NY Green Deal: Justice, Transition and Clean Energy Jobs

This is one of a series of posts on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s New York State Green New Deal. As part of his 2019 Justice Agenda he included a “nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will put the state on a path to carbon neutrality across all sectors of New York’s economy”.

Not surprisingly there are no details other than the announcement, no mention of potential costs, and no explanation how all this will affect any of the many impacts that he claims are caused by climate change. There is a proposal to provide the plan to make New York carbon neutral and I will blog on those plans as they become available. In the meantime this post discusses the language used to describe the plan to deliver climate justice, reduce impacts of the transition, and develop a clean tech workforce as part of the New York Green New Deal.

I have combined three proposals in this post because they are all out of my energy and environmental analysis background. Bluntly, all three seem to be political favors incorporated to curry favor from three groups to support the Green New Deal. None of them will have any impact on emissions reductions or energy transition. In the following sections I list the text from the announcement and my indented and italicized comments follow.

Proposal. Deliver Climate Justice for Underserved Communities

In 2016, the Governor introduced an ambitious environmental justice framework, establishing a statewide commitment to addressing the historic disparate environmental burdens suffered by communities of color and low-income communities. In 2017, he introduced an Environmental Justice and Just Transition Working Group to ensure that environmental justice and a just transition of New York’s workforce are an integral part of New York’s clean energy and climate agenda. In the past 3 years, New York State has invested more than $16 million through the Environmental Protection Fund in environmental justice initiatives. New York also currently has over 151,000 individuals employed by clean energy industries throughout the state and has committed $70 million in workforce training in the clean energy economy. As part of the Green New Deal, Governor Cuomo will build upon these important foundations for making environmental justice and just transition central to moving to a carbon neutral economy.

On June 2, 2017 Cuomo established an environmental justice & just transition working group to help historically underserved communities prepare for a clean energy future and adapt to climate change. The announcement said the working group “will focus, in part, on developing policies and programs to ensure a ‘just transition’ to a green and clean energy future.” The announcement included a list of members and said that it would “advise the administration on the integration of environmental justice and just transition principles into all agency policies, and to shape environmental justice programs identified in State of the State and inform what work products would assist in this effort. The first Working Group session will convene in June.” However, I have been unable to find any references to this group since then.

 The announcement notes New York State has invested more than $16 million through the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) for environmental justice initiatives. A Financial History of the fund notes that:

This fund is supposed to provide a source of funding for capital projects that protect the environment and enhance communities. EPF appropriations have totaled $3.4 billion from its creation in 1993 through the State’s last complete fiscal year, 2016-17. Of this, some $2.6 billion had been spent on environmental protection, parks and other related programs as of March 31, 2017. Over the life of the Fund, more than $953 million in EPF resources has been diverted to the General Fund for budget relief. While some of this was replaced with borrowed funds, over half, or $507.2 million, has not been replenished.

While that report also notes that EPF resources for environmental justice grants help residents in areas suffering from systemic neglect and legacy pollution to rebuild healthier communities it also notes that DEC does not provide annual, comprehensive assessments of the status and needs supported by the EPF. In light of the Comptroller’s report I could not check how the money was spent.

 The Green New Deal will help historically underserved communities prepare for a clean energy future and adapt to climate change by codifying the Environmental Justice and Just Transition Working Group into law and incorporating it into the planning process for the Green New Deal’s transition. To increase the effect of funds and initiatives that target energy affordability, the Governor is directing the State’s low-income energy task force to identify reforms to achieve greater impact of the public energy funds expended each year. The Governor is also directing each of the State’s ten Regional Economic Development Councils to develop an environmental justice strategy for their region.

Presumably once the Environmental Justice and Just Transition Working Group is codified into law they will actually meet regularly. New York State has a terrible record spending climate reduction funds where they are supposed to be spent rather than on politically expedient pork but we will see if this program is different.

New York State currently directs more than $700 million in ratepayer and federal funds each year to combat energy poverty and increase access to clean energy solutions for the 2.3 million low-income households in the state. However, current programs only reach 1.4 million households each year with bill assistance programs, and less than 20,000 households each year with clean energy measures.

As part of the Green New Deal, Governor Cuomo will address energy poverty in New York State by directing the low-income energy task force, comprised of NYSERDA, DPS, OTDA, and HCR, to develop a roadmap and unified strategy to increase the impact of funds and initiatives that target energy affordability. Specifically, the Governor is directing the task force to assess policy, programmatic, and administrative reforms necessary to achieve greater impact of public funds expended each year.

In my opinion the primary goal of the task force should be to keep electric energy affordable. I am encouraged that the announcement recognizes the importance of energy poverty. However, I will only be satisfied when the State establishes an energy poverty metric and tracks it throughout the transition.

 Proposal. Create a Fund to Help Communities Impacted by the Transition Dirty Power

Governor Cuomo is introducing legislation to provide funding to help communities that are directly affected by the transition away from conventional energy industries and toward the new clean energy economy. Specifically, this funding will protect communities impacted by the retirement of conventional power generation facilities. The Governor is also calling upon the Environmental and Just Transition Working Group to contribute to and advise on the development of a Just Transition Roadmap for the Green New Deal.

In my opinion this is an example of the political pandering of the Green New deal. If New York does implement this plan all the municipalities that have depended on a fossil-fired power plant for jobs and taxes for many years will be scrambling to find a replacement industry. One of the subsidies commonly provided to renewable facilities is a pilot (or payment in lieu of taxes) agreement. It would be interesting to determine if the tax benefits of the Green New deal will replace the taxes generated by the legacy fossil plants.

Proposal. Develop Clean Tech Workforce and Protect Labor Rights

To ensure creation of high-quality clean energy jobs, large-scale renewable energy projects supported by the Green New Deal will continue to require prevailing wage, and the State’s offshore wind projects will be supported by a requirement for a Project Labor Agreement. To prepare New York’s workforce for the transition, New York State will take new steps to support workforce development, including establishing a New York State Advisory Council on Offshore Wind Economic and Workforce Development, as well as investing in an offshore wind training center that will provide New Yorkers with the skills and safety training required to construct this clean energy technology in New York.

In my opinion this is another example of the political pandering of the Green New Deal. This has all the signs of a progressive politician appealing to his political base. How this will reduce emissions and save the planet from global warming is unclear.


Author: rogercaiazza

I am a meteorologist (BS and MS degrees), was certified as a consulting meteorologist and have worked in the air quality industry for over 40 years. I author two blogs. Environmental staff in any industry have to be pragmatic balancing risks and benefits and (https://pragmaticenvironmentalistofnewyork.blog/) reflects that outlook. The second blog addresses the New York State Reforming the Energy Vision initiative (https://reformingtheenergyvisioninconvenienttruths.wordpress.com). Any of my comments on the web or posts on my blogs are my opinion only. In no way do they reflect the position of any of my past employers or any company I was associated with.

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