New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Green New Deal has drawn far less buzz than the one proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Then again, her version is nowhere near passage.
The governor’s is about to become law.
The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act is headed to Mr. Cuomo’s desk after winning final passage Thursday shortly before the legislative session ended. That tees up New York for the most demanding emissions reductions targets in the nation and possibly the planet.
The bill represents the centerpiece of Mr. Cuomo’s Green New Deal proposal, announced in December and promptly eclipsed by Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s nonbinding resolution calling for a U.S. energy and economic revolution that even its supporters have downplayed as aspirational.
At the core of the New York climate plan is a mandate for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 — 85% in reductions and 15% in offsets — and 100% electricity generation from renewable energy by 2040 from 1990 levels.
“In December, I called for some of the most ambitious clean energy and pollution reduction targets in the nation under the Green New Deal for New York,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “We are now taking another historic step forward to stop the imminent threat of climate change by establishing the most aggressive greenhouse gas reduction mandate in the nation and, we believe, in the entire world.”
Dumbfounded state Republicans predicted that the bill, to be implemented by an appointed Climate Action Council, will wreak havoc on New York’s economy because it will cost $48 billion to set up offshore wind farms, raise energy prices and taxes, and drive more businesses out of state.
“The climate bill has got some horrible, horrible aspects to it, because it’s not reality,” said Republican Assemblyman David DiPietro. “You’re trying to achieve goals that are stuck in the clouds, that don’t have a chance. And even their own numbers don’t add up. And we brought that up to them, it was all emotion, about how we’re trying to destroy the world.”
Greg Biryla, New York state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, cited estimates showing that the plan will require about $8 billion in new taxes on existing energy sources to pay for the transition to renewables.
Small businesses, those with nine to 11 employees, employ half the state’s workforce, or about 4 million people, and “operate on an incredibly tight margin,” he said.
“All of them use energy, and all of them pay for energy, and it is a fixed cost to run a business in this state or any state,” Mr. Biryla said. “[I hope] they try to minimize the cost impacts felt by small business and employers because we’re just going to end up pushing employers out of New York state.”
The bill’s supporters argue that the economic impact will be offset by the creation of green jobs and a focus on boosting “disadvantaged communities,” which are to receive at least 35% of the clean energy investment.
Such assurances have done little to ease concerns about the costs, especially for the agriculture, construction and transportation sectors.
“In many cases, the technology is not there to meet some of these goals and these standards,” said Mr. Biryla. “An electric tractor-trailer costs $100 million more than a diesel one,” he said. “There’s not really technologically advanced equipment in the market for agriculture or construction.”
The AOC effect
The New York bill comes with blue states in a race to the bottom for the lowest emissions targets. California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico and the District of Columbia also have 100% clean energy goals, but New York shaves five years off the 2045 target set by California and Hawaii.
“I want New York to have the most aggressive climate change program in the United States of America, period,” Mr. Cuomo told WCNY Radio last week.
Although Mr. Cuomo has never been a fossil fuels fan — his administration banned hydraulic fracturing in 2014 — the impetus for this year’s climate charge goes in part to the liberal insurgency led by Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, known as AOC.
Democrats wrested the New York Senate from Republicans in the November elections, but a half dozen moderates under the Independent Democratic Conference banner were swept out of office by leftist primary challengers.
That show of liberal strength, followed by Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal splash, put pressure on New York’s establishment Democrats — including Mr. Cuomo, no favorite of liberals — to shift to the left.
“It’s AOC versus the Democrats in our chamber,” said Mr. DiPietro. “Some of the most responsible Democrats, they’re liberal but you can work with them. AOC has already said that they’re old white men and she’s going to take them out in her district.”
With the climate bill, however, the old white men can make the argument that they can overpower the resistance.
“The governor takes her out this way by saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got the Green New Deal, she can’t get anything done in Washington, but we’ve got this here in New York state,'” Mr. DiPietro said.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal calls for net zero U.S. emissions by 2030, along with a social justice wish list that includes a federal jobs guarantee, universal health care and free college education.
The measure has 93 House co-sponsors, but the Democratic leadership has no plans to hold a vote. In the Senate, the measure failed on a 0-57 vote, with 43 Democrats voting “present” after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, brought it to the floor in March.
“While Washington is asleep at the wheel, New York is leading the way,” New York state Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a bill sponsor, said in a statement. “The CLPA will virtually eliminate New York’s greenhouse gasses, foster renewable energy production, create green jobs, invest in lower-income communities, and protect our planet.”
New York, which boasts the nation’s third largest economy, powers 38% of its electrical grid with natural gas, with 32% from nuclear and 22% from hydro, both noncarbon sources. Just 2% comes from wind and 0% from solar, according to 2015 state figures.
Critics said the net effect may be to send manufacturers and businesses to other states — or overseas — bringing down New York’s emissions without changing overall atmospheric levels.
“New York state is a proverbial drop in the bucket of global carbon emissions,” said Mr. Biryla. “That’s one of the reasons this is so troubling. Not only will it present very real challenges to our economy, there’s a lot of people who are skeptical about whether it will do anything to address climate change and environmental protection.”
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