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NYS Climate Action Council approves clean energy plan

A wind turbine on a mountain top in eastern New York
Jim Levulis
A wind turbine on a mountain top in eastern New York

New York’s Climate Action Council has approved a plan for how the state will meet its ambitious clean energy goals. The council – chaired by the leaders of the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority – adopted the plan with a 19-3 vote Monday.

"This Plan serves as a bold, monumental achievement not just for New York State, but for the nation and the world, which centers on equity and climate justice across all sectors, building opportunities for all, and ensuring we have a workforce that can transition as seamlessly as possible in our new clean energy economy," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, who co-chaired the council. "Our work is just beginning, and we are leading the way to a cleaner, greener, and brighter future.”

“New York State laid the groundwork for change with its nation-leading climate law, and through the diligent and thoughtful work of the Climate Action Council, along with input from the public in every corner of the state, we now have an action plan to follow to ensure we meet these critical goal," said NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen Harris, the Council's other co-chair. "Today is certainly a day to celebrate, but this also marks the beginning of more significant work to come as we forge the path ahead and lead by example on how to transition an economy based on the conventional energy practices of yesterday to the thriving green economy of tomorrow.”

The scoping plan covers most aspects of everyday life from transportation to how buildings are powered and heated. It will be submitted to Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul and the Democratic-controlled state legislature by January 1. The plan was called for as part of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019 that requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and no less than 85 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels.

The New York Farm Bureau says it is reviewing the climate plan.

"At first glance, the report recognizes important strides New York's farmers and foresters have made to reduce emissions, increase efficiencies, and sequester carbon," said NYFB President David Fisher. "We have long believed that agriculture is part of the solution to mitigate climate change. An incentive-based approach for farms that invests in research, new technologies, and education will be key for farmer adoption and the plan's success. However, major concerns remain including the push for electric, zero-emission agricultural vehicles when the technology does not exist for such equipment. The future commercial viability of the equipment must also be affordable and accessible for the state's farmers. There must also be a power grid in every region of the state that can handle the electrical demand that the Climate Action Council is seeking today. New York Farm Bureau also supports renewable natural gas and biofuels as part of any climate smart plan."

The leader of state Senate Republicans and the head of Independent Power Producers of New York called the plan a radical energy agenda, urging so-called “common sense” climate policies.

“For the families I serve in Niagara, Orleans and Monroe Counties, access to reliable and affordable energy is an essential part of daily life," said Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt. "Many of my constituents work in energy intensive industries like agriculture and manufacturing, and they live in a region where cold winters are the norm. The scoping plan released by the Climate Action Council will negatively impact my constituents, and millions of other New Yorkers, by making life more expensive and putting their livelihoods in jeopardy.”

“At a time of skyrocketing heating costs for NY families, a handful of unelected bureaucrats and political appointees released the final version of the Climate Action Council’s scoping plan," said Gavin Donohue, President and CEO, Independent Power Producers of New York, a Council member who voted against the climate plan. "This plan will touch every aspect of the State’s economy, making life more expensive for NY families and businesses. Under this plan, homeowners will be forced to spend tens of thousands of more dollars to install new heating systems within their homes. The State’s electrical grid will have to be quickly upgraded, at a cost in the billions of dollars. And who will pay for all of this? New York families, ratepayers and taxpayers. There are only two possible reasons the scoping plan does not include a cost analysis: the council does not know the cost of their own proposals or they do know the cost but don't want New Yorkers to know. Either way, it is unacceptable. There are ways to transition to a cleaner future, and this is not it."

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org