Advisory groups to begin climate work

Wind turbines are pictured adjacent to a Lewis County farm in 2019. Under the state’s 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, the Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed targets for reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions, including a 40 percent reduction of 1990 emission levels by 2030, and an 85 percent reduction by 2050. Watertown Daily Times

ALBANY — Moving forward in the yearslong process of implementing the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, also called the Climate Act, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has prepared a regulatory proposal for limiting statewide greenhouse gas emissions.

Passed by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last summer, the Climate Act mandated the creation of a Climate Action Council, which first met in March, and Climate Justice Working Group, which first met last week.

The CJWG is designed to represent the needs of low-income areas, communities of color, coastal and agricultural regions and others disproportionately impacted by climate change. Six additional CAC advisory panels are expected to be formed this fall.

The work of those advisory panels, the CJWG and the CAC will culminate in the development of a Scoping Plan for meeting emissions reduction targets reflective of projections outlined in the state’s Energy Plan and by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The Scoping Plan is expected to be completed by the end of 2021, and outline steps to reach emissions reduction targets required by the Climate Act — a 40 percent reduction of 1990 emission levels by 2030, and an 85 percent reduction by 2050.

Under the Climate Act’s legal framework, the setting and implementation of those emissions reduction targets is accomplished through a new section of state Environmental Conservation Law. DEC’s full proposal to set those reduction targets, limiting emissions to 60 percent by 2030 and 15 percent by 2050, is scheduled to receive two public hearings in October.

Written public comments on the proposal, which is viewable on the DEC website, will be received until Oct. 27. Comments can also be made during two live webinar hearings, at 2 and 6 p.m. Oct. 20, before Administrative Law Judge Molly T. McBride. Instructions for joining the webinars, as well as information about free interpreter services, are posted to the DEC website.

The Climate Act describes statewide emissions as those from all sources within New York, and sources located outside the state that contribute to in-state energy industries and consumption.

Greenhouse gases regulated by the law include naturally-occurring and man-made gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, as well as hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons, both used in refrigeration, air conditioning, insulation and aerosol technologies.

“Greenhouse gases are created from a variety of sources and are accelerating the costly economic, public health and environmental impacts of climate change here in New York and across the globe,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “With a continued absence of federal leadership, the release of these proposed regulations brings our state one step closer to realizing the state’s historic Climate Act and demonstrates New York’s continued leadership on climate.”

At the federal level, about 100 rollbacks, facilitated by the Environmental Protection Agency since 2017, have revoked climate and environmental policies that limited carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles and power plants, regulated clean air, water and pollution, and protected the nation’s wetlands. Nearly 70 of those rollbacks have been completed as of July, with the remaining reversals in the works.

The Climate Act and forthcoming Scoping Plan is designed to drive investment in wind and solar energy solutions, energy storage and a transition to a renewable energy economy.

The law also requires the state to transition to a 70 percent renewable energy workforce by 2030, a 100 percent zero-carbon electricity industry by 2040 and designate 35 to 40 percent of the transition’s total investment benefits for disadvantaged communities. A definition of “disadvantaged communities” is expected from the CJWG in the coming months.

Comments or questions about the proposed 40-percent and 85-percent emissions reductions should be sent to climate.regs@dec.ny.gov, or directed to Suzanne Hagell at the DEC’s Office of Climate Change, 625 Broadway, 9th Floor, Albany NY 12233. For more information, call the office at 518-402-8448.

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