New York State Passes Ambitious Climate Bill - The Years Project

New York State Passes Ambitious Climate Bill

By Maggie Badore

The New York State legislature passed a robust plan to cut emissions and fight climate change, on the final day of the legislative session. The state Senate passed the bill 41-21 Tuesday evening, and cleared the Assembly in the early hours of Thursday morning. The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act is now on its way to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who said he would sign the bill.

The new legislation calls for an 85 percent reduction in emissions from 1990 levels, a target which the governor called “the most aggressive in the country.”

The bill also mandates that the state will get all of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2040, five years ahead of California’s 100 percent clean energy target. It also calls for an increase in solar power generation from 1.7 gigawatts currently to 6 gigawatts by 2025, plus an additional 9 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2035 (currently the state has none). New York joins California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Washington and Nevada in setting a state-wide target for emissions-free power.

The bill also requires state agencies to assess climate impacts when issuing permits, and establishes an air monitoring program for disadvantaged communities.

An earlier version of the bill, known as the Climate and Community Protection Act, or CCPA, was written by a group of over 180 labor, faith and environmental groups organized under the NY Renews coalition. NY Renews consistently pushed to keep economic and social justice at the forefront of climate policy efforts, calling for mandates for worker protections and investments in frontline areas, particularly low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

The CCPA came very close to passing last year during the previous legislative session. The act gained sponsorship from over half of the members of both the Senate and Assembly, but never made it to the floor for a vote.

The coalition views the final bill as a partial win. “We are deeply concerned that changes in the legislative language over the versions of the bill will weaken the bill’s original intent to directly invest resources in vulnerable communities,” the coalition said in a statement. “Additionally, although the bill includes a nod towards prevailing wage, the Governor’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act removes mandates to secure specific worker protections, job growth and training included in previous editions of the Climate and Community Protection Act, which are essential to a just transition off of fossil fuels.”

NY Renews vows to continue pushing for protections for frontline communities, and this initial win amidst Cuomo’s earlier reservations suggests that the coalition has the found a successful strategy. They have mobilized an inclusive and diverse set of organizations, reaching well beyond mainstream environmental groups. In the week leading up to the deal, NY Renews organized a rally at the state capitol with over 400 New Yorkers, and urged many more to call their elected officials, pressuring leaders to act.

Morgan Lee Margulies pushed for the bill as a Fellow for Our Climate, one of the member groups of the coalition. He said he’s disappointed that the provisions for workers were removed. Yet the bill is still one of the most ambitious plans to reduce emissions in the United States. “The passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act is monumental, not only for New York, but for the climate movement nationally,” he said.

Elizabeth Aranguiz, another Our Climate Fellow, also found cause to celebrate. “After educating other young people about the Climate and Community Protection Act and lobbying my State Senator and Assembly Member in-district and in Albany, I am excited New York is committed to drastically reducing emissions and investing in a transition off fossil fuels.”