For Immediate Release: September 8, 2020
RGGI funds must go to frontline communities & clean energy projects
Albany, NY – Today, leading advocates challenged the Cuomo administration to keep its commitment to the linked goals of environmental justice and fighting climate change by dedicating $89.7 million in funds collected from polluters this year to frontline communities and clean energy projects. The advocates call on the Governor to reject any plan that will use these funds to fill other budget holes.
Specifically, $31.4 million should be directed to communities on the frontlines of climate change in compliance with New York’s Climate Law—The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). This figure equates to at least 35% of the proceeds received from 2020 Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) auctions—$27.8 million from the March auction and $28.3 million from the June auction and $33.6 million from the most recent auction.
Over the course of the program, $228 million (more than 17%) of RGGI funds have been transferred by NYSERDA to the state General Fund to fill budget holes, depriving New Yorkers of funding that could have lowered energy bills and created good green jobs. Facing potential budget shortfalls, there is great concern that these funds will again be used outside of their intended purpose.
Conor Bambrick, Director of Climate Policy at Environmental Advocates NY said, “We’ve seen this play out before. In times of fiscal strain, New York has an unfortunate history of raiding RGGI funds to plug budget holes. The poor decisions of the past cannot be the path taken now. Last year, Governor Cuomo showed great commitment to environmental justice when he signed a climate law that requires 35 percent of all clean energy funds be directed to frontline communities. He should not abandon these values now by sweeping this money to fill other budget holes.”
Annel Hernandez, Associate Director at New York City Environmental Justice Alliance said, “We need to ensure New York commits to the 35 percent mandate set by the CLCPA, and utilizes clean energy funds to help catalyze energy efficiency and community solar projects in frontline communities. Prioritizing our transition away from fossil fuels will help communities recover, build resilience, and improve public health.”
As a participant in the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), New York sets limits on power plant carbon pollution. For each ton of pollution, power plants are charged a fee for emitting that pollution into the air. The revenue is then supposed to be invested by the state in energy efficiency, renewables, and other carbon pollution reduction programs.
The three auctions of 2020 have netted New York $89.7 million, which under the state’s climate law would mean $31.4 million should be directed to frontline communities. Over the life of the program, RGGI has raised more than $1.3 billion for New York.
New York’s sweeping climate law mandates 100% zero-emissions electricity by 2040 and charts a path to decarbonize by industry sector. RGGI proceeds are going to be critical to fund programs to achieve these emissions reduction goals. One of the key provisions of the law is a mandate that no less than 35% of the state’s clean energy funds be dedicated to initiatives that benefit disadvantaged communities. RGGI auction proceeds fit into the definition of clean energy funds.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) have proposed modifications to the regulations governing the state’s participation in RGGI. The DEC proposal can be found here. The NYSERDA proposal is here.
Annel Hernandez, [email protected]
Brian Keegan, [email protected]