A Hard Fought Climate Victory: The Watchdog Report

A Hard Fought Climate Victory

In his January State of the State address, Governor Cuomo announced plans to lower the CO2 emissions cap on energy plants as part of his agenda to fight climate change. The cap, part of the nine-state Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) coalition, has been a critical tool in lessening climate-altering pollutants which contribute to increasingly frequent and unpredictable storms, floods, and weather patterns.

New York has long been a leader on environmental issues like climate change, which is why President Obama recently modeled his own pollution-cutting plan after RGGI’s success.

As good as RGGI has been in the past, we can never stop pushing for stronger, smarter, more effective programs. Natural disasters have pummeled our state in recent years, often with new storms hitting before communities have had the chance to recover from the devastation of the last one. The costs of these storms – whether in economic terms or in impacts on people’s lives – demonstrate that we must continue to set and pursue aggressive goals for fighting climate change.

In the coming weeks, there will be opportunity for the public to comment as rules are finalized for January 1. As always, we will keep you informed of opportunities to get involved along the way!

We applaud Governor Cuomo for keeping his word and leading the rest of the country by example. His introduction of rules to reduce power plant emissions and to invest in clean, renewable energy is important as we work to ensure New York remains a responsible leader for our environment and economy in the years ahead.

One (Sunny Step Closer) 

Thousands of New Yorkers spoke up already this year to demand that Governor Cuomo prioritized the development of clean solar energy. Now we're seeing the proof of our collective actions. 

These new solar panel installations will be located at businesses, factories, municipal buildings, colleges and other larger commercial and industrial companies and institutions. 

These projects are a big step in the right direction for New York – and it's thanks to the voices of Environmental Advocates' members across the state, thousands of you who have demanded that Governor Cuomo and state legislators commit to renewable energy. 

Despite broad bipartisan support for a measure that would extend the NY-Sun program through 2023, the Legislature failed to pass the New York Solar Bill this year. But the Governor has the power to help us harness the power of the sun and extend this program for another 10 years. Our next step is urging Governor Cuomo to go it alone, not let the Legislature's political gamesmanship stand in the way of progress, and make New York a true solar leader.

Member Spotlight: Cherry Valley's Keith Schue 

On May 23rd, our citizens' lobbying team met with the legislative aides of several Senators. During the conversations that occurred, it became apparent that the IDC really is key to overcoming the current legislative roadblock to a vote on the Fracking Moratorium Bill.  Although we urged other Democrats to call on the IDC to act, it became very apparent to us that the political chasm between the IDC and other Democrats in the Senate was just as wide or even wider than the distance between Republicans and Democrats. (Sometimes Albany appears to be dysfunctional by design.) 

Ironically, while researching bills that were sponsored or co-sponsored by Senators, we also found that IDC members had actually put their names on some strong anti-fracking bills. Three of them even cosponsored Avella's bill S673 for a complete ban. So their refusal to now support the one bill that actually has a chance of passing suggests that they are really just playing politics (that is only supporting bills that they are confident won't go anywhere). I felt that light needed to be cast on this behavior, which is why I wrote my letter to the Albany Times Union.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing New York's air, land and water?

That is a loaded question. I have been involved in environmental advocacy for many years and worked for The Nature Conservancy for five of those before moving to New York. During that time I have learned to look at the long-term, big  picture with respect to human impacts. 

New York, like many states, really has very few laws to protect land in the face of human development, whether that development is industrial, commercial, or residential. There are a limited set of poorly enforced rules and regulations for certain types of activity, but no comprehensive strategy to ensure that the fabric of the natural world which sustains us is retained. Furthermore local land use laws in this state are few and far between, so over time upstate New York risks losing its pristine places and rural heritage. 

Without a doubt, in the immediate future our greatest threat is fracking, which if authorized would systematically transform large expanses of our state's  beautiful forests, valleys, farms, and communities into an industrial landscape--not only spoiling the unfragmented integrity of functioning ecosystems, but also polluting the air we breath and water we drink. The fundamental problem is that we no longer live in a sustainable coexistence with nature, and our greatest challenge will be to change that. Ultimately the future of our planet and our species depends on it.