On July 18, 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (“the Act”) into law. State Senator Todd Kaminsky (D-9thdistrict) introduced the bill in order to mitigate the detrimental effects of climate change and aid the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its goal of limiting the global temperature increase from manmade greenhouse gases (GHGs) to 1.5-2°C. The Act seeks to reduce GHG emissions from all sectors of the New York state economy by 85% by 2050 and achieve net-zero emissions in the same timeframe.
The Act does not provide a detailed outline of how it will achieve its intended GHG reductions, but instead establishes a Climate Action Council (“Council”) to carry out much of the work. The Council, which is tasked with planning, preparing, and implementing specific policies needed for GHG reduction, will consist of 22 members, including the New York Secretary of State, the president of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the president of the Long Island Power Authority, the president of the New York Power Authority, and various state commissioners (of agencies including transportation, health, economic development, agriculture and markets, housing and community renewal, environmental conversation, and labor). The Council will convene expert advisory panels to work on topics like transportation, energy-intensive and trade-exposed industries, land use and local government, power generation, agriculture and forestry, and equitable concerns surrounding disadvantaged communities.
Together, the Council and various advisory councils will work to prepare a scoping plan, which will be published in three years, but itself does not have any regulatory effect. The Act requires that the scoping plan identify and recommend regulatory goals that will lead to net zero emissions in all sectors of the New York economy. At a minimum, it must include informationon measures to reduce emissions from the electricity sector, motor vehicles and residential buildings, emissions leakages, and use of chemicals that contribute to climate change. The scoping plan must also include recommended measures to encourage the creation of long-term carbon sequestration, more sources of renewable energy, new clean energy jobs, and to achieve healthy forests, water, air, and overall biodiversity.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will play an important role in implementing the Act and achieving net zero emissions. The Act requires it to:
- Issue annual reports on statewide greenhouse gas emissions, both state-generated and imported;
- “Promulgate regulations to ensure [private] compliance with the statewide reduction limits” as well “assist other state agencies in promulgating their own regulations”;
- Review and approve offset projects as an alternative compliance mechanism; and
4. Develop a clean air monitoring program and create a “strategy to reduce emissions of toxic air contaminants and criteria air pollutants in disadvantaged communities affected by a high cumulative exposure burden.”
New York state will also establish an extensive renewable energy program for its electric power sector by June 30, 2021. The Act charges the New York Public Service Commission, which regulates and oversees the state’s public utilities, with establishing a renewable portfolio standard program to ensure that:
- New York electric power providers produce 70% of their energy through renewables by 2030; and
- New York’s electric power sector be 100% carbon free by 2040.
The Act requires each power producer to meet the 70% and 100% goals by 2030 and 2040, respectively, but does not outline how they must achieve those goals. To meet these goals, New York will drive the procurement of 9 gigawatts of offshore wind electricity generation by 2035, 6 gigawatts of solar electricity by 2025, and 3 gigawatts of energy storage capacity by 2030.
A $5 billion Clean Energy Fund, approved in 2016, will help this happen. Of the $5 billion, $2.7 billion has been allocated to NYSERDA, which must “undertake a variety of activities to stimulate consumer demand for clean energy alternatives, energy efficiency while helping to build clean energy supply chains to meet that growing customer demand.” Another $961 million has been allocated to NY-Sun which will help support solar energy and make solar more affordable for residential and commercial customers. Some $782 million has been given to the New York Green bank to “leverage private sector investment” and “expand the availability of capital and increase confidence in lending for clean energy projects.” Lastly, $717 million has been assigned to innovation and research that will help spur growth and drive clean-tech business.
The Act establishes New York as one of the leading U.S. states in the fight against climate change. This law has received both widespread support and opposition. Two of the biggest opponents are Gavin Donohue, the president of the Independent Power Producers of New York and Greg Biryla, the New York director of the National Federation of Independent Business. Both cite the lack of details surrounding implementation and enforcement as the primary issue, especially for small businesses. Greg Biryla states that “there doesn’t appear to be a fiscal impact statement for something that aims to completely reinvent our state’s economy.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo declared the New York State Climate and Community Protection Act “the most aggressive climate change program in the United States of America, period.” The Act has found support in the New York environmental non-profit community. Erin McGrath, policy manager of Audubon New York says “this nation-leading legislation will provide the foundation for accomplishing New York State’s ambitious climate agenda, and help to protect birds and the places they need.” Samantha Levy, New York Policy Manager of the American Farmland trust states, “this legislation sets up a process that will help us work to ensure our farms adapt to, and remain resilient to adverse climate impacts.” Jessica Ottery, New York Policy Director of the Nature Conservancy foresees that the Act will affect other states, arguing that “[t]his landmark legislation sets a precedent for the nation and sends an important signal to nations around the world.”