You are on page 1of 3

March 6, 2019

Hon. Todd D. Kaminsky Hon. Steve Englebright


Chair, Chair,
Committee on Environmental Conservation Committee on Environmental Conservation
New York State Senate New York State Assembly
Albany, NY 12247 Albany, NY 12248
Dear Chairman Todd Kaminsky and Chairman Steve Englebright:

As the executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York, an organization that has
spent years fighting for policies to deal with our changing climate, I extend my deep appreciation
to both of you for your leadership in addressing climate change and your sponsorship of the
Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA).

Chairman Englebright, you have helped guide the CCPA from the beginning, first by subjecting
it to intense legislative rigor and then by shepherding its passage in the Assembly for the past
three years. Chairman Kaminsky, calling for hearings on the CCPA as one of your first official
acts as Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee demonstrated a level of
commitment not seen before in the New York State Senate. And seeing the two of you sitting
next to each other at these hearings is reason alone for optimism that the CCPA will become law
in New York this year.

It was similarly inspiring to hear so many New Yorkers stand up to testify that they are ready for
a 100% clean energy economy that puts workers and families first. The nation needs New York
to be a true climate leader and New Yorkers are with you as you move forward to secure this
appellation.

The recent hearings have made clear that the CCPA’s aggressive and accountable mandates—
which ensure New York’s economy is fully powered by clean, renewable energy in the next 30
years—are both essential and feasible. However, some have disparaged the very concept. Since
these comments have been made outside of the Senate’s public hearing process, preventing an
opportunity for further examination and dialog, I offer my perspective for your consideration.
These comments do not speak for other organizations that may also support the CCPA.

353 Hamilton Street, Albany, NY 12210


518.462.5526 I www.EANY.org
353 Hamilton Street, Albany, NY 12210
www.eany.org - 518.462.5526
This criticism has come from Governor Cuomo’s former Director of State Operations and the
current president of the Rockefeller Institute of Government, Jim Malatras. In a recent blog
entry, (see http://empirereportnewyork.com/jim-malatras-green-new-deal-new-york-andrew-
cuomo/) he says of the CCPA, “in the abstract it sounds fine, but it runs into what I call ‘people-
problems’,” and goes on to lament that the CCPA’s legal requirement to move New York off of
fossil fuels will mean that, well, New York will have to move off of fossil fuels. In contrast, Mr.
Malatras later extols Governor Cuomo’s approach of dealing with climate change
administratively, stressing both the market and regulatory strategies that have been used.

Mr. Malatras’ first point, that putting climate goals into law would be counter-productive is
easily dismissed. In this regard, New York is already behind. California and Massachusetts have
put climate goals into law and are moving swiftly to meet them. They have reoriented
government decisions to meet these goals. No calamity has befallen them. In fact, it has been
quite the opposite. Both states have seen a clean energy boom and are enjoying the
accompanying economic benefits.

But even more so, Mr. Malatras’ argument overlooks the frontline communities who are today
suffering the effects of climate change and pollution. For them, eliminating climate pollution is
not an academic or political exercise, but a matter of life and death. From this perspective, a
transition to a 100% renewable energy economy is not, as Mr. Malatras states, an “ideological
purity test,” but rather a moral obligation. We need the strongest laws possible to guarantee
equity and justice to these frontline communities.

As we’re also now seeing with the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks, future governors
will have a much easier time undermining, weakening, or circumventing climate and clean
energy goals if they’re not enshrined in law.

Mr. Malatras’ second point—that the Cuomo administration’s record on climate change proves
that current policies suffice—deserves more scrutiny. While Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal
contains a thoughtful proposal on climate (much of it seemingly based on the CCPA), after eight
years and numerous press releases, New York is still not where we need to be. The rhetoric far
outpaces actual progress.

A clear example is actually just a stone’s throw away from the State Capitol. As you know, the
Sheridan Avenue energy plant powers the State Capitol and the Empire State Plaza complex.
Residents from the surrounding community have endured air pollutants from this plant for
decades. There is a need to upgrade the system that powers the central nervous system of state
government, but what the Governor has proposed thus far is a system that relies on fossil fuels.

The Legislature provided meaningful leadership last by year by insisting that the funding for this
effort include renewable energy technologies. Chairman Englebright, many members of the
Assembly and the Senate have joined your and Senator Breslin’s call for the Capitol to be

353 Hamilton Street, Albany, NY 12210


518.462.5526 I www.EANY.org
353 Hamilton Street, Albany, NY 12210
www.eany.org - 518.462.5526
powered entirely by renewable energy. So far, the Governor remains committed to fossil fuels.
This is not the stance of a true climate leader.

I also draw your attention to another short-coming of the approach of relying on administrative
action to serve as a substitute for statute. In June of 2017, Governor Cuomo issued Executive
Order 166 that affirmed that New York had a policy of reducing all greenhouse gas emissions
80% by 2050. The practical effect of this policy would be to move all sectors of the economy off
of fossil fuels. I will not fault you for coming to the conclusion that this goal sounds a lot like the
goals of the CCPA.

In addition, through EO 166, Governor Cuomo directed state agencies to adopt action plans that
will help New York achieve its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. The plans were due
just about a year ago, meaning measurable progress should have been made by now and you and
your colleagues would have surely heard about it at the hearings.

In his conclusion, Mr. Malatras said this about eliminating greenhouse gas emissions, “it’s the
how and when.” I agree. And I hope you agree that the ‘how’ is the CCPA and the ‘when’ is
now. As we make the necessary transition to 100% renewable energy, the CCPA is the right
policy that ensures equity and justice while also providing the surety and force of law.

Thank you again for your leadership and for your consideration of my comments.

Sincerely,

Peter M. Iwanowicz
Executive Director
Environmental Advocates of New York

353 Hamilton Street, Albany, NY 12210


518.462.5526 I www.EANY.org
353 Hamilton Street, Albany, NY 12210
www.eany.org - 518.462.5526