Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Climate Wins And Losses In NY Budget

As part of Albany’s $220 billion Budget for 2022–2023, Lawmakers have included a record-breaking Investment in Renewable Energy, and in trying to Protect the Environment from Climate Change. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), said the Funds will “supercharge” the Green Economy, and move the needle significantly toward NY’s Climate Goals.

Green Measures that Did and Did-Not, make it into the Budget, and how the Investments are poised to Reshape NY’s Climate Future:

Environmental Bond Act

A core component of the NY’s vision for a Greener future is the $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act, which New Yorkers will have the opportunity to Vote on in November. The Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Bill, is expected to fund Capital Projects to Reduce the impact of the Climate crisis, including Resilient Infrastructure, Water Quality Upgrades, and Habitat Restoration.

If the Measure passes, NY would Issue and Sell Bonds to Fund projects. “It is proactive rather than reactive so that we can help protect communities,” said Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “That’s going to be a big infusion of funding for dealing with environmental infrastructure as well as really using nature to protect us from climate change.”

Some key Investments include: $1.5 billion for Climate-Mitigation Projects; $1.1 billion for efforts to Reduce Flood Risk; and $650 million for Land Conservation and Recreation. To help NY meet its 2035 goal that all School Buses, on the road, be Zero-Emission Vehicles, the Bond Act includes $500 million to transition NY’s Fleet to Electric.

Offshore Wind Investment

In February, NY broke ground on its First Offshore Wind farm. South Fork Wind, which was jointly developed by Ørsted and Eversource off Long Island, is One of Five Offshore Wind Projects in Active development in NY, the most of any State in the Country. Those combined Projects are expected to generate more than 4,300 megawatts, Power 2.4 million NY Homes, and create some 6,800 jobs in Manufacturing, Installation, and Operations. By 2035, NY aims to generate 9,000 megawatts to handle roughly 30% of the NY’s Electricity needs.

To reach that Goal, Lawmakers have green-lit a $500 million Investment in the NY’s Offshore Wind Supply Chains and Port Infrastructure. Tighe called the Funding a “big win” for the NY’s Green Economy. “Building out that supply chain infrastructure is critical,” she said, “and having a major commitment from the state of New York is really necessary to show the manufacturers that we're serious about wind.”

Wetlands Protections

The Budget expands Protections for NY’s Freshwater Wetlands, which serve as Natural Flood Barriers and contain Diverse Ecosystems. Under the Measure, the State Department of Environmental Conservation, can require Special Permits for Projects on Wetlands with a footprint of 7.4 acres, down from the previous Minimum of 12.4 acres, along with smaller Wetlands NY determines are of “unusual importance.” Environmentalists have long pushed for the Relatively Small but significant change.

“NY and municipal regulators will now have the tools to identify and enhance the diverse mosaic of wetlands that protects New York’s communities, drinking water and biodiversity,” said Roger Downs, Conservation Director with the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter.

Gas-Tax Holiday

NY has followed in the footsteps of Connecticut, Maryland, Georgia, and other States by adopting a Gas-Tax Suspension. The idea is to offer Motorists relief at the Pump as the War in Ukraine, and other Factors have pushed Prices Higher. On Monday, a Gallon of Gas averaged $4.22 in NY. But Environmentalists and Mass-Transit Advocates, who have been widely Critical of the idea, say it’s an ill-conceived “holiday” that could hurt Mass Transit and the Environment, down the road.

“It’s really vital to have stable sources of funding for our capital projects,” said Tom Wright, President and CEO of the Regional Plan Association. “Mass transit, road repairs—these kinds of projects take years to plan and finance, and so any fluctuation in the funding for them really can be disruptive.” “I think it’s sending a signal that we care more about drivers than other folks, who take mass transit,” Wright added.

No Fossil Fuel Ban in New Buildings

A Major Disappointment for Environmental Advocates was the Budget’s Failure to Ban Fossil Fuels in Nnew Buildings by 2024. The proposed Legislation, known as the All-Electric Building Act, is key to NY’s plan to achieve economy-wide Carbon Nutrality by 2050. The Measure has the Support of Hochul and Legislative Leaders in NY's Senate, but it faced Opposition in the Assembly.

“We didn’t include policy in our budget proposal because we want to focus on the fiscal issues facing the state,” Michael Whyland, Spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-83rd District), said via email. “The speaker is always guided by the members of the Democratic majority conference.”

Lawmakers have until the End of the Legislative Session, which comes to a close in June, to haggle over the Details and Decide the Bill’s fate.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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