By GREGORY ZELLER
A statewide coalition rallying for “climate justice” delivered high praise Friday for some of the sharpest environmental regulations ever considered by Albany.
With the New York State Senate hosting its third legislative hearing in four days on a proposed slate of new and pointed environmental laws (following sit-downs in Albany and New York City), members of NY Renews – a coalition of more than 160 organizations championing environmental policy “grounded in equity and justice for communities and working people” – testified Feb. 15 at the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola.
Led by State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Rockville Centre), chairman of the Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee, the hearing was an opportunity for legislators to hear from regional stakeholders on Senate Bill S2992, the Climate and Community Protection Act, which sets aggressive mandates that would create a 100 percent renewable-energy New York State in just 30 years.
And NY Renews did not disappoint, with multiple members – representing both Long Island-based and statewide organizations – testifying their full-throated support of the CCPA, along with a few stinging rebukes of current federal policies on the environment and the working class.
Climate-change deniers need not apply, noted biologist Cathy McConnell, a member of the Long Island Progressive Coalition who testified that “climate change threatens our way of life” on the Island, including “our homes, our beaches, our communities and our future.”
“But … we will stand up to protect our homes, our families and our communities,” McConnell said. “We must defend our way of life, and that means supporting the CCPA.”
Guy Jacob, conservation chairman of the Nassau Hiking and Outdoor Club, said it was up to individual states to take the mantle on environmental issues “in the face of federal inaction.”
“Throughout our union’s history … individual states have led and changed the course of American history,” Jacob testified before the State Senate panel. “Once again, New York State is at the crossroads of historical significance.”
Making history is certainly on the minds of Kaminsky, who introduced Senate Bill S2992, and his multitude of co-sponsors – a partisan assemblage of statewide Democrats with a few third-party designations thrown in and nary a Republican in sight. A companion bill sponsored by NYS Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Port Jefferson) is working its way to the State Assembly floor, similarly supported along party lines.
Referencing the Paris Agreement – the international climate-change accord agreed to in 2015 by 195 countries and later dismissed by President Donald Trump, who summarily withdrew the United States – and noting “the severity of current climate change,” the CCPA warns that “the threat of additional and more severe change will be affected by the actions undertaken by New York and other jurisdictions to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.”
To that end, it lays out a laundry list of emission-reduction, clean-generation directives spanning multiple industries and, where necessary and possible, targeting disadvantaged communities first – a cross-cultural smorgasbord of renewable-energy mandates meant to promote good-paying jobs and boost the production economy while saving the world.
The proposed law also creates a “New York State Climate Change Council” – including members appointed by the governor, the Senate and the Assembly, as well as at-large professional members – to see the new mandates through to fruition.
The ultimate goal: a statewide reduction of 100 percent (from 1990 levels) of greenhouse-gas emissions from anthropogenic sources by the year 2050, with at least a 50 percent reduction achieved by 2030.
It’s an ambitious agenda – but according to NY Renews member Ryan Madden, sustainability organizer for the Long Island Progressive Coalition, the Empire State has the wherewithal “to reorient ourselves and to tackle the climate crisis with the urgency it demands.”
“In New York State, we have a solution … that will serve as a model to other states,” Madden told state legislators Friday. “This is a transformative bill that changes the logic of our economic and governance systems, the only appropriate response to the threats posed by climate change and the structural forces that have caused it.”
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