NY's Climate Protection Act Draws Range Of Reactions In Hudson Valley

Jun 20, 2019

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is poised to sign a sweeping measure aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change. The goal is to aggressively cut greenhouse gases and shift the state’s energy reliance to renewable sources. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne has reaction from her region.

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, or CCPA, seeks to adopt measures to put New York on a path to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent by 2050 and attain net zero emissions in all economic sectors. Approved by the Democrat-led legislature, the measure is being touted as the nation’s most ambitious climate change legislation. Governor Cuomo, speaking with WAMC’s Alan Chartock on “The Roundtable,” addresses a goal 30 years out.

“We have the highest goals in the nation. California was a lead on this issue. If you actually looked at the goals, our goals were more aggressive than California. This law codifies that, but we were already the nation’s leading,” Cuomo says. “And, yes, 30 years is a long period of time, and it could see a period of time that is unobtainable or unrealistic. That’s why I say look at what we’re actually doing today to make that goal real.”

Cuomo refers to investing in renewables, citing a multi-billion-dollar investment for wind turbines off Long Island, a project expected to be announced soon. Liz Moran is environmental policy director at the New York Public Interest Research Group. She says the legislation’s goals are achievable and the climate crisis at hand dictates the urgency with which to meet them.

“Other states are starting to shift more rapidly to renewables,” Moran says. “Other states already are using a lot more wind and solar than New York, which means here in New York we can do it, too. We just have to make sure we prioritize it, and that’s what this bill does.”

The legislation calls for the creation of a Climate Action Council, with various working groups. Moran says NYPIRG will be pushing this.

“So we’re going to be urging that the legislature and the governor make their appointments as rapidly as possible and they start meeting right away,” says Moran.

New Windsor Republican state Assemblyman Colin Schmitt says protecting the environment is one of his priorities. However, he voted “no” on the legislation.

“But this legislation as drafted really, in my opinion and view, fails to provide a workable, comprehensive solution to solve the actual problem, particularly deferring most of the decision-making authority and power to an unelected, unaccountable climate council is just not the way to go about this, to give a group of unelected individuals this unchecked control over wide swaths of the economy, of day-to-day life, for generations of New Yorkers is just not something that we can be comfortable with, that I can be comfortable with,” Schmitt says.

He believes the legislation neither takes into account legitimate concerns regarding the impact on the state budget and economy nor the direct cost to residents. Schmitt also raises concerns about long-term energy costs and reliability. Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, who recently signed an executive order codifying the county’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, applauds the state’s climate act, which he hopes would provide the county access to state funding.

“Particularly, any capital expenditures required to make major infrastructure investments to move, either move or upgrade existing infrastructure to renewable, that’s where it would be hugely beneficial to have access to capital, which I think is part of what’s envisioned,” says Ryan. “The other, frankly, piece of it is just having the political support and the momentum across the state that’s hugely synergistic with what we’re doing here.”

Ryan is working on implementing a Green New Deal in the county. Democratic New York state Senator David Carlucci, who represents most of Rockland and a slice of Westchester, was one of the bill’s several co-sponsors, and spoke on the Senate floor ahead of the vote.

“Discipline weights ounces. Regret weighs tons. Let’s make sure that we’re putting the discipline in now so that we can bestow this reward of our environment and taking advantage of all the blessings that Mother Nature has bestowed to us,” Carlucci says. “Let’s make sure we leave that legacy, we leave those gifts to all the residents of New York state and all of our children.”

Assemblyman Schmitt says he want to work on what he calls more realistic approaches.

“Carbon capture, that’s a big thing. It wasn’t specifically guaranteed in this legislation. I think that is innovative, forward-thinking technology that would make a significant impact here in the state and really worldwide,” says Schmitt. “So I’d like to really see legislation and a statewide commitment to that.”

Again, Ulster County Executive Ryan.

“And then I also hope that what’s happening, if it’s happening at the county level, it’s happening at the state level, that the message will get through in DC that we have to take decisive action and that inaction has huge costs in and of itself; forget about the rollbacks that are happening under EPA [Environmental Protection Agency],” Ryan says.

Supporters says the CCPA prioritizes the safety and health of disadvantaged communities; controls the potential regressive impacts of future climate change mitigation; and adopts policies for these communities. The Act also reviews and prioritizes the allocation of public investments.