the country, to languish in Albany. “I don’t see anything specific for the rest of the session” in terms of environmental legislation, the governor said recently -- a shocking statement considering the lack of climate action coming from Albany -- about the state government agenda before the legislative session ends mid-June.

Climate change is an existential threat for my generation. Young people deserve more than lip service from leaders who have consistently failed to confront the crisis over the past decade.

New Yorkers know this. We’ve seen the impacts of climate change and fossil fuel pollution in record-breaking heat waves, devastating hurricanes like Superstorm Sandy, and overwhelmingly high rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases. We know we need to act urgently to meet the scale of the challenge.

To his credit, Governor Cuomo put forth a vision for climate action in his executive budget. He calls it a Green New Deal. Unfortunately, his plan is not worthy of the name.

The young people of Sunrise ask politicians to share their plans so that we can see who is serious about tackling climate change and who is not. We have three criteria for judging what constitutes a serious plan to address the crisis.

First, the Green New Deal needs to transition the entire economy to clean energy. Governor Cuomo only sets enforceable decarbonization targets for the electricity sector.

Second, the Green New Deal needs to make sure resources flow directly to the communities hit hardest by climate change – particularly communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. The governor talks about environmental justice – but his plan fails to put his money where his mouth is.

Finally, the Green New Deal needs to center the good, family-supporting jobs that will be created through investments in renewable energy. The governor’s proposal doesn’t yet outline a comprehensive way to make that happen.

Here’s the thing: the Climate and Community Protect Act, which predates Governor Cuomo’s ‘Green New Deal,’ would accomplish these three needs. The CCPA is a vision for climate justice that has been improved and expanded and revised for almost four years with the support of over 150 community, labor, and environmental organizations.

Spearheaded by a coalition called NY Renews, the CCPA is the holistic approach to the climate crisis that New Yorkers deserve. The coalition’s plan sets a legally enforceable timeline to get New York’s entire economy off of fossil fuels by 2050 while also ensuring that 40 percent of state funding goes to frontline and vulnerable communities (low-income and communities of color, among others, facing the brunt of environmental harms), and that the green jobs created are also good jobs that follow prevailing wages and provide training and apprenticeships when possible.

The federal Green New Deal resolution introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has broken new ground for its success in bringing climate change to the fore in Congress. But in New York, the CCPA has for years been a model for climate legislation that centers both good jobs and healthy communities.

Climate change, pollution, and environmental harms have exacerbated systematic inequality by disproportionately affecting indigenous communities, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and yes, youth like young climate strikers and the Sunrise members that have been showing up nationwide to push their representatives toward climate action.

Governor Cuomo says he wants to be at the forefront of the climate movement — framing his proposals as a ‘Green New Deal’ demonstrates as much. But the way New York should lead the climate movement is by modeling the power of community-focused action. The governor’s plan wouldn’t get us to 100 percent renewable energy economy-wide, and it doesn’t include the kinds of provisions we need for jobs or justice. Superstorm Sandy has already showed us how necessary it is to invest in the frontline communities hit hardest by the climate crisis. No justice, no deal.

The CCPA, however, enshrines in law an enforceable timeline to eliminate fossil fuels throughout New York by 2050, meaning that New Yorkers will not only have a plan, they will have recourse to ensure the state follows through.

The CCPA has passed the State Assembly three times already, only to be stopped by what used to be the climate change-denying, Republican Senate leadership. That’s changed now, and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has embraced the CCPA and its coalition of community, labor, and environmental groups.

If Governor Cuomo can’t commit to supporting the CCPA, then the state legislature needs to force his hand by putting the bill on his desk.

In 2019, all climate action is long past due. With the federal Green New Deal stalled in Congress thanks to fossil fuel executives and their allies in Republican leadership, what we need now is for our state leaders to step up. The CCPA is ready, and New Yorkers are ready too.

The question is, is the governor?

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Matthew Miles Goodrich is New York State Director of Sunrise Movement. On Twitter @mmilesgoodrich & @sunrisemvmt.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Governor Cuomo Has Just Weeks to Embrace a Real Green New Deal for New York Sun, 05 May 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Why is Rep. Hakeem Jeffries MIA on the Green New Deal? https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8480-why-is-rep-hakeem-jeffries-mia-on-the-green-new-deal https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8480-why-is-rep-hakeem-jeffries-mia-on-the-green-new-deal gov cuomo locations

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (photo: Kevin Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)


The Green New Deal resolution has garnered a lot of attention since it was introduced in February. The nonbinding resolution, sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), aims to reshape our energy system and economy by committing to a swift and just transition to 100% clean renewable energy.

Such a bold transformation is exactly what is needed according to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change. After all, the IPCC explained that we only have twelve years to get our emissions under control or else we will be locked in to climate catastrophe.

The Green New Deal promises not only to get us off fossil fuels, but will also create millions of good jobs retrofitting existing buildings so they are more energy-efficient and boosting wind and solar energy investments. The resolution also aims to protect frontline communities and those most affected by climate change and pollution. 

The Green New Deal has attracted considerable support in a rapid time, receiving endorsements from nearly all Democratic contenders for the presidency and having over 90 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. According to a Business Insider poll, over 80% of respondents support almost all of the components of the Green New Deal resolution.   Of course, the resolution has garnered its critics too, with President Trump referring to it as “socialism.”

Nearly all of the congressional representatives from New York City signed on as co-sponsors to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’ resolution. However, there remains a glaring omission in Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). Rep. Jeffries represents a solidly blue district in Brooklyn and Southwest Queens which has already witnessed the devastating effects of climate change firsthand with Hurricane Sandy wreaking havoc along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront. In fact, his 8th congressional district received more aid for Hurricane Sandy relief than any other district in the city.

While there is wide support for the resolution, the Democratic leadership in Congress remains disinterested in moving forward, exemplified when House Speaker Pelosi laughed off  the resolution by calling it the “green dream.” Likewise, Mitch McConnell’s stunt vote in the Senate failed to garner a single Democratic vote. The Democratic Party leadership in Congress, including Rep. Jeffries, should demonstrate that they are committed to tackling climate change head-on by supporting the Green New Deal.

Rep. Jeffries is certainly a major player and rising star within the Democratic Party, as he was elected chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and is rumored to be on the fast-track to be Speaker of the House. Interestingly, Rep. Jeffries owes his current leadership position in part to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who ousted the previous chair of the caucus, Rep. Joseph Crowley, in a primary.

Rep. Jeffries should prove his progressive bonafides by supporting the Green New Deal. Indeed, it may be bad politics for him to avoid the resolution; he wouldn’t want the same fate of Rep. Crowley by being primaried from the left.

As it currently stands, Rep. Jeffries and freshman Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) are the sole New York City members of Congress to fail to sign on to the Green New Deal. Rose represents another area massively affected by climate change and Hurricane Sandy -- Staten Island and Southern Brooklyn. However, Rep. Rose’s district is hardly safely Democratic, and he does not need to fear a primary challenger from the left.

To be sure, the Green New Deal is only a nonbinding resolution and doesn’t actually enact any measures that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Rather it sets the vision and the goals to massively transition the economy away from its reliance on fossil fuels.

Rep. Jeffries has indicated that rather than signing on to the Green New Deal, he is inclined to wait until the bipartisan “House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis” makes recommendations on the issue, a process that can take over a year. However, with climate change, time is not a renewable resource. It is essential that congressional leadership at least entertain solutions commensurate with the challenges we face. Rep. Jeffries should show the courage and leadership on the climate and support the Green New Deal.

Rep. Jeffries has a duty to his constituents to support policies that will reduce carbon emissions, create green jobs, and build up the infrastructure that protects his district from the next superstorm. After all, not only is it good politics to support the Green New Deal, but according to the world’s top scientists, it is absolutely necessary policy. To show true leadership, for his party and the country, Rep. Jeffries should champion the Green New Deal.

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Ari R. Lieberman is an attorney and the legislative coordinator for 350Brooklyn, a grassroots climate change organization affiliated with 350.org. On Twitter @the_greenmarble.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Why is Rep. Hakeem Jeffries MIA on the Green New Deal? Mon, 29 Apr 2019 04:00:00 +0000