Message from chair, Rhea Jezer

August 2023

Government often gets a bad rap. We refer to our legislators as “politicians”, and I often hear what “they” are doing to us. Wrong! A democratic government is “Of the people, By the people and For the people”. WE elect those in office and they are responsible to US. However, “by the people” means that responsibility does not end when we elect individuals to represent us. Therefore, when we vote for and hopefully elect a person we trust, we must still do due diligence to carefully monitor the work being done and the laws and legislation being passed, so that our will and needs are being represented.

Our input should not stop on election day and those the majority elected do not suddenly become the antagonists or enemies – the “those politicians”. It is our obligation to work with them and educate them. Even those we did not vote for still represent us and are responsible to us. They need our input and reminders that they were elected to represent us – all of us.

 

We cannot possibly monitor all issues assigned to our legislators, and our elected officials have extensive staff to work on hundreds of issues. Each of us is too busy to follow all legislation in which we are interested. That is why we join organizations specifically representing our ideals such as Sierra Club, who have not only staff but a myriad of dedicated and highly educated volunteers to study and work on individual issues that are coming up for votes, and are constantly giving input to those we have elected.

 

Of course we do not always get what we want, which is total protection of our environment, but our input is crucial for the legislation to come out as best as we can, considering a myriad of other constraints our legislators have to deal with.

Because of our efforts to get the best people elected, this year has produced a great deal of environmental progress. This was partly due to our electing the right people, but also to the very dedicated staff and volunteers who followed the legislation, gave input and pushed our legislators to do the right thing. Listed here is just a snapshot of the federal and state laws enacted in the past two years which will protect us and the environment in which we live. Although we always want more, the past two years have produced great strides in environmental protection and climate change legislation. Please click on individual parts for details.

 

FEDERAL:

The U.S. Government put in place one of the largest environmental funding laws ever enacted by an American government. The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill in 2021 included over $300 billion for public green investment.

  • Inflation Reduction Act, the largest piece of climate legislation in U.S. history. Building on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (or Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) passed in 2021, the Inflation Reduction Act establishes a comprehensive set of clean energy incentives, mostly through decade-long tax credits for everything from electric vehicles to carbon capture and sequestration.
  • Economic modeling indicates that the Inflation Reduction Act itself could reduce 2030 emissions by 1 billion tons, leaving a 0.5 billion ton gap to achieving the U.S. 2030 emissions target — a gap that could be closed by complementary federal regulations and state and local action.
  • An updated Methane Action Plan, which includes 50 specific measures backed by $20 billion in funding provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act and annual appropriations. The Inflation Reduction Act includes a methane emissions fee for certain oil and gas facilities that will kick in in 2024 and increase to $1,500 per metric ton of methane in 2026. Meanwhile, the EPA has proposed stronger regulations to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.
  • The Senate ratified the international Kigali Amendment on reducing HFCs (Hydroflurocarbon) in September 2022, and EPA has issued regulations to phase down HFCs, as directed by the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act enacted in 2020.
  • Strengthened EPA, which has already regulated auto emissions, banned use of DDT, cleaned up toxic waste, protected ozone layer, increased recycling, revitalized inner-city brownfields.
  • Global Methane Pledge  at the 2021 UN climate summit (COP26). As of January 2023, 150 countries have signed onto the pledge and committed to cut their total methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030.

 

NEW YORK STATE:

In one of the most extensive climate packages in recent history, the NYS Budget makes transformative investments and includes groundbreaking legislation building on more than $30 billion committed to climate action.

These are some of the highlights:

  • The Budget includes requirements for advancing zero emission construction in new buildings seven stories or lower, except large commercial and industrial buildings, by December 31, 2025, and all other new buildings by December 31, 2028.
  • The budget also allocates funding for the addition of 265 positions across multiple environmental agencies
  • In addition to investments from the landmark which allots $4.2 million Clean Water, Clean Air & Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act which we worked to get passed. passed by voters in 2022,
  • the FY 2024 Budget includes $400 million for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), sustaining this historic investment level from the FY 2023 Budget. Language in budget also requires NY Power Authority to produce Clean energy by 2030, phasing out fossil fuels.

 

Other important investments in environment include $400 million to provide relief to New Yorkers experiencing high electric bills as well as lower energy burdens through electrifications and retrofits, $200 million for NYS Parks, $500 million for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act, which will help communities across the state upgrade their aging water infrastructure. The CWIA’s investment in New York’s water infrastructure has now reached $5 billion since the program’s inception in 2017.