Climate change bill goes to Gov. Cuomo's desk

Originally published in Times Union on July 17, 2019.

Act calls for sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions

A measure designed to eventually eliminate greenhouse gas from energy production as well as most of the state’s economy has been sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk and could be signed as soon as Thursday.

The landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which passed during the past legislative session following years of failed attempts, expands upon and puts legal teeth in what have been several large steps in recent years to limit and eventually eliminate emissions of carbon dioxide, which scientists say is a major contributor toward global warming.

The measure mandates that New York by 2050 reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent from 1990 levels.

It also calls for 100 percent carbon-free electricity generation by 2040. The state currently gets approximately 60 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources, most of which are nuclear plants and hydroelectric dams. There is also a small but growing number of wind and solar sources.

To help reach the 100 percent goal, members of a yet-to-be-appointed Climate Change Action Council, to be created by 2020, would have to calculate the costs of such changes and then by 2023 submit a plan for getting there.

Environmentalists cheered passage of the bill and Cuomo’s earlier indications that he would sign it.

“Establishing a mandatory, comprehensive reduction plan that touches all sectors and sources of climate pollutants controllable by human endeavor, New York will lead nationally in the effort to avert the most catastrophic, predictable results of a rapidly heating planet,” wrote Liz Moran, environmental policy director at NYPIRG, one of the bill’s backers.

Others, including business and power production groups, however, worry about the still-unquantified costs of the plan.

“This has very, very wide-reaching ramifications. It would fundamentally change our electric system and our entire economy,” said Joe Shahen, communications manager at the Independent Power Producers of NY, a trade group of electricity generating firms.

The CLCP Act was sponsored by Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Assemblyman Steve Englebright, both Democrats from Long Island.

That region has long been a hotbed of environmental activism with concern over beaches and wetlands, industrial pollution and problems stemming from the historic use of cesspools in numerous residential areas.

The governor is said to be planning a bill signing on Thursday along with an announcement regarding plans to produce power from offshore wind generators.