With a climate-denying Republican Congress in thrall to the Fossil Fuel Industry, states and localities must play a more active part to mitigate and reverse the impacts of climate change. Fortunately, Governor Andrew Cuomo has been engaged and active in making New York a model for the nation.
In addition to taking significant actions of banning fracking in New York State (he still has to kill the Constitution pipeline), and vetoing the Port Ambrose LNG project, Governor Cuomo has launched important initiatives, including:
o Launching the Clean Energy Standard: Governor Cuomo directed the Public Service Commission to expand large scale renewable power so that it provides 50 percent of power generation by 2030, as laid out in the 2015 State Energy Plan, and to propose a plan to support New York’s existing zero-emission nuclear fleet.
o Signed the Under 2 MOU, a Memorandum of Understanding among states, provinces and cities worldwide to affirm their commitment to reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050 to help keep the earth’s average temperature from increasing two degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. As part of the 2015 State Energy Plan, New York set one of the most aggressive targets in the nation to reduce emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 (80 by 50).
o Securing a Coal Free New York by 2020: Coal is one of the highest greenhouse gas emitting and environmentally harmful fuel sources for power generation. In line with the state’s goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector 40 percent by 2030, the Governor has directed the Department of Public Service and DEC to develop a regulatory framework that will close the state’s two remaining coal burning power plants or repower them to cleaner fuel sources by 2020.
o Leading on Transportation and Climate:. Governor Cuomo has signed onto the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) MOU, and the International ZEV Alliance to move the state forward on reducing emissions from cars, as well as embarking in the Transportation and Climate Initiative with a coalition of 12 Northeastern states. The EPF will now provide major new funding to help communities mitigate and adapt to climate change, including new incentives for clean vehicle purchases and infrastructure. This will support NYSERDA’s forthcoming consumer zero emission vehicle rebate program.
o Adopted a 10-year, $5 billion Clean Energy Fund: Over the next ten years, NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Fund will drive greater private sector investment to support the deployment of clean energy and energy efficiency solutions to New York’s homes, buildings, and communities; invest in cutting edge research and development to accelerate clean energy innovation; provide $1 billion for the Governor’s NY-Sun program; and capitalize the nation’s largest Green Bank. Through the CEF, the State will also reduce ratepayer surcharges by $90 million in 2016 and by a total $1.5 billion by 2025. It complements the Clean Energy Standard by driving down the cost and scaling up clean energy technologies to meet our 50 percent renewable electricity goal.
o Launched a $1 billion Green Bank, the largest green bank in the nation.
o Climate Smart Communities Take Action: 174 local governments, encompassing 6.6 million New Yorkers, have joined the State program to support local climate change adaptation and mitigation and seven communities have completed a rigorous certification process.
One of the false claims used against transitioning to clean energy is that it will cripple the economy. But a New York Public Service Commission (PSC) cost study analysis demonstrates that New York’s Clean Energy Standard would produce significant economic savings from the prevention of climate disruption related storm damage and reduced health costs for New Yorkers. What is more, if there is a commitment to significant reductions in carbon pollution, the state would stand to save between $1 and $3 billion even before factoring in the economic benefit of thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in renewable economic investment across the State. In addition to saving electricity customers money and spurring job growth, the reduction of carbon pollution from fossil fuel plants such as coal and the support of aggressive carbon reductions region-wide through the Regional Green House Gas Initiative (RGGI) will help Governor Cuomo achieve his mandate of increasing New York’s electric sector renewable energy use to 50 percent by 2030.
(Note: There is currently an open public comment period for the Clean Energy Standard and there are a number of public hearings planned in May for the communities and stakeholders across the state to discuss the benefits of the program).
“Renewable energy development through the Clean Energy Standard will create thousands of jobs, increase tax revenues both up and downstate and help the Governor protect the health of New York families. This cost study shows the Governor’s mandate of 50 percent increased renewable energy and a 40 percent carbon reduction by 2030 is cost-effective and has real economic and environmental benefits for New York,” stated Lisa Dix, Senior New York Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “The Clean Energy Standard is a real opportunity for the Governor to provide critical investments in communities that need it most as they transition away from dirty energy in addition to establishing New York as a national leader in the fight against climate change.”
Here on Long Island, Suffolk has been proactive in moving to renewable energy, particularly solar power, and will likely be the first beneficiary of off-shore windpower by signing on to the first project, off Montauk.
In Nassau, the Mangano Administration has been moribund, doing absolutely nothing to cultivate renewable energy or sustainable development, development, which will leave Nassau behind.
It’s fallen to grassroots activists and they came, out by the hundreds to the March 21 LIPA Board meeting to plead their case to invest in off-shore wind energy projects rather than dirty fossil fuel plants, stressing that now is the time, a critical window of opportunity is open. They were well received by Chairman Ralph V. Suozzi and the newly named Chief Executive Officer Thomas Falcone.
It is a critical juncture: LIPA’s current energy mix only contains 3% renewable and PSEG-Long Island (PSEG-LI) is now proposing to build, expensive, oil powered plants, commonly called “peakers,” to meet an increase in projected energy demand for this area, instead of choosing renewable energy sources. Beyond stifling the Governor’s efforts to combat climate change in New York, investing in an historically volatile energy market by investing instead in new oil peaker plants for the South Fork would further decrease Long Island’s fuel diversity, subjecting ratepayers to increasing price volatility as experienced in recent winters.
Instead, LIPA and PSEG-LI should invest in a renewable energy future for Long Island by selecting offshore wind and battery storage projects to power the East End, which would ensure reliable, affordable energy that creates jobs while protecting our environment.
Investing in offshore wind could transform Long Island into a regional clean energy hub — jump-starting the industry, bringing high-paying, local jobs and manufacturing opportunities to the community and supercharging our economy, all the while making deep cuts in the state’s climate pollution. Additionally, Governor Cuomo and LIPA can show visionary leadership now by taking the initial steps toward ensuring the state generates at least 5,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2025 and making deep cuts in climate pollution, helping to curb climate disruption.
Indeed, in contrast to fossil fuel generators which can obtain licenses to drill without first securing a “power purchase agreement” from a utility like PSEG-LI, the private companies that have been trying to secure licenses to construct a windfarm off Long Island are prevented from going forward until they have such an agreement in hand.
“We are standing at the proverbial fork in the road, LIPA will choose to build a fossil fuel peaker plant on the South Fork or an offshore wind farm with battery storage backup.” Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment said. “One choice can chart a new future. Choose wind power. The time is now, the place is here!”
“Offshore wind is strongest exactly when Long Island has its highest demand for electricity,” George Povall, Director of All Our Energy said. “It easily offsets the need for both local dirty power plants and importing more expensive peak power from outside our area.”
The Town of East Hampton has adopted a resolution to power that region of Long Island with 100 percent renewable energy by the end of the decade. “We will pursue all opportunities for land-based clean energy sources here, but we need to harvest our tremendous offshore wind resource to meet the Town’s and the State’s energy goals,” Larry Cantwell, Supervisor of the Town of East Hampton said.
“On Earth Day, more than 150 countries will sign the Paris Agreement, a crucial step forward in the fight against climate change. That breaks the record for the number of countries signing an international agreement on an opening day,” writes Jennifer Warner, National Organizing Director for Organizing for Action.
“That’s progress worth celebrating — but we can’t slow down in pushing for meaningful climate action on the local and state level. The Paris Agreement is just one example of the achievements that are possible when we work together to tackle climate change.”
This week, OFA volunteers are organizing climate events in communities all over the country. One Earth Day Action Event is taking place at 441 West 26 Street, New York, NY 10001, on Tuesday, April 26, at 6 pm.
As we celebrate Earth Day, there needs to be a new resolve, a new respect on the order of a spiritual commitment to Mother Earth, and to be reminded of President Obama’s invocation: “We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.”
Earth Day Events in New York
An indication of a climate-action friendly administration is the prominence it gives to Earth Day, and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that as part of Earth Week 2016, there are numerous family-friendly events are being held to encourage New Yorkers to experience the great outdoors and learn more about environmental sustainability.
“Our environment and its natural beauty are among New York’s greatest assets – and we all share a collective responsibility to protect them for future generations,” said Governor Cuomo. “Our administration has taken bold steps over the past six years to build a cleaner and greener state, and I am proud to be continuing that legacy this year. As we observe Earth Week and continue to stand up for the environment, I encourage all New Yorkers to help us ensure cleaner and healthier communities for all.”
The Governor’s administration is commemorating Earth Week in part by hosting dozens of events across the state. The public can connect to nature by partaking in hikes, observing natural wildlife, tree plantings and a variety of exhibits aimed at educating New Yorkers on the importance of sustaining the environment. Lists of family events can be found here from the Department of Environmental Conservation and here from the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
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