What a difference a month and a half makes.
In early June, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo indicated that a bill proposed by state legislators to combat the effects of climate change wasn’t practical. On July 18, however, Mr. Cuomo was signing this very bill into law. He called it “the most aggressive climate law in the United States of America.”
The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act calls for 70 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources by 2030. It sets a goal of using 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040. Mr. Cuomo said that by 2050, New York would reduce greenhouse gas emissions overall by 85 percent.
It’s peculiar that the governor has become so enthusiastic about this legislation. He didn’t believe last month that the state could meet these goals, according to a story published June 6 by North Country Public Radio.
“What I don’t want to do is to give people a political placebo where we put forth dates and goals that we cannot make,” Mr. Cuomo said June 3 on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, NCPR reported. “And I don’t want to tell people that we can move to a carbon-free economy in a period of time that I know that we can’t.”
Perhaps former Vice President Al Gore was the one who changed Mr. Cuomo’s mind on the bill. He joined the governor at Fordham University in the Bronx for the bill-signing ceremony.
There are some good aspects of the legislation. It will invest about $280 million in new electricity transmission infrastructure. It also will develop a $20 million program through the SUNY system to train employees in the growing industry of green technology.
In his comments last week, Mr. Cuomo committed the state to generating 9,000 megawatts of wind power capacity. He announced two wind projects that would total 1,700 megawatts of power. One would be offshore 30 miles east of Long Island, and the other would be 14 miles southeast of Manhattan.
The question is where other wind projects will be proposed to meet the objectives of this new law. Will energy firms continue to push for sites in Northern New York?
Another concern is the added expenses that companies will need to absorb.
“New York legislation establishing the country’s highest standards for reducing greenhouse gas emissions has companies scrambling to determine how much it will cost to comply. Executives at Revere Copper Products Inc., a manufacturer in Rome, N.Y., wonder if potential energy price increases will make the company less competitive globally,” according to a story published July 3 by the Wall Street Journal. “Paper-mill operators, which use wood chips and other timber byproducts as fuel, are worried they will need to find a new way to power their facilities. And cement companies, whose manufacturing process creates emissions, wonder if the bill has the potential of upending the industry in New York. Manufacturing executives have said that they were pleased by last-minute amendments to the bill that will give them an increased say in its implementation. A great deal of uncertainty, however, remains.”
We acknowledge that global warming is a crisis we need to address immediately. Looking for ways to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions must become a priority.
But Mr. Cuomo had it right the first time. This new law sets unrealistic goals that will entice even more companies to leave the state. Does he intend to create a carbon-free economy by reducing commercial activity to zero?