On July 18, 2019 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency. According to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) bulletin dated May 10, 2021, the Advisory Panels to the Climate Action Council have all submitted recommendations for consideration in the Scoping Plan to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions economy-wide and this is a “critical milestone to advance New York’s nation-leading Climate Law”. This post summarizes the status of the implementation program and includes links to the recommendations themselves.
I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA closely because its implementation affects my future as a New Yorker. In this post I will briefly summarize the schedule and implementation components but I provide more details at CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements. I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulations, listed the scoping plan strategies, summarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and climate. 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.
The CLCPA establishes an implementation schedule for compliance with its targets. In 2020 the law mandated that DEC establish the 2030 and 2050 statewide emission limits (Part 496) and determine a value of carbon for use by state agencies. In addition, the Climate Action Council (CAC) had to be set up and start meeting. According to the DEC bulletin:
The Climate Action Council is progressing according to the schedule included in the Climate Act and will now review the recommendations submitted by the seven advisory panels and the Just Transition Working Group to develop a draft Scoping Plan that will be released for public comment and the subject of six public hearings in 2022. The recommendations from the advisory panels, comprised of experts from across the State, will now be advanced into an integration analysis process, which will provide a cost-benefit assessment of the suite of strategies under consideration, accounting for the emissions reductions, job impacts, and health impacts of attaining the goals identified in the Climate Act. As required under the Climate Act, the final Scoping Plan will be posted online and delivered to the Governor and the Legislature in 2023, and DEC will release regulations to realize the emissions reductions from the plan’s strategies in 2024.
In order to “provide recommendations to the CAC on specific topics, in its preparation of the scoping plan, and interim updates to the scoping plan, and in fulfilling the council’s ongoing duties”, the CAC (§ 75-0103, 7) “shall convene advisory panels requiring special expertise and, at a minimum, shall establish advisory panels on transportation, energy intensive and trade-exposed industries, land-use and local government, energy efficiency and housing, power generation, and agriculture and forestry”. Once the process started it became obvious that a waste was an issue so an additional panel was set up.
The recommendations will be submitted to New York State Energy Research & Development Authority consultants who will do the analysis work needed to prepare the draft scoping plan. The CLCPA only notes that the draft scoping plan will be available next year, that there will be public hearings and that the final version is due during the year. It will be interesting to see when the results of that work are released to the public and whether interim drafts are discussed with the advisory panels.
I will follow up with articles about the specific recommendations in future articles but in the meantime the presentations made describing the recommendations and the recommendations themselves are available:
- May 10, 2021 Meeting Presentation [PDF]
- Transportation Advisory Panel Recommendations [PDF]
- Land Use and Local Government Advisory Panel Recommendations [PDF]
- Energy Efficiency and Housing Advisory Panel Recommendations [PDF]
- Power Generation Advisory Panel Recommendations [PDF]
- April 12, 2021 Meeting Presentation [PDF]
- Agriculture and Forestry Advisory Panel Recommendations [PDF]
- Waste Advisory Panel Recommendations [PDF]
- Energy-Intensive and Trade-Exposed Industries Advisory Panel Recommendations [PDF]
- Just Transition Working Group Recommendations [PDF]
When I describe the recommendations in more detail in future articles, I will address specific issues related to implementation related to reliability, affordability, and environmental impacts. In this status update I only want to raise some generic issues with the recommendation process to date.
My first concern is that the precautionary principle is driving the CLCPA recommendations. Many members of the Advisory Panel and Climate Action Council want to eliminate risk. For example, they maintain that the zero-emissions mandate of the CLCPA means that not only will there be no GHG emissions but no combustion emissions whatsoever. Whether they don’t understand, don’t want to understand or understand but don’t care, the fact is that definition limits the technologies available to provide energy tremendously. Coupled with the desire to use this law to address social justice concerns I worry that this will seriously risk current reliability standards. As David Zaruk writes at the Risk Monger blog we have: “millennial militants preaching purpose from the policy pulpit, listening to a closed group of activists and virtue signaling sustainability ideologues in narrowly restricted consultation channels”. The desire for no risk and addressing social justice concerns of many involved in the CLCPA process appears to over-ride the need for affordable and reliable power.
One of the common elements of the presentations was a claim that the advisory panels had an open process which considered public comments. In 2010, New York prepared a similar Climate Action Plan that was intended to describe how the state could meet a GHG emissions reduction target of an 80% reduction target of 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. In that process, it was possible for stakeholders to review the public comments submitted. This process did not include any opportunity to see the comments submitted. Moreover, it is not clear from the outside that members of the advisory panels were asked to review public comments and I am unaware of any support provided to them that included summaries of the public comments submitted. I saw no indication whatsoever that any of my recommendations provided in comments were considered. As a result, the claim that “we listened to care with every comment we received” is a hollow statement without proof.
The belief underpinning of the ideological agendas of many of the members of the advisory panels is that the transition to a zero-emissions energy system is simply a matter of political will. I am convinced that many of the members simply don’t comprehend the technology issues that undermine that belief. Worse, because they believe there are no barriers, then they also believe that the schedule can be accelerated. As far as I could see none of the recommendations addressed logistical components of their recommendations in any detail. For example in order to build the offshore wind facilities needed to meet the CLCA mandates “factories, ports, and ships required to make and deliver the turbines must first be planned, designed, funded, permitted, and constructed.” As a result, the schedules in the recommendations are problematic and the suggestions that any aspects of the recommendations can be implemented immediately are absurd.
The biggest missing piece to the CLCPA story is the cost. A 2017 study by economists at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst found that New York “will need an annual investment of about $31 billion per year in combined private and public spending to bring CO2 emissions down to 100 million tons by 2030. I don’t expect that costs per ton reduced will improve so this is far less than what will be needed for the net-zero GHG emission target of the CLCPA. Apparently we will have to wait until next year for cost estimates.
The “experts” who developed the advisory panel recommendations and the members of the Climate Action Council were all chosen because of who they knew rather than because of their expertise. Worse most of them were chosen because their ideological biases conform to the Cuomo administration’s climate change green energy agenda. Political interference in technology underpinning society rarely ends well and I have no doubts that this initiative will cause sky rocketing costs, catastrophic blackouts, and worse environmental impacts than the purported effects of climate change that the CLCPA is intended to prevent. I will provide specific instances where their recommendations do not comport with reality in future articles.