Saturday, March 2, 2019

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Proposed sustainable energy policies discussed

Activists demonstrated outside the town hall prior to the hearing

NEW PALTZ – Experts, environmental organization representatives and concerned community members shared their input regarding the state’s draft environmental protection legislation, the Community Climate and Protection Act (CCPA), during a public hearing in New Paltz, Friday, with state Senators James Skoufis (D, Woodbury) and Jennifer Metzger (D, Rosendale).

The legislation sets the most ambitious sustainable energy policies in the country to be adopted by New York, specifically a transition to half of the state’s energy being consumed by renewable resources by 2030 and a full transition to renewable energy by 2050, the creation of a 25-member Climate Action Council to oversee a scoping plan for renewable energy transition, the creation of a Climate Justice Working Group to identify at-risk communities and their ability for renewable energy investment opportunities, the setting of labor standards regarding the shift to renewables and directing approximately 40 percent of access to renewable energy sources to low-income, as well as environmental justice communities.

Although the bill has been passed by the Assembly in previous iterations, it has never been passed by the State Senate.

Despite its ambitious nature, stakeholders in Ulster County still believe the legislation lacks some critically important provisions to the effort of a fully renewable state energy economy.

Recurring areas of concern alluded to by speakers at the hearing regarded the ramping up of the 100 percent renewable energy mandate from 2050 to 2030, the need of a “just-transition” for current energy sector workers and the necessity for a clause to ban any new fossil-fuel operations from being permitted within the state.

“It is absolutely crucial that we enact policies that move New York off fossil-fuels. This includes making a fair and just, and rapid, transition to 100 percent renewable energy and includes stopping all new fossil-fuel projects,” said Eric Weltman of New York Food and Water Watch.

This same concern was echoed by many other speakers, including County Legislator Manna Jo Greene, of Sloop Clearwater, who said her organization would be aligned with the addition of a banning on new fossil-fuel operations.

The argument against this full transition is that workers within the energy sector would be at risk for job loss, hence the “just-transition” suggestion.

Lew Daly, a senior policy analyst at think-tank Demos, said this is one of a number of concerns not prescriptively addressed by the legislation, but is also one that is misunderstood according to Demos’ data. Daly agrees the necessity for a “just-transition” is apparent for full-renewable transition since there would be a marginal job loss; but, if done correctly, would actually create a significant amount of jobs.

“Getting to zero emissions, from where we are now, is going to require a lot of investment and investment creates jobs. It’s not rocket science,” said Daly. “The findings from the University of Massachusetts that we rely on are something along the line of 200,000 jobs generated by CCPA investments over the first 10-year period.”

Senators Skoufis and Metzger said after the hearing that they are excited the state finally is looking to pass aggressive climate change policy, but they are aware this current CCPA legislation needs to be improved.

 


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