Albany Update Summer 2019


Comprehensive Climate Plan Highlights Historic Legislative Session

by Roger Downs, Atlantic Chapter Conservation Director

On July 18, 2019, flanked by former Vice President Al Gore and hundreds of advocates and policy makers, Governor Cuomo signed into law the strongest climate legislation in the nation as part of an exhaustive three-way agreement with the Assembly and Senate. The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act’s road to passage was the culmination of a multi-year effort, deeply rooted in climate justice, and widely supported and led by frontline community groups, environmental justice organizations, labor and environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club.

This bold, historic legislation represents a framework by which New York can lead the nation and the world in addressing the climate crisis while building a clean energy economy that works for all New Yorkers.

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act will

  • Set the highest standards in the nation by mandating 85 percent greenhouse gas emission reductions economy-wide by 2050, with incentives to reduce the impact of the last 15 percent
  • Mandate that New York sources 70 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, like wind and solar, by 2030, and achieves a 100 percent carbon-free electric sector by 2040
  • Codify the governor’s existing clean energy commitments, including a 3 percent utility energy efficiency target, 9 gigawatts of offshore wind, 3 gigawatts of energy storage and 6 gigawatts of distributed solar
  • Invest 35 percent of state climate funds in frontline communities through efficiency, renewable energy, job programs and more
  • Protect disadvantaged communities by requiring an air quality monitoring program and prohibiting carbon offsets for the electric, transportation and building sectors
  • Create a framework by which the Department of Environmental Conservation, in consultation with the climate council and others, must craft regulation to implement emission-reduction targets across the economy, including the electric sector; performance standards for buildings, industry and other sectors; and transportation sector emission-reduction programs, including electrification

Implementation of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, however, will be the challenge of our time. The climate justice and equity goals of the bill will be especially difficult to realize without strong pressure in next year’s budget negotiations for hundreds of new staff to facilitate this great transition. The renewable energy targets are only as strong as our ability to cut through local siting roadblocks and NIMBYism to get wind and solar projects built. But the legally enforceable framework now exists — it’s an invitation for us to roll up sleeves and make an equitable and fossil fuel-free future a reality.

While the climate bill alone may represent one of the most important pieces of legislation enacted in the last half century, it underscores that elections really do matter, and when we get the right people in office, change can come like floodgates opening. Thanks to the new progressive shift in the Senate, led by Andrea Stewart-Cousins, decades of legislative gridlock broke free and an astounding body of progressive legislation passed, reforming key policy areas that affect reproductive rights, housing, election law, public ethics, workers’ rights, criminal justice and environmental protection. In conjunction with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and the leadership of the Environmental Conservation Committee Chairs, Assemblyman Steve Englebright and Senator Todd Kaminsky, the legislature passed these environmental enhancements and protections.




Historic NYS Budget S.1508C/A.2008C


$300 million Environmental Protection Fund

$500 million clean water infrastructure

Statewide ban on plastic bags

Food waste re-use & recycling policy

Congestion pricing plan

NYPA authority to invest in renewable energy development

Passed, signed into law 4/12/19

Ban on offshore drilling &
gas extraction in NY


Bans offshore leasing in NY waters to fossil fuel extraction & restricts distribution networks needed to process fossil fuel from federal waters

Passed, signed into law 4/29/19

Ban on purse seines for menhaden S.2317/A.2571

Bans use of purse seine nets to protect against overfishing

Passed, signed into law 4/18/19

Finger Lakes Community Act of 2019 S.2270A/A.5029A

Prohibits new incineration facilities in Finger Lakes region

Passed, signed into law 5/24/19

Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act S.6599/A.8429

Systematically reduces GHGs across all sectors, equitable distribution of renewables, protects jobs and disadvantaged communities

Passed, signed into law 7/18/19

Child Safe Products Act S.501B/A.6296A

Requires disclosure of dangerous chemicals in children’s products & eventual phase-out of sale of products in NY that contain these chemicals

Passed, awaiting signature by governor

Chlorpyrifos Ban S.5343/A.2477B

Prohibits use of chlorpyrifos, protects ag. workers & pollinators

Passed, awaiting signature by governor

1,4 dioxane Ban S.4389B/A.6295A

Prohibits household cleaning product & cosmetics containing 1,4 dioxane

Passed, awaiting signature by governor

Environmental Justice Advisory Group & Coordinating Council S.2385/A.1564

Establishes permanent environmental justice advisory group & interagency coordinating council

Passed, awaiting signature by governor

Large-scale Renewables S.23/A.4294

Maintains viability of state’s existing large-scale renewable resources

Passed, awaiting signature by governor



Feminine Care Products Ingredient Disclosure S.2387B/A.164B

Requires labeling of ingredients in menstrual products

Passed, awaiting signature by governor

Paint Collection Program S.4351/A.6373

Requires a post-consumer paint collection program be developed by paint manufacturers

Passed, awaiting signature by governor

Reducing PFAS in Firefighting Foam S.439A/A.445A



Relates to reducing the use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals in firefighting activities.


Passed, awaiting signature by governor

Mercury Flooring Abatement

Eliminates the installation or covering of mercury-containing flooring in elementary and secondary schools


Passed, awaiting signature by governor


Establishing a health and safety land account

Implements a constitutional amendment authorizing establishment of a health and safety land account


Passed, awaiting signature by governor

Central Pine Barrens S.6357/A.8135

Increases the size of the LI Central Pine Barrens Area

Passed, awaiting signature by governor

Flood Mitigation Council


Establishes the flood mitigation and prevention task force to evaluate ways of protecting state communities and residents from flooding


Passed, awaiting signature by governor

Sea Turtle Protection

Establishes the marine mammal and sea turtle protection area


Passed, awaiting signature by governor

Electric Vehicle Study

Requires the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to study and make recommendations regarding the state’s electric vehicle inventory and improvements to the state’s electric vehicle infrastructure

Passed, awaiting signature by governor

Global Vulnerable species protection S.5098/A.6600

Creates vulnerable species category and designates giraffe as vulnerable

Passed, awaiting signature by governor

Office of Utility Advocate S.4399 /A.1966

Creates Office of Utility Advocate

Passed, awaiting signature by governor

E-Bike/E-Scooter Legalization


Clarifies laws to facilitate legal use of
e-bikes and e-scooters

Passed, awaiting signature by governor

Through the summer and fall, the Sierra Club will continue to advocate for Governor Cuomo to approve the remaining pieces of environmental legislation that have passed the Senate and Assembly and await his signature. We will also prepare for an even more productive 2020 legislative session, during which we hope to

  • advance measures to significantly increase staffing to our environmental agencies
  • fill gaping holes in wetland and stream protection laws
  • fix regressive standing requirements for environmental lawsuits
  • ban the importation of fracking and drilling wastes
  • protect our pollinators from harmful insecticides
  • improve NYS recycling programs
  • efficiently and effectively implement the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act

All that we have achieved this year would not have been possible without the work of thousands of volunteers across the state pushing not only for the policies we so desperately need, but to elect progressive thinkers who can get the job done. Please continue to support us in this fight.