Environmental Advocates Say 2050 Is Too Late

CCPA

Gail Pisha of the Sierra Club addresses state Sens. Jenn Metzger (far left) and James Skoufis at a hearing in New Paltz Friday

One theme resonated more heavily than others at the Climate and Community Protection Act hearing in New Paltz Friday: 2050 wasn’t soon enough.

Many of the 38 activists, local elected officials and environmental advocates who spoke at the three-and-a-half-hour hearing said the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA), a state bill aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in New York to zero by 2050, was not ambitious enough to avert environmental disaster, and wanted the state to emit no greenhouse gases by 2030.

Mary Makofske, communications chair at Sustainable Warwick, said the country has lagged in getting off fossil fuels, and rapid action at this point would “no doubt cause disruption,” but was better than the alternative.

“The question is: How fast can we get off fossil fuels, because this is an emergency,” she said.

Eric Weltman, New York senior organizer for Food and Water Watch, held a sign reading “100% renewable by 2030,” while in the audience.

“The science is abundantly clear,” he said when it was his turn at the podium. “The timeline to transition is not fast enough.”

The speakers favored legislation aiming to cut greenhouse emissions to zero by 2030.

The hearing was one of several held by the New York State Senate Majority on the CCPA. Hearings have also been held in New York City, Long Island, and Albany.

Democratic Senators Jenn Metzger, of Middletown, and James Skoufis, of New Windsor, held the hearing in New Paltz Village Hall. Skoufis has co-sponsored the CCPA, while Metzger has not.

In her closing remarks and in an interview, Metzger explained why she had not yet sponsored the bill, saying she wanted “to get everyone’s input on it.”

“I want to make sure that [the CCPA] is the strongest that it could be as we move forward, because we do have a huge opportunity right now,” she said.

Local governments should have input into the final plan to reduce carbon emissions, Metzger added, something several speakers at the hearing mentioned.

After the hearing, Skoufis said the timetables for eliminating greenhouse gas emissions had to be looked at.

“We’ve got to go back…and see what’s doable, and then press up against whatever’s doable, because this is an urgent matter, there shouldn’t be a buffer, there shouldn’t be some lag time — we’ve got to be fast,” he said.

The CCPA doesn’t prescribe how to reduce greenhouse gases but sets out a timetable wherein a commission would catalogue current emissions and investigate how to achieve emission-reduction goals, then implement a plan to achieve zero emissions by 2050.

The unpaid 25-member commission would produce a report a year from the bill’s passing taking stock of emissions in New York and establishing a mandatory registry and reporting system for all sources of greenhouse gas “exceeding a particular threshold,” according to the bill.

Two years after the bill’s passage, the commission would approve recommendations for achieving the emissions goals, and, after a year of consultations with stakeholders, would implement rules and regulations to meet the reduction timetable. The first reduction goal is 65 percent of 1990-level emissions by 2025, then 50 percent by 2030.

Another bill being considered in the legislature would establish a “Green Neal Deal taskforce,” similar to the commission in the CCPA, and sets the goal of net zero emissions in the state by 2030.

Speakers at the hearing also railed against existing and planned fossil fuel infrastructure in the state, especially natural gas infrastructure, such as the CPV Power Plant in Wawayanda, Orange County, and the planned conversion of the Danskammer Power Plant in Newburgh.

NYPIRG Project Coordinator Eric Wood said there should be an immediate moratorium on all fossil fuel infrastructure in the state.

Jay Armour, of Four Winds Farm in Gardiner, said reducing Greenhouse Gases was not enough, and efforts should be made to remove existing gases, such as through no-till farming.

Speakers at the hearing also included representatives from groups such as Catskill Mountainkeeper, the Climate Action Coalition, the New York Chapter of the Sierra Club, Scenic Hudson, and Sullivan County Residents Against Millennium (SCRAM). Speakers came from far away as Rockland County and the Southern Tier.

The CCPA currently has 28 co-sponsors and sits in the Senate Committee on Environmental Conservation.

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