Climate and Community Investment Act Legislative Findings

In the spring of 2021, the New York state Senate introduced the Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA).  Coming on the heels of the Texas energy debacle one might think that politicians would not propose any changes to energy and environmental laws until the causes of that disaster were understood or would at least make implementation contingent upon feasibility studies to determine if the ambitious goals of this legislation don’t risk a similar outcome in New York. Such is not the case as shown by the legislative findings for this proposal.

I have written extensively about implementation of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) because I believe it will adversely affect affordability and reliability as well as create more environmental harm than good. The CCIA will make those impacts worse.  The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.

Background

The sponsor memo for this proposed regulation lists specific provisions in the proposed legislation.   I prepared an annotated version of the draft bill that includes internal links to the sections of the bill corresponding to those provisions.  The summary of Senate Bill S4264A states:

Enacts the climate and community investment act; prioritizes the allocation of public investments in disadvantaged communities; addresses climate change challenges through the expansion and growth of clean and renewable energy sources; adopts best value requirements for the solicitation, evaluation and award of renewable energy projects;  establishes a community just transition program; establishes a climate pollution fee and a household and small business energy rebate; and creates the climate and community investment authority.

This post evaluates Section § 2, legislative findings and declaration.  In the following section I list the findings and my indented and italicized comments.  I will confine my comments to technical findings and not comment on social justice findings that are personal value judgements.

Discussion

1. Climate change is adversely affecting economic well-being, public health, natural resources, and the environment of New York.

In general, the underlying premise in all the New York legislative and regulatory initiatives is that there is a climate crisis, that the effects of climate change are observable today, and that changes in greenhouse gas concentrations due to humans are responsible for the observed climate changes.  The politicians and regulators who prepare the rationales that climate change needs to be addressed frequently confuse weather and climate.  It happens so often that I have a page that references my evaluations of alleged climatic effects that turned out to be weather events and examples by other authors. 

 According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Ocean Service “Weather reflects short-term conditions of the atmosphere while climate is the average daily weather for an extended period of time at a certain location.”  The referenced article goes on to explain “Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.”  Also keep in mind that the standard climatological average is 30 years.  In order to think about a change in today’s climate averages you really should at least compare the current 30 years against the previous 30 years.  In order to get a trend, you need to look at as much data as possible.  On the face of it that might seem easy but the reality is that the conditions for a representative trend are difficult to achieve.  Ideally you need to use the same instruments, the same methodology, and keep the conditions around the observing location the same.  No recent New York legislative or regulatory description of climate change impacts has presented any claims that make the distinction between weather and climate so they all their claims are suspect.

Dr. William Briggs shows that attempts to blame extreme weather on human-caused global warming are “overconfident and probably wrong”.  He explains that the first problem is how to define natural because “some have the curious and false idea that earth’s climate never changed before mankind be­gan ‘interfering’ with it.”  Those people reason that the industrial revolution changed the environment due to man’s interference starting on the order of a hundred years ago. Briggs argues:

Now it is true that man, like every other creature, influences the climate and the environment to some extent. It is impossible for any creature, man included, not to have an effect. After all, every living thing is part of the environment. There is therefore no ‘natural’ state of the climate, defined as one operating without man’s influence.

 Briggs explains the problems trying to attribute human-caused effect to weather and climate.  No matter how you estimate that potential effect it is impossible to independently check that estimate.  The primary tool used today to estimate effects is a climate model.  In order to trust those models Briggs points out that “they first have to demonstrate forecast skill” and “if they can’t, or they are inaccurate, they can’t be trusted”.  Finally, he explains that “we might pick a date and say all observations before it are ‘natural’ and all after are tainted by ‘climate change’. But this is not proof man caused the dif­ferences. It is mere assumption.”  He concludes that “climate-change event attribution studies rely on all these kinds of guesses and claims. As such, they are either incorrect or are far too certain.”

The adverse impacts of climate change include:

  • an increase in the severity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as storms, flooding, and heat waves, which can cause direct injury or death, property damage, and ecological damage (e.g., through the release of hazardous substances into the environment);

This finding presumes that these events can be attributed to mankind’s impact on the climate.   Briggs explains that these claims are based either on a comparison of current observations to historical observations or using climate models with and without the alleged effect of GHG emissions.  He shows that it is not possible to verify what the “natural” atmosphere was in the past so these comparisons are highly uncertain.  The fact is that the human effect on weather events is at best a tweak and trying to tease out that effect with climate models that are very large scale is “dicey”.  He concludes that “the uncertainty in attribution claims is just too great and in ways not always recognized” to be relied upon to make decisions or, in this case, justify new legislation.  In addition an evaluation of extreme weather in 2020 notes that there is little evidence of extreme event worsening and most can be linked to natural climate cycles.

  • rising sea levels, which exacerbate damage from storm surges and flooding, contribute to coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion, and inundate low-lying areas, leading to the displacement of or damage to coastal habitat, property, and infrastructure;

Sea levels have been rising at the Battery in New York City since record keeping began and local changes in the height of land relative to the height of the continental land mass are a significant factor of that sea-level rise that no amount of change to the greenhouse effect will affect.

  • exacerbation of air pollution;

The only climate change impact that could affect air pollution is an increase in temperature that could change the rate of the reactions that convert precursor emissions s to ozone and inhalable particulates.  Note, however, that in both cases temperature is a minor actor in the conversion process and could only affect concentrations but several percent.

  • an increase in the incidences of infectious diseases, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and other negative health outcomes;

Absent supporting information for these health claims I cannot respond.

  • increased average temperatures, which increase the demand for air conditioning and refrigeration among residents and businesses; and

Recall that climate variability is over as long a period as possible.  The EPA high and low temperature climate change indicators page shows that the 1930’s were the worst period for heat waves with a heat wave index four times higher than recent data.  It is clear that temperatures are rising but it is not clear how much of the change is due to climate change and how much is due to land use changes like the urban heat island that are affecting temperature trends.

  • extensive environmental degradation with devastating impacts to wildlife and natural habitats, ecosystems and food supplies.

No examples of the devastating impacts are presented and there is no mention that in order to meet New York’s climate targets with wind and solar that thousands of wind turbines and square miles of solar panels will be required in the state or that the rare earth metals necessary for that technology will cause real environmental devastation somewhere else in the world.  In order to justify this claim the authors would have to compare the life cycle impacts of renewable alternatives.

2. Many of the impacts of climate change are already observable in New York state and the northeastern United States. Annual average temperatures are on the rise, winter snow cover is decreasing, heat waves and precipitation are intensifying, and sea levels along New York’s coastline are approximately one foot higher than they were in 1900. New York has also experienced an increasing number of extreme and unusual weather events, like Hurricanes Irene and Lee and the unprecedented Superstorm Sandy in 2012, which caused at least 53 deaths and $32 billion in damage in New York state.

As noted previously these claims have high uncertainty.  Nonetheless note that the sea level and the hurricane arguments are not supportable.  Sea levels are approximately one foot higher than they were in 1900 but there is no change in the rate of sea level rise.  NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton NJ has concluded:

“In summary, it is premature to conclude with high confidence that increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities have had a detectable impact on Atlantic basin hurricane activity, although increasing greenhouse gases are strongly linked to global warming…Human activities may have already caused other changes in tropical cyclone activity that are not yet detectable due to the small magnitude of these changes compared to estimated natural variability, or due to observational limitations.”

New York was impacted by several hurricanes in recent years and that fact is used as “proof” that the climate is changing.  However actually reviewing the data shows otherwise.  Dr. Ryan Maue compiles data on the frequency of hurricanes across the globe and has found no trend.

Roger Pielke summarized hurricane landfalls and found a trend of decreasing landfalls since the early 1960’s. 

3. New York should therefore minimize the risks associated with climate change through a combination of measures to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions and improve the resiliency of the state with respect to the impacts and risks of climate change that cannot be avoided.

I have shown that the alleged risks associated with climate change are nonexistent so reducing greenhouse gas emissions will have no effect.  On the other hand, observed extreme weather has major effects on society.  Even if there is no climate change signal increased resilience is a no regrets policy that is in the best interests of the state

4. Climate change especially heightens the vulnerability of disadvantaged communities including communities of color and low-income communities, which bear environmental and socioeconomic burdens as well as legacies of racial and ethnic discrimination. Disadvantaged communities are more likely to experience flooding and urban heat island effects, and to live in housing vulnerable to destruction from storms. Low-income New Yorkers lack emergency savings to keep up with necessary expenses following the disruption from a major storm or climate event.

As shown above I do not believe climate change is an existential threat to society.  However, I agree that extreme weather heightens vulnerability of disadvantaged communities and that suggests that resilience measures should focus on reducing weather impacts in those communities.

5. Actions taken by New York state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and those taken to increase the resiliency of the state with respect to the impacts and risks of climate change, should prioritize the safety, health, and resiliency of disadvantaged communities, control potential regressive impacts of future climate change mitigation and adaptation policies on these communities, and prioritize the allocation of public investments in these areas.

I agree that resiliency measures should prioritize the safety and health of disadvantaged communities.  I submit however, that the concept that reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be used to control potential regressive impacts of future climate change mitigation on these communities is not in the best interest of those communities.  The fact is that mitigation of greenhouse gases invariably increases the cost of energy and the disadvantaged communities are disproportionately impacted more by energy costs.  Any money spent on mitigation is not going to affect impacts so there cannot be any paybacks so increased costs to those least able to afford those increases is not in the best interests of the disadvantaged communities.

6. Disadvantaged communities in New York state experience greater exposure to air pollution and subsequent negative health impacts, in large part due to legacies of racial, ethnic, and socio-economic discrimination. New York’s communities of color are more likely to:

(a) live near sites of high pollution, including power plants, highly trafficked automotive routes, waste transfer stations, landfills, hazardous waste sites and toxic industrial facilities;

(b) breathe in a greater volume of pollution, including both ozone and particulate matter;

(c) experience asthma and other pollution-related illnesses including increased hospitalization rates for childhood asthma;

(d) have higher rates of cancer due to disproportionate exposure to air pollution, including lung cancer and other pollution-affiliated cancers; and

(e) experience other negative health impacts, including but not limited to reduced fertility rates, adverse pregnancy outcomes and increased vulnerability to the consequences of co-morbidities like diabetes and high blood pressure.

I do not dispute that disadvantaged communities experience greater exposure to air pollution and subsequent health impacts but there are some caveats that should be kept in mind.  Many environmental justice organizations are taking the position that because of the legacies of the past that the only acceptable future scenario is no environmental impacts.  For example, it is not acceptable for a facility to add controls that significantly reduce emissions and impacts.  Instead, the facility has to be replaced with something with no local impacts. 

 There are technical issues with the demand for no local impacts from power plants.  The over-riding problem is that the primary air quality health concerns are from ozone and inhalable particulates.  Because those are both secondary pollutants that form by chemical reactions from the pollutants emitted by power plants, they don’t impact the neighborhoods around the power plants simply because by the time those reactions take place the emissions have been transported away from the plant.  Another problem is that the projections of reduced health impact outcomes rely on analyses that are contradicted by other work.  Finally, the projections of health impacts rely on the linear-no threshold model that is impossible to verify at the low pollutant levels associated with neighborhood power plants.

 Ultimately the discussion of how best to address the air pollution problems of disadvantaged communities involves trade-offs and value judgements that are beyond the scope of this post.


7. In the spring of 2020, New York experienced the devastating impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers died, and many hundreds of thousands more became ill. Air pollution played a significant role in this pandemic, as residents of communities of color who live in highly polluted areas died disproportionately from Covid-19 when compared to patients from less polluted neighborhoods. Throughout the pandemic, New Yorkers of color continue to disproportionately contract, fall ill, and die from Covid-19, in part because of disproportionate exposure to toxic air pollution.

The basis of this claim is a study by Harvard that claimed that a small increase in PM2.5 in outdoor air increased the risk of death from COVID-19 by 15 percent.  However, that study is flatly contradicted by a study by University of Washington and Stanford researchers that found that nations with the highest smoking rates had the lowest COVID-19 death rates.  Because the inhalable particulates from cigarette smoke are many times greater than the inhalable particulates in New York air the disproportionate COVID impacts on New York are due to another cause.

8. The Covid-19 pandemic has also caused a national economic crisis which has also severely impacted New York State. Many New Yorkers lost their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic, with unemployment rates reaching levels not seen since the Great Depression. Such mass job loss increased precarity for thousands of New Yorkers and left many less able to weather current or future emergencies. Child and dependent care shortages are and continue to be a barrier to work in New York, especially for women, who disproportionately take on unpaid caregiving responsibilities when their family cannot find or afford child and dependent care.  Low and middle-income families and families of color disproportionately lack access to quality child and dependent care.

No comment

9. New York state has an interest in reducing air pollution that increases risk for Covid-19 and ensuring that all populations are equally able to breathe clean air and live healthful lives. Actions undertaken by New York to reduce air pollution should prioritize the health and safety of disadvantaged communities, prioritize the allocation of public investments in these areas, and control potential regressive impacts of climate policies on these communities. Further, it is in the interest of the state to invest in creating stable and safe employment opportunities for individuals who have lost their jobs as part of the Covid-19 recession. This includes protecting and promoting the ability for all workers to equitably participate in a just clean energy transition by increasing equitable and comprehensive access to child and dependent care.

EPA and DEC have regulations in place to improve air quality.  I am not sure whether incorporating the other goals described will help or hinder the efforts to improve air quality

10. Racial justice and environmental justice are inextricably linked to achieving a just clean energy transition in New York. The murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 was followed by mass protests for Black lives in New York state and throughout the nation. These movements have forced a national reckoning with the fact that racial injustice has resulted in over-policing and mass incarceration of communities of color. It is in the interest of the state of New York that no funds from programs for pricing greenhouse gas emissions are invested in police, prisons or related infrastructure.

No comment.

11. The adverse impacts of climate change are having a detrimental effect on some of New York’s largest industries, including agriculture, commercial shipping, forestry, tourism, and recreational and commercial fishing. These impacts also place additional strain on the physical infrastructure that delivers critical services to the citizens of New York, including the state’s energy, transportation, stormwater, and wastewater infrastructure.

No evidence is presented that there are detrimental effects on these industries.  The tendency to blame any negative effect on climate change distracts resolution of the real cause of the problem.  Even if there is some tenuous connection between an alleged climate change impact and strains on infrastructure the question should be what is the most cost-effective approach to address those problems.  Should we try to indirectly invest to reduce climate impacts by reducing emissions or invest directly in the infrastructure to adapt to extreme weather?

12. Creating good jobs and a thriving economy is a core concern of New York state. Shaping the ongoing transition in our energy sector to ensure that it creates good jobs and protects workers and communities that may lose employment in the current transition must be key concerns of our climate policy. Setting clear standards for job quality and training standards encourages not only high-quality work but positive economic impacts.

Everybody wants good jobs.  The tradeoff between jobs that are depend on government subsidies and those that don’t should be addressed in this conversation.

13. Ensuring career opportunities are created and shared geographically and demographically is necessary to ensure increased access to good jobs for marginalized communities while making the same neighborhoods more resilient. Climate change has a disproportionate impact on low-income people, communities of color, women, youth, children and workers. This includes formerly incarcerated individuals. Disadvantaged communities and workers must have access to all aspects of the state’s clean energy economy, including as investors and developers of clean energy projects. It is in the interest of the state of New York to protect and promote the interests of these groups against the impacts of climate change and severe weather events and to advance our equity goals by ensuring quality employment opportunities in safe working environments.

No comment

14. Addressing climate change challenges through the expansion and growth of clean and renewable energy sources requires New York to make substantial proprietary and financial investments in this sector and to become an investor and partner in the development of renewable energy programs and projects. New York has long provided forms of state assistance, including grants, energy credits, or tax incentives to developers, project owners and other entities proposing clean and renewable energy projects. Key findings relating to state assistance in the clean and renewable energy sector are as follows:

(a) providing forms of state assistance in renewable energy projects results in New York becoming a co-investor in this sector with strong financial, proprietary interests in the projects it supports. Such assistance is essential since the expansion and development of this market, would not occur at the scale and pace needed without substantial financial investment by the state. New York has already invested billions of dollars in promoting its renewable energy programs and will continue to invest substantial sums over the next several years to assist the growth and development of the sector. Such investments are critical not only for the development of individual renewable energy projects, but also to ensure that projects are effectively planned and executed and produce adequate amounts of clean energy needed to meet the state’s future needs for safe, affordable reliable power;

(b) it is vital that the state’s investments in clean and renewable energy be protected and monitored through all stages of development to make certain that they are effective in producing the intended results.  The need for this protection has grown greater due to the enormous economic burden imposed on the state by the Covid-19 pandemic;

(c) one of the areas in need of most protection is the actual construction and operation of renewable energy projects, especially large-scale projects. Because the construction industry is inherently complex and challenging, the delivery of projects, especially large capital construction projects, is fraught with numerous high-level risks that stem from various sources. These include but are not limited to project funding, financial resources and stability of project partners, project designs and specifications. Risks also include site conditions, equipment and material supply chains, and the experience, capacity and technical qualifications of developers, contractors and craft labor personnel used for a given project;

(d) ensuring the sufficient supply of properly trained and qualified craft labor personnel is vital to the protection of state interests and investments in the renewable energy sector. Large-scale construction projects are both labor intensive and inherently dangerous operations.  The timely, successful delivery of these projects is critical to the delivery of safe and reliable power to consumers. Thus, the safe and successful completion of these projects necessitates a highly skilled workforce. It is critical that the state support the development of this workforce, as the construction industry generally is facing the most acute, widespread skill shortage in craft labor personnel in modern times. This shortage can cause various types of project failures, including major schedule delays, cost-overruns, increased safety incidents, or other serious problems;

(e) while many aspects of construction project planning cannot be controlled, ensuring the adequate supply of properly trained craft personnel can be effectively managed through the use of labor performance tools and policies. Key labor performance provisions include prevailing wage requirements, project labor agreements and responsible contractor provisions. These policies, in use in New York and throughout the country, are shown to be effective at protecting capital investments and the proprietary interests of investors. These tools also help ensure that adequate numbers of skilled craft personnel are deployed to projects in a timely manner and that the most highly qualified contractors will be attracted to such projects. These tools also protect the wage rates of local communities, promote adherence to required licensing and technical certifications, and maintain labor peace on projects to avoid disruptions and protect project delivery;

(f) project labor agreements promote the planning and timely completion of construction projects, especially larger scale projects, by establishing pre-determined and uniform employment terms. This ensures an adequate supply of properly trained craft personnel, creates stability for project planning and prevents labor disruptions. Responsible contractor policies help ensure that contractors and subcontractors used for projects are reputable, qualified firms that have sufficient resources and capabilities needed to perform the work successfully.  Prevailing wage requirements protect local area wage rates from being undermined; and

(g) project labor agreements, responsible contracting and prevailing wage requirements also produce valuable socio-economic benefits by creating quality middle class jobs and skill training opportunities in New York’s construction industry. Utilizing these policies will develop a new generation of craft labor personnel, create jobs in the state and foster economic development in communities where projects are located.

New York does have a long history supporting clean and renewable energy.  However, the results of those investments do not bode well.  The investments from the proceeds of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are often cited as an example of the value of New York’s support of clean and renewable energy.  The latest New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) report New York’s RGGI-Funded Programs Status Report – Semiannual Report through June 30, 2020 describes the programs New York has set up to invest the proceeds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiatives.  Upon closer examination though, I found that NYSERDA supports 20 programs with associated CO2 reduction benefits and another 18 programs with no claimed CO2 reductions.  I compared the cost per ton reduced for those programs against the 2021 $127 New York Value of Carbon metric for cost effective investments.  Seventeen programs and the 18 programs with no claimed reductions do not meet this cost effectiveness standard.  I found that only 1.1% of the NYSERDA RGGI funds cost-effectively reduce CO2 emissions.  I imagine that the limitations in this proposed legislation can only add costs to renewable developments and further reduce their effectiveness.

15. It is in the interest of the state to strengthen, monitor and enforce prevailing wages, project labor agreements and responsible contracting. While prevailing wage requirements are already required for some renewable energy projects, these requirements should be strengthened and used in coordination with the additional labor and performance standards established in this act.

No comment

16. The severity of current climate change and the threat of additional and more severe change will be affected by the actions undertaken by New York and other jurisdictions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will be required by mid-century in order to limit global warming to no more than 2°C and ideally 1.5°C, and thus minimize the risk of severe impacts from climate change. Specifically, industrialized countries must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 in order to stabilize carbon dioxide equivalent concentrations at 450 parts per million–the level required to stay within the 2°C target.

The Paris Climate Agreement will reduce temperatures just 0.05°C.  It is not clear how much the alleged risks of severe impacts can be ameliorated by that small a change in temperature.

17. In 2019, New York state demonstrated national and international leadership on climate by enacting the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (“CLCPA”), the nation’s most aggressive climate law and the nation’s only climate law that provides for a just transition. The CLCPA created a comprehensive regulatory program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all anthropogenic sources 100% over 1990 levels by the year 2050, with an incremental target of at least a 40 percent reduction in climate pollution by the year 2030, and requires investment in and protection of disadvantaged communities. To meet the goals of the CLCPA, the state will need to transform its energy infrastructure, including the rapid and significant deployment of clean and renewable energy. It is in the interest of the state to promote and provide resources towards the development and maintenance of clean energy infrastructure.

In the absence of any New York estimate of the effect of greenhouse gas emissions reductions on global warming I did my own estimateI found that for the CLCPA emission inventories there would be a reduction, or a “savings,” of between approximately 0.0097°C and 0.0081°C by the year 2100.  To give an idea of how small these temperature changes are consider changes with elevation and latitude.  Generally, temperature decreases three (3) degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000-foot increase in elevation above sea level.  The projected temperature difference for eliminating all greenhouse gases is a 39-inch change in elevation or 32 inches if only the CO2 emissions are considered.  The general rule is that temperature changes three (3) degrees Fahrenheit for every 300-mile change in latitude at an elevation of sea level.  The projected temperature change is the same as a change in latitude of less than a mile. 

 New York should also be considered relative to the rest of the world.  According to the China Electricity Council[1], about 29.9 gigawatts of new coal power capacity was added in 2019 and a further 46 GW of coal-fired power plants are under construction.  If you assume that the new coal plants are super-critical units with an efficiency of 44% and have a capacity factor of 80%, the reductions provided by the CLCPA greenhouse gas inventory will be replaced by the added 2019 Chinese capacity in less than two years or four and a half years if the 2019 capacity and the units under construction are combined. 

[1] https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/china-seen-adding-new-wave-of-coal-plants-after-lifting-curbs-1.1448154?utm_source=CCNet+Newsletter&utm_campaign=9afd780483-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_06_18_12_02&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fe4b2f45ef-9afd780483-36423245&mc_cid=9afd780483&mc_eid=1afdc1d1a3

18. By exercising a global leadership role on greenhouse gas mitigation and climate change adaptation, New York will continue to position its economy, technology centers, financial institutions, and businesses to benefit from national and international efforts to address climate change. Action undertaken by New York to reduce greenhouse emissions will have an impact on global greenhouse gas emissions and the rate of climate change. In addition, such action will encourage other jurisdictions to implement complementary greenhouse gas reduction strategies and provide an example of how such strategies can be implemented. It will also advance the development of green technologies and sustainable practices within the private sector, which can have far-reaching impacts such as a reduction in the cost of renewable energy components, and the creation of jobs and tax revenues in New York.

The CLCPA does not include a requirement for a feasibility study with clear affordability, reliability, and environmental impact tests to determine whether it is appropriate for New York to proceed with a complete overhaul of the energy system.  I showed that action undertaken by New York to eliminate greenhouse emissions will have an immeasurable effect on the rate of climate change.  If the proposed transition of the New York energy system results in unacceptable affordability, reliability and environmental impacts the state’s actions will discourage other jurisdictions. 

19. It is in the interest of New York to take rapid action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a just clean energy economy.  Such actions include:

  1. a) raising new, dedicated revenue specifically for climate programs;

(b) investing in clean and renewable energy infrastructure such as solar energy, offshore wind, grid storage technologies and energy efficiency;

(c) rapidly transitioning to zero-emission transportation, especially zero-emission school and transit buses, to reduce adverse health impacts for children, workers, and communities, and improve grid resilience and renewable energy reliance;

(d) prioritizing funding for locally driven projects to reduce emissions and increase resiliency, especially in disadvantaged communities that are most impacted by climate change and air pollution;

(e) creating quality employment opportunities for all New Yorkers in the transition to a just clean economy and ensuring the full participation and prioritization of disadvantaged communities; and

(f) ensuring workers and communities currently reliant on the fossil fuel industry are given resources to avoid adverse economic impacts.

I don’t think that the legislative finds presented a case that supports the notion that is in the interests of the state to implement these actions.

20. There is currently no state entity that is wholly dedicated to achieving the outcomes of the CLCPA. Without adequately devoting state resources and personnel, the outlined emissions reductions and electrification goals will not be realized in the target timeframe. Pursuant to the CLCPA, the state has less than 30 years to fully transition the 10th largest economy in the world to one that is fossil fuel free, and intentionally prioritize overburdened populations. Reaching these goals will improve the health and well-being of the residents of the state and advance the state’s economic interests. It is also critical that best value procurement requirements are established within the authority to optimize the solicitation, evaluation and award of renewable energy projects assisted by the state.

While there is no dedicated state entity dedicated to achieving the outcomes, NYSERDA has taken over that role because they have staff with the appropriate background and knowledge.  Unfortunately, their record with the proceeds from the RGGI auction are not good.  If New York has to rely on NYSERDA investment record to date to reduce fuel combustion CO2 emissions to zero for the CLCPA, then the cost would be $91.948 billion.  Note that in my opinion the primary reason for this abysmal record is political interference because many of the programs included appear more to cater to specific interests and the agenda of the Cuomo Administration than trying to efficiently and effectively reduce greenhouse emissions.

21. It is in the interest of the state to establish a dedicated authority to ensure that New York’s climate goals are accomplished. Such an authority would be able to nimbly manage the proceeds from a polluter fee which will amass significant revenue and require ongoing management.  This authority would also disburse funds for clean energy community scale projects in a timely and efficient manner while employing best value procurement practices. In addition, a new authority would have the capacity to ensure prioritization of projects and funds for impacted communities, coordinate statewide emissions reduction strategies and assist impacted workers in a transition away from fossil fuels through specialized assistance programs.

The last thing that this state needs is a dedicated authority for New York’s climate goals.  The idea that any Albany bureaucracy controlled by political appointees could nimbly manage proceeds is laughable.  As the NYSERDA RGGI investment results show, the more political interference the less efficient the process.

22. This legislation will build upon the developments outlined above by creating a comprehensive program for pricing greenhouse gas emissions and investing in a just transition to a low-carbon New York state economy, in accordance with the targets established in the CLCPA.

The theory of carbon pricing is that adding a price to greenhouse gas emissions will incentivize the market to develop the least cost alternatives to using fossil fuels.  Note, however, that the theory also suggests that the way to prevent this from simply becoming a regressive tax is to offset the proceeds with comparable reductions in taxes elsewhere.  This is not an aspect of the proposed pricing program in this legislation.

Conclusion

The findings note that Superstorm Sandy in 2012 “caused at least 53 deaths and $32 billion in damage in New York state”. It is notable that the February 2021 blackout in Texas caused similar impacts.  One disaster was caused by nature and the other by a failure in the planning for the electric energy system.  With all due respect to the electric energy planners, trying to anticipate all scenarios associated with a complete transition of the electric grid to renewables is probably impossible.  If that process is dictated by political considerations without adequate time for planning and testing, then I believe blackouts in New York with similar impacts to those observed in Texas are inevitable.  These legislative findings do not provide sufficient support to take that risk.

Two books and a recent essay suggest a different approach is more appropriate.  Bjorn Lomborg’s book “False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet” shows that the media, politicians and activists that hype climate catastrophe are picking and choosing results that support that narrative but do not reflect the whole story.  He demonstrates that “in almost every way we can measure, life on earth is better now than at any time in history” and explains that “analysis by experts shows that we are likely to become much, much better off in the future”.  He shows that we are committing to try to solve climate change with policies that he demonstrates will not make much of a difference but will cost a lot and not do much to change global warming.  Michael Shellenberger “Apocalypse Never – Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All” evaluates the current war on nuclear and natural gas fracking by the environmental alarmists.  He includes several examples of the hypocrisy of the loudest voices when it comes to the most obvious solutions.  His evaluation of concentrated power provided by nuclear and natural gas compared to the dilute energy provided by wind and solar shows that they are obvious choices while we develop better fossil-free alternatives.  The essay  Undue Climate Haste explains that the Nobel Prize (2018) winning climate economist William Nordhaus showed in his Nobel lecture in Stockholm that the ‘economic optimum’ for climate policy is to allow 3.5 degrees Celsius of warming in 2100. Economically, it is better to accept a certain amount of climate damage and to limit the cost of mitigation than the other way round: ambitious goals such as staying below 2 degrees or even 1.5 degrees are extremely costly.  Unfortunately, the CLCPA and CCIA are going down the exact path that these authors show will cost enormous sums of money, hurt more of the world’s poor than help, and will have no effect on global warming itself.

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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