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Ahead of Biden’s State of the Union, NY climate activists push for executive action

A group of environmental advocates holding signs.
New York NOW
Environmental advocates gather in downtown Albany Tuesday.

Climate advocates from around New York State gathered in Albany on Tuesday, to call for climate action via executive order in President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address.

The Build Back Fossil Free Coalition made several specific demands of the Biden administration leading up to Tuesday night’s speech. Those include a ban on fracking, the declaration of a climate emergency, a stop to the approval of new fossil fuel projects on the federal level, and a commitment to phase out fossil fuels entirely.

One group represented at Tuesday’s rally was the Washington D.C. based “Food and Water Watch”. Senior New York Organizer Eric Weltman said President Biden has broken the promises made during his campaign.

“President Biden is failing our climate, communities and future generations on climate,” Weltman said. “With a simple stroke of the pen, he could end our reliance on fossil fuels, declare a climate emergency and stop new oil and gas project approvals. So far, he has abdicated that executive authority in favor of failing Congressional politicking.”

The Albany County Central Federation of Labor also participated in Tuesday morning’s rally. Doug Bullock, the First Vice President of the federation, alluded to the concept of renewable energy contributing to world peace.

“The war in Ukraine is over fossil fuels. We’ve got to stop the war for fossil fuels. How many fossil fuel wars have we got to go through,” Bullock said. “We had one in Iraq, same thing. We wanted their oil, we went over there, we got their oil. We did the same thing to Syria, and we’re doing the same thing now in Ukraine. It’s all about resource wars, we’ve got to stop the wars."

While much of the rally focused on federal issues, there was an acknowledgement of climate actions on the state level. Specifically, Michael Richardson from Rivers and Mountains GreenFaith Circle is calling for the state to fund the Climate Act.

“We have what many consider the perfect climate law. We have a pretty damn good plan… We have a budget surplus,” Richardson said.

The Climate Act, also known as the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, or CLCPA, passed in 2019, and created a number of time-sensitive environmental goals for the state to reach. Those include an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040, and a shift to 70% renewable energy by 2030.

To help fund those goals, environmental advocates have pushed for the passage of the Climate and Community Investment Act, or CCIA. The proposed legislation includes a fee of $55 per ton of greenhouse gas emissions for fossil fuel companies. That measure is strongly opposed by Republicans in the state Legislature, who say it would increase energy costs for the average consumer.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration has outlined additional goals to address climate issues in New York. Among those are a proposal, mandating emission-free building construction by 2027 and the creation of 2 million electric-only or electric-ready homes by 2030.

The future of the CCIA, on the other hand, remains unclear.