By: Britney Johnson
While the media cycle has been consumed with news of President Donald Trump, a coalition of over 150 grassroots groups and organizations is taking on the issue of climate change. The NY Renews campaign has been working for the last couple years on passing new state legislation to tackle the transition to a green energy economy.
The NY Renews plan has a few elements. The first is the ‘Climate and Community Protection Act’ (CCPA). This bill would require 50 percent of electricity generated by 2030 to be renewable. It would require all energy generated after 2050 to be renewable energy. 40 percent of the investments associated with this transition would be targeted to lowincome communities. The CCPA sets specific benchmarks, enforceable as law, to ensure the jobs created are well-paying and the transition to 100 percent renewables is met, step by step.
In addition to the CCPA, the NY Renews campaign wants to put a price of pollution by taxing polluters. The Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA) would implement a gradually-increasing fee that would be imposed by emitters and the funds would go to several items: 1) Infrastructure projects like wind mills and mass transit investments, 2) Grants to fund sustainability in disadvantaged communities, 3) Retraining funds for workers impacted by the shift away from fossil fuels, and 4) Energy rebates for low-income New Yorkers. The investments made with the polluters’ tax revenue have gained support from a large coalition of advocates.
Advocates for the CCPA and the NY Renews campaign see it as more than a transition to renewable energy. The health benefits of transitioning to a clean-energy economy are raised regularly. This pollution disproportionately impacts low-income communities and communities of color.
A 2016 publication from the Union of Concerned Scientists explores the health impacts of fossil fuels. Heavy metals in waste water are known to cause birth defects, cancers, learning disabilities, neurological issues, and reproductive issues. These metals make their way into the food supply,
inevitably making their way into the human body. Oil, coal, and natural gas production are all drivers of water pollution. Hydro-fracking is banned in New York and there is only one coal plant left online, but natural gas drilling continues today.
The CCPA Passed the NY Assembly in June of 2017 by a 103-41 vote. Assembly leader Carl Heastie said, in a press release on passage of the bill, that the CCPA would help communities already impacted negatively by climate change. He added that the “legislation will help make New York a leader in environmental policies and ensure that we focus on developing greener energy alternatives and sustainable practices.”
The NYS Senate failed to take up the bill in their 2017 session. Coalition partners from the Working Families Party to the Sierra Club expressed their frustration with the CCPA not making it to a vote. The Working Families Party in particular has cited this bill as a reason for forcing electoral challenges to all members of the Independent Democratic Caucus in the NYS Senate.
On February 27th, 2018, activists interrupted an Environmental Conservation Budget committee hearing to push for passage of NY Renews. Governor Cuomo has committed $168 Billion to energy conservation. A member of the NY Renews campaign spoke for 5 minutes against the wishes of committee members to urge for passage of the Climate and Community Protection Act. Other demonstrators chanted in the halls and in the room where the budget hearing was being held.
Currently, it appears that the New York State Senate will not take up this legislation in 2018, although the NYS Assembly has included it in its version of the 2018 state budget. Few expect that the CCPA or the CCIA will become part of the final 2018 New York State budget. Both the Governor and the State Senate have not included it in their budget proposals.