Environmentalists are hailing energy and environmental legacy initiatives in New York State proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in his his annual State of the State and budget address.
“Governor Cuomo made historic commitments today
supporting the advancement of clean energy throughout the state,” stated Lisa Dix, Senior New York Campaign Manager
for the Sierra Club. “With a mandate to source 70 percent of the state’s
energy through renewables by 2030, doubling New York’s distributed solar target
and quadrupling the current offshore wind targets, the Governor has proven that
he is a national leader determined to make New York a 21st century, renewable
energy, economic powerhouse. Through massive investments in offshore wind ports
and clean energy job training centers, New York will be the regional hub for
the offshore wind industry. Working with the administration, climate-affected
communities and labor, we will create long-term, family-wage jobs, while
supporting a robust supply chain and multiplying economic development
opportunities for New Yorkers.”
The initiatives include commitments to:
New York’s “Green New Deal”: The Governor restated his December
goal of making New York 100 percent carbon neutral by 2040. The Administration
will map how New York will achieve carbon neutrality, while providing a just
and fair transition for communities and workers. This initiative includes a $10 billion “Green Future Fund” that supports
climate priorities and emissions reduction goals and $70 million to provide
initial funding for communities affected by the clean energy transition.
Increased Clean Energy Standard Target: New York is now the second state after Hawaii with the most
ambitious clean energy targets in the nation, with a new goal of sourcing 70
percent of New York’s electricity from renewable energy by 2030, including the
most ambitious off-shore windpower program in the country. This doubles the
current targets for energy storage, distributed solar, large scale solar and
wind and quadruples the offshore wind targets.
Increased Green Infrastructure and Jobs: With the Governor
committing to building nearly four times more offshore wind by 2035 than he
initially stated, this is the most ambitious offshore wind generation
commitment in the country. New York will nearly triple the offshore wind
commitment any state has made before. Additionally, about $200 million of the
budget will be invested in building offshore wind ports and clean energy job
Clean Transportation and Congestion Pricing: The Governor urged
the legislature to pass congestion pricing legislation to make the Metro
Transit Authority (MTA) more reliable for years to come. Through congestion
pricing, the state would make $15 billion to invest back into the MTA. The
Governor also committed to over $3 billion in funding for clean energy and
clean transportation infrastructure for electric vehicles and charging
infrastructure. The Governor, however, fell short in setting an enforceable
commitment to reducing emissions from New York’s transportation sector, the
economic sector responsible for the most climate/carbon pollution in New York
New York State Governor
Andrew M. Cuomo used his 2019 State of the State Address to delineate a Justice
Agenda that works toward the ideal of full, true justice for all.
In stark contrast to the
federal government’s dysfunction and the self-destructive tactic of using the shutdown
to extort a political prop, the Governor is laying out a blueprint to move
forward, while shielding New Yorkers from Washington’s devastating federal
attacks. It is aimed at strengthening the middle class, safeguards the
environment, improves the health of communities and invests in building an infrastructure
for the 21st century. For the ninth consecutive year, the Budget is balanced
and holds spending growth below two percent.
“In December, in the face of the nation’s biggest social crisis, and with the federal government seeking to undo generations of progress, Governor Cuomo laid out his legislative agenda to enable the Legislature to commence action on these top priorities immediately upon convening.” In this State of the State Address, the Governor called on the Legislature to swiftly and immediately act on these priorities in the first 100 days of session.
“In the face of unprecedented challenges on a national level and a federal government at a complete standstill, New York will deliver on the most productive agenda in our history and build on our record of accomplishments,” Governor Cuomo said. “This is a true Justice Agenda that ensures our neediest schools receive an equitable share of funds, advances historic criminal justice reform, safeguards our health care, protects the rights of women in our state from the federal government, and leads the nation in fight against climate change and contaminants in our environment and our water. While extreme conservatives in Washington govern by division and fuel dysfunction, New York State will raise the beacon of progress and take action to make a real difference in people’s lives.”
Here is a summary of the initiatives (it is long, but New Yorkers should see the detail of the agenda):
The FY 2020 Executive Budget is $175.2 billion on an All Funds basis.
State Operating Funds is $102.0 billion, growth of 1.9%
Health and Education spending grows at 3.6%, Executive Agencies at 0.8%.
Continue the Phase-In of Middle Class Tax Cuts: The Budget supports
the phase-in of the middle class tax cuts. Under these reforms, rates will
continue to drop to 5.5 percent and 6 percent when the cuts are fully phased in
– an up to 20 percent cut in income tax rates for the middle class – and
produce a projected $4.2 billion in annual savings for six million filers by
2025. As the new rates phase in, they will be the State’s lowest middle-class
tax rates in more than 70 years.
Extend the Millionaire’s Tax: To protect the progress that has been
made in enhancing progressivity and ensuring tax fairness for New York’s
middle-class, Governor Cuomo is proposing a five-year extension of the current
tax rate on millionaires. This will preserve an estimated $4.4 billion annually
otherwise unavailable to make vital investments in education and infrastructure
to secure New York’s future economic prosperity.
Make Permanent the Property Tax Cap: Governor Cuomo made a
first-ever property tax cap a hallmark of his first campaign for Governor and a
priority of his administration’s first year. Since the implementation of the
tax cap in 2012, growth has averaged approximately 2 percent and the tax cap
has produced approximately $25 billion in taxpayers’ savings. The Governor
proposes that New York preserve and make permanent the property tax cap, as he
has advocated in the past.
Close the Carried Interest Loophole: Because of an egregious
loophole in federal law, some of the wealthiest people in the country,
including hedge fund managers and private equity investors, are paying lower
tax rates on their income than many middle class families. This “carried
interest” loophole results in a substantial cost to middle-class New
Yorkers, with the State losing about $100 million every year. To ensure that
the wealthiest Americans are paying their fair share, Governor Cuomo will take
a landmark step to close the carried interest loophole under New York State law
and effectively eliminate the benefits of this loophole under the federal tax
Fight for the Full Deductibility of State and Local Taxes: Governor
Cuomo fought the federal tax bill every step of the way while it was under
consideration in Congress. After its passage, New York joined together with
three other states to sue the federal government over this illegal and targeted
assault. The Governor will continue to fight against this law and the threat
that it poses to New York State, and he urges the new Democratic House of
Representations stand together and demand that the SALT deduction is fully
Continue Lawsuit Against Federal Government Challenging Unconstitutional Tax
Law That Targets New York: Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Barbara
D. Underwood filed a lawsuit to protect New York and its taxpayers from
Washington’s drastic curtailment of the SALT deduction. The lawsuit argues that
the new SALT cap was enacted to target New York and similarly situated states,
that it interferes with states’ rights to make their own fiscal decisions, and
that it will disproportionately harm taxpayers in these states. The Governor
and Attorney General Letitia James will continue in their fight to overturn the
law’s unprecedented and unconstitutional limitations on SALT deductibility.
Building 21st Century Infrastructure
Invest an Additional $150 Billion in the Nation’s Largest Infrastructure
Program: Governor Cuomo has made an unprecedented commitment to invest
$150 billion in infrastructure projects over the next five years. Beginning in
FY 2020, these capital projects will rebuild transportation and mass transit
systems, drive economic and community development, create new environmental and
park facilities, and support our sustainable energy future.
Reduce Traffic Congestion in NYC and Fund the MTA: This year, the
Governor will implement congestion pricing to establish a reliable funding
stream to transform the transit system and reduce congestion in Manhattan. By
charging fees for vehicles to move within the most congested area of New York
City and then reinvesting those funds into transit improvements, this plan will
combat gridlock and deliver to New York City’s residents and visitors the
world-class transit system they deserve.
Establish Accountability for the MTA: The MTA is a bureaucracy that
lacks any accountability. The board of 17 members gives no single person a
clear majority of nominees and there are 32 unions representing MTA employees
that exert significant political power over the elected officials who appoint
the board members. To overhaul this bureaucracy and fix the system, the
Governor will work with the Legislature to establish clear authority over the
MTA, while continuing to solve the need for dedicated funding and splitting
capital funding shortfalls between New York City and New York State. Only with
clearly designated authority and adequate funding can the MTA can be overhauled
into the efficient and effective transit system that New Yorkers deserve.
Expand Design-Build and Enact Other Efficiencies to Expedite Construction
Projects: Governor Cuomo’s $100 billion infrastructure program is arguably
the nation’s largest and boldest. Key to the program’s success is the
Governor’s decision to deploy the design-build method on complex projects, saving
taxpayers time and money by making a single contractor responsible for both a
project’s design and its actual construction. To ensure efficiency across State
projects, the Executive Budget includes legislation authorizing the use of
state-of-the-art methods such as construction manager at-risk and construction
manager-build, while expanding design-build to additional agencies.
Continuing New York’s Bottom-Up Economic Development Strategy
Invest $750 million for Round Nine of the Regional Economic Development
Councils: In 2011, Governor Cuomo established 10 Regional Economic
Development Councils (REDCs) to develop long-term regional strategic economic
development plans. Since then, the REDCs have awarded $6.1 billion to more than
7,300 projects. This strategy has resulted in 230,000 new or retained jobs in
New York. The Executive Budget includes core capital and tax-credit funding
that will be combined with a wide range of existing agency programs for a ninth
round of REDC awards totaling $750 million.
Invest in Communities Across the State Through the Fourth Downtown
Revitalization Initiative: The Downtown Revitalization Initiative is
transforming downtown neighborhoods into vibrant communities where the next
generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise families.
Participating communities are nominated by the State’s ten REDCs based on the
downtown’s potential for transformation. Through three rounds of awards, each
winning community was awarded $10 million to develop a downtown strategic
investment plan and implement key catalytic projects that advance the
community’s vision for revitalization. The Executive Budget provides $100
million for the Downtown Revitalization Program Round IV.
Ensuring A Quality Education for All
Require Districts to Distribute State Aid in a More Equitable Manner to
Their Neediest Schools: Although the state distributes 70 percent of
its funding to the neediest districts, the districts do not always distribute
funding to their schools in an equitable manner. In fact, some school districts
have schools with significantly higher needs receiving less than the average
school in the district. Governor Cuomo proposes to require that these school
districts devote a portion of their 2019-20 school aid to increase the
per-pupil allocation in those high-need schools. This increase in allocation
will help ensure that funding intended to help improve educational outcomes for
the neediest students reaches those students.
$1 Billion Education Aid Increase: State support for school
districts will have increased by $8.1 billion (42 percent) since FY 2012. Over
70 percent of this year’s increase goes to high-need school districts.
Foundation Aid is increased by $338 million.
Expand Universal Pre-Kindergarten: The Budget includes an
additional $15 million investment in pre-kindergarten to expand high-quality
half-day and full-day prekindergarten instruction for three- and four-year-old
children in high-need school districts.
Recruit 250 New Teachers in Shortage Areas through the We Teach NY
Program: With the goals of diversifying and strengthening the teacher
workforce pipeline, Governor Cuomo proposes to invest $3 million in the We
Teach NY program, which will strategically recruit 250 new teachers to fill
identified needed positions in New York classrooms in 2024.
Expand Master Teacher to High Poverty Schools to Increase Access to Advanced
Courses: In 2013, Governor Cuomo launched the New York State Master
Teacher Program to strengthen our nation’s STEM education, giving selected
educators an annual $15,000 stipend for four years, professional development
opportunities and a platform to foster a supportive environment for the next
generation of STEM teachers. In order to recruit and retain outstanding
educators in the highest poverty schools, the Executive Budget will provide
$1.5 million to support 100 new Master Teachers who teach in high-poverty
schools with high rates of teacher turnover or high rates of relatively
Protect Student Loan Borrowers: There are approximately 2.8 million
student loan borrowers in New York that have tens of billions of dollars in
outstanding student loan debt, which is serviced by about 30 student loan
servicers. The Governor will advance sweeping protections for student loan
borrowers by requiring that companies servicing student loans held by New
Yorkers obtain a state license and meet standards consistent with the laws and
regulations governing other significant lending products such as mortgages;
banning upfront fees; requiring fair contracts and clear and conspicuous
disclosures to borrowers; and providing penalties for failing to comply with
Creating Economic Opportunity for Every New Yorker
Launch the $175 Million Workforce Initiative: Governor Cuomo will launch a new Consolidated Funding Application for workforce investments that will support strategic regional efforts that meet businesses’ short-term workforce needs, improve regional talent pipelines, expand apprenticeships, and address the long-term needs of growing industries — with a particular focus on emerging fields with growing demand for jobs like clean energy, health technology, and computer science. These funds will also support efforts to improve the economic security of women, youth, and other populations that face significant barriers to career advancement.
Expand Employer-Driven Training Opportunities by Enhancing the Employee Training Incentive Program: Governor Cuomo proposes to expand the Employee Training Incentive Program to provide more training options to more industries by enabling employers with dedicated training shops to draw on in-house expertise in delivering approved training, and by extending ETIP tax credits to internship opportunities in additional high-tech industries.
Protect Workers from Union-Busting Activity by Codifying EO 183 into Law and Expanding its Protections to Local Governments: New York State has a long and distinguished history of standing by union workers. This year, Governor Cuomo will continue to advance his support for unions by introducing legislation that not only codifies EO 183 into law, but expands its protections to local governments to ensure that more union workers are protected.
Increase Criminal Penalties for Wage Theft: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to increase criminal penalties for employers who knowingly or intentionally commit wage theft violations to more closely align with other forms of theft.
Ensuring Access to Affordable Housing
Enact Historic Legislation to Strengthen Rent Regulation: This year, the Governor proposes aggressive rent regulation reforms, including ending vacancy decontrol, repealing preferential rent, and limiting building and apartment improvement charges. These changes will preserve the rent regulated housing stock, strengthen tenants’ rights to affordable housing, and ensure New Yorkers safe, quality affordable housing.
Limit Security Deposits to Reduce Housing Barriers: Governor Cuomo will propose legislation to limit security deposits to a maximum of one month’s rent across New York State, making New York’s security deposit limits among the strongest in the nation This law will serve to ensure that burdensome security deposits will no longer serve as a barrier to entry for anyone trying to find a new place to live.
Help Families Build Credit and Holistically Evaluate Credit Scores: In New York State, most landlords conduct background credit checks on potential tenants, which often leads to rejecting applicants with low credit scores or an insufficient credit history. To ensure all New Yorkers have a fair shot of accessing affordable, quality housing, Governor Cuomo will issue regulations prohibiting state-funded housing operators from automatically turning away applicants with poor credit or histories of bankruptcy. Instead, the State will require that all potential tenants and homeowners be holistically evaluated to determine the circumstances behind their credit history and their ability to pay rent on a forward-looking basis.
Enact Source of Income
Protections to Support Fair Housing for All: In certain parts of New York State, landlords
can reject applicants based on their lawful source of income,
disproportionately impacting households that rely on non-wage income or income
assistance and those who use vouchers to obtain housing for their families. The
Governor will work with the legislature to amend the New York State Human
Rights Law to prohibit discrimination based on lawful source of income statewide
to ensure that such lawful income is not a blanket barrier to housing, reducing
financial instability for New York’s most economically vulnerable individuals.
Support ESPRI Communities and Establish ESPRI Representation on REDC
Workforce Development Committees: In 2016, Governor Cuomo
created the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI) to combat poverty
and reduce inequality. ESPRI is an important component of the Governor’s
anti-poverty agenda, and this year Governor Cuomo proposes to build on the
success of these State and local partnerships to address poverty, supporting
more community-based efforts through continued funding of ESPRI. Governor Cuomo
will also continue to support efforts by the REDCs and the economic development
community to broaden and deepen their commitments to local anti-poverty efforts
and he will ensure an ESPRI representative is included on each region’s
Workforce Development Committee and involved in the review process for the
Governor’s new Workforce Development Initiative.
Reduce Hunger and Food Insecurity: Building on historic investments
to combat food insecurity, Governor Cuomo will establish a goal to reduce
household food insecurity in New York State by 10 percent by 2024. In order to
achieve this goal, Governor Cuomo is directing the following actions: create a
food and anti-hunger policy coordinator; simplify access to SNAP for older and
disabled adults; enhanced resources and referrals in clinical settings;
participate in SNAP online purchasing pilot; and expand food access in Central
Supporting the Rural and Agricultural Economy
Continue the Revitalization of the Great New York State Fairgrounds: The
State Fair drives $100 million a year in economic activity in Central New York
and thousands of jobs. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York State has
invested more than $120 million dollars in two phases over the last three years
to remake the New York State Fairgrounds. To continue the transformation of the
State Fairgrounds, the State will make additional renovations and upgrades to
enhance user experience. The Governor’s commitment continues to make the
fairgrounds a year-round destination.
Fund Key Programs to Support New York’s Farmers: The agricultural
industry is full of variability and uncertainty. As a reflection of the
Governor’s resolve to support New York’s farmers, this year’s Executive Budget
will continue funding the specialized technical assistance, industry promotion,
and research investments statewide to reduce farms’ exposure to economic and
Advancing Criminal Justice for All
Bail and Pretrial Detention Reform: Governor Cuomo is advancing
legislation that will end cash bail once and for all, significantly reduce the
number of people held in jail pretrial, and ensure due process for anyone
awaiting trial behind bars. This series of reforms will include a mandate that
police issue appearance tickets instead of making arrests in low-level cases,
eliminate money as a means of determining freedom, and institute a new
procedure whereby a district attorney can move for a hearing to determine
whether eligible defendants may be held in jail pretrial, for which the judge
must find reasonable cause to believe the individual is a danger to themselves
Improve Transparency in the Discovery Process: As only one of ten states
where prosecutors can withhold basic evidence until the day a trial begins,
Governor Cuomo’s plan will bring New York’s discovery process into the 21st
century by requiring both prosecutors and defendants to share all information
in their possession well in advance of trial. Defendants will also be
allowed the opportunity to review whatever evidence is in the prosecution’s
possession prior to pleading guilty to a crime.
Ensure the Right to a Speedy Trial: Governor Cuomo will introduce
legislation that ensures criminal cases no longer drag on without
accountability. With this proposal, Governor Cuomo will guarantee that all
necessary discovery procedures are completed quickly, and that no New Yorker is
unduly held in custody as they await their day in court.
Abolish the Death Penalty: Although the New York Court of Appeals ruled
the death penalty unconstitutional in 2004, capital punishment was never fully
repealed in statute. To address this disparity, Governor Cuomo will
introduce legislation to permanently strike capital punishment from the law to
guarantee that this draconian punishment is never again practiced in the State
of New York.
Transform the Use of Solitary Confinement in State Prisons: New
York has dramatically reformed and reduced the use of solitary confinement for
people who engage in misconduct within state prisons. The Governor is directing
DOCCS to accelerate the momentum of solitary confinement reform by limiting the
length of time spent in separation, building dedicated housing units for
rehabilitation and integration following a disciplinary sanction, and expanding
therapeutic programming to reinforce positive and social behavior.
Establish Compassionate Release: The Governor will establish a
process of compassionate release for incarcerated individuals over the age of
55 who have incapacitating medical conditions exacerbated by their age.
Enact a Comprehensive Re-entry Package to Improve Outcomes for Formerly
Incarcerated Individuals: Governor Cuomo will enact a four-point plan
to ease the burdens placed on individuals who have paid their debt to society
and provide them with the opportunities they need to succeed.
Legalizing Adult Use Cannabis
In January 2018, Governor Cuomo directed the Department of Health to launch a
multi-agency study to review the potential impact of regulated cannabis in New
York. The study, issued last July, concluded that the positive impact of a
regulated cannabis program in New York State outweighs the potential negative
aspects. Building on extensive outreach and research, Governor Cuomo is
proposing the establishment of a regulated cannabis program for adults 21 and
over in the FY 2020 budget that protects public health, provides consumer
protection, ensures public safety, addresses social justice concerns, and
invests tax revenue. Specifically, the program will:
Reduce impacts of criminalization affecting communities
Automatically seal certain cannabis-related criminal
Implement quality control and consumer protections to
safeguard public health.
Counties and large cities can opt out.
Restrict access to anyone under 21.
Generate approximately $300 million in tax revenue and
Advancing Reproductive Justice and Women’s Equality
Pass the Reproductive Health Act and Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act and Enshrine Roe v. Wade into the New York State Constitution: Governor Cuomo will work with the legislature to pass the Reproductive Health Act within the first 30 days of the 2019 Legislative Session, codifying the principles of Roe v. Wade into State law. This law will ensure the right of people to make personal health care decisions to protect their health, in addition to their life, and ensure that health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty. Upon passage of the RHA, the Governor will advance a concurrent resolution to enshrine the principles of Roe v Wade into the New York State Constitution. Additionally, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to codify affordable access to contraception, including emergency contraception, into New York State law, by passing the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act.
Improve Access to In-Vitro Fertilization and Fertility Preservation Coverage: This year, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to expand access to coverage for IVF, as well as medically-necessary fertility preservation services. This legislation will specifically mandate that large group insurance providers cover IVF and will also require large, small, and individual group insurance providers to cover egg-freezing services for women with certain health conditions, including those undergoing cancer treatment.
Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity and Racial Disparities: Based on recommendations from the Maternal Mortality Taskforce established by Governor Cuomo in 2018, the Governor will advance a series of policies to reduce maternal mortality and racial disparities in New York State, including creating an education and training program to reduce implicit racial bias in health care institutions statewide, expand Community Health Worker programs, enacting legislation to create a statewide Maternal Mortality Review Board, creating a data warehouse to provide near real-time information on maternal mortality and morbidity and to inform targeted quality initiatives, and convening an Expert Workgroup on Postpartum Care to develop recommendations targeting the critical time immediately after birth.
Pass the Equal Rights Amendment: Governor Cuomo will push to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to add sex as a protected class to Section 11 of Article 1 of the New York State Constitution. With this change, Section 11 of Article 1 of the New York State Constitution will read: No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws of this State or any subdivision thereof. No person shall, because of race, color, sex, creed or religion, be subjected to any discrimination in his or her civil rights by any other person or by any firm, corporation or institution, or by the State or any agency or subdivision of the state.
Pass the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act: Governor Cuomo will advance the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, which will build on Jenna’s Law to include more meaningful sentence reductions and encompass crimes committed not only against, but also at the behest of, abusers. The Act will also permit a small population of currently incarcerated survivors to apply for re-sentencing and earlier release due to their prior victimization.
Eliminate the Statute of Limitations for Rape: While New York removed the statute of limitations for Rape in the First Degree, a five-year statute of limitations remains for Rape in the Second Degree and Rape in the Third Degree. Therefore, in 2019 Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to remove the statute of limitations for Rape in the Second Degree and Third Degree.
Increase Protections Against Harassment in the Workplace: Building on the nation’s most comprehensive sexual harassment package signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2018, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to lower the high bar set for employees to hold employers accountable under the New York Human Rights Law for sexual harassment, protect employees’ rights to pursue complaints, and ensure workers know their rights, by requiring all employers to conspicuously post a sexual harassment educational poster in their workplace.
Modernize New York’s Pay Equity Law: Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has fought aggressively to close the gender pay gap in New York. This year, Governor Cuomo will build upon that effort by championing the passage of a salary history ban. In addition, the Governor will advance legislation to expand the definition of “equal pay for equal work” to require equal pay on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, and other protected characteristics, and expand the requirement that equal pay be provided for all substantially similar work, adding flexibility in recognition of the complexity of the issue.
If You Can See It, You Can Be It 2019—Girls in Government: Governor Cuomo will create an opportunity for girls to learn about the impact they can have through politics through the new Girls in Government initiative, a non-partisan program to encourage girls in grades 8 through 12 to get involved in government and public policy. The program will introduce girls to the machinery of advocacy and public policy and teach young girls about public affairs and issues that matter to them personally and in their community. They will witness first-hand the inner workings of state government and meet with elected officials and senior staff.
Creating a Safer New York
Establish Extreme Risk Protection Orders to Save Lives: Governor Cuomo will continue to champion the Red Flag Bill, also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order Bill, which would prevent individuals determined by a court to have the potential to cause themselves or others serious harm from purchasing, possessing, or attempting to purchase or possess any type of firearm, including handguns, rifles, or shotguns. This legislation builds on New York’s strongest-in-the-nation gun laws, and, if passed, would make New York the first state to empower its teachers and school administrators to prevent school shootings by pursuing court intervention.
Extend the Background Check Waiting Period: Governor Cuomo continues to support legislation to establish a 10-day waiting period for individuals who are not immediately approved to purchase a firearm through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
Ban Bump Stocks: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to close existing statutory loopholes to prohibit ownership or sale of a bump stock. As evidenced by the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, bump stocks can be equipped to semi-automatic weapons to simulate machine gun fire with deadly consequences. Bump stocks serve no legitimate purposes for hunters or sportsmen and only cause unpredictable and accelerated gun fire, and there is no reason to allow for their continued sale in New York State.
Pass the Child Victims Act: Having advanced the Child Victims Act, Governor Cuomo is fighting to enact the bill and provide survivors with a long-overdue path to justice. This legislation will increase the length of time during which a child sex abuser may be held criminally accountable, allow abuse victims to commence a civil lawsuit at any time until they reach age 50, and ensure that each and every survivor has an opportunity to seek justice by creating a one-year window for victims whose claims have previously been time-barred to bring suit.
Safety Reforms for Large Passenger Vehicles: The horrific tragedies involving modified stretched
limousines in Schoharie County in 2018 and Suffolk County in 2015 filled every
New Yorker with a deep sense of empathy and sorrow for the victims and their
loved ones. Governor Cuomo proposes a number of statutory reforms to both
protect passengers and hold those accountable who seek to flout the law, including
an outright ban on the registration of remanufactured limousines, prohibiting
their operation in New York State.
Authorize Speed Cameras: In order to reinstate the bill signed into law
by Governor Cuomo in 2013 authorizing the City of New York to develop a system
to advance school zone highway safety utilizing camera technology to record and
enforce speeding violations, the Governor will put forward a proposal to
reinstate and expand the speed camera program in New York City.
Enacting the Democracy Agenda
Allow Universal Absentee Voting: Governor Cuomo will push to amend the
constitution to make absentee ballots available to any eligible voter, no
matter their reason for wanting one.
Enact Statewide Early Voting: This proposal would combine early voting
with electronic poll books, making make it easier for poll workers to keep
track of voting records and verify voter identity and registration
Permit Same-Day Registration: Governor Cuomo is proposing amending the
constitution to eliminate this outdated but formidable barrier to the ballot
Automatic Registration: Today New Yorkers are given the opportunity
to register to vote when interacting with State agencies and they must
affirmatively ask to be registered. The budget will include a proposal to
reverse that process and register eligible New Yorkers to vote unless they
affirmatively ask not to be registered. Automatic voter registration will not
only boost voter registration and turnout in this state, it will also strengthen
our democratic process.
Make It Easier to Register to Vote: In order to ensure voter
registration is as simple as possible, the Governor is proposing that all
automatic voter registration opportunities be available online, and that New
Yorkers are able to apply to register to vote on the State Board of Elections
website if they choose to do so.
Make Election Day a Holiday: An inability to take off of work
should never be a barrier to voting. For this reason, Governor Cuomo will
advance legislation to ensure that every worker in New York State receives, as
of right, paid time off to vote on Election Day.
Eliminate Restrictions on Voting Before Noon in Upstate Primaries:
Governor Cuomo will fix unequal ballot access across the state by ensuring that
voting hours are extended for primary elections upstate to match those voting
hours across the rest of the state.
Fight to Ensure that All New Yorkers Are Counted in the 2020 Census: In
2019, Governor Cuomo will launch a comprehensive campaign to protect the
integrity of the 2020 Census and to ensure that every New Yorker is counted.
Enacting Ethics Reform
Adopt Campaign Finance Reform: Governor Cuomo will advance a
comprehensive package of campaign finance reform legislation to combat the
unprecedented influence of big money in politics and empower the voices of all
Public Financing of Elections: There is no incentive in today’s campaign finance
system for candidates to focus on ordinary donors. Large donors provide
large donations which drown out the voices of ordinary people. Public
campaign financing is the remedy to this problem. By enacting a 6:1 public
financing matching ratio for small donations, candidates will be
incentivized to focus on small donors.
Lowering Campaign Contribution Limits: Governor Cuomo is proposing lowering contribution
limits for all candidates. By implementing these reforms, and creating a
strong public financing system, New York will dramatically reduce the
influence of money in politics and return to a government by the people
and for the people.
Ban Corporate Contributions and Fully Close the LLC
Loophole: Ever since the Citizens United
decision in 2010, corporate money has overtaken our elections system. It
is time for New York State to finally say enough is enough. Governor Cuomo
will fix this problem once and for all by banning all corporate and LLC
contributions. It is time to restore the power to the people, and take it
out of the hands of dark money and special interest donors.
Strengthen Disclosure Laws that Expose Dark Money inPolitics : In June 2016, Governor
Cuomo advanced ethics reform legislation to address the impact of Citizens
United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010). The Governor
cautioned about the increase of dark money in politics and promised to
“strengthen disclosure requirements and mandate that groups report
the identity of anyone exerting control over them.” In August 2016,
the Governor signed into law New York Executive Law § 172, which requires
disclosures of political relationships and behaviors widely recognized to
be influential but which operate in the shadows. Now, with the lessons of
the 2018 election in hand, the Governor proposes strengthening this law in
a variety of ways to assure all New Yorkers have critical information
about who is actually speaking to them. Further, the Governor is seeking
to streamline the reporting process for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4)
organizations, including by providing a mechanism for organizations to
apply for a statutory exemption before the start of a reporting period.
Disclosures by Local Elected Officials: This proposal will require these local elected officials to
submit basic financial disclosure information to JCOPE, just like their state
counterparts, so that the people of New York State can have the information
they need about the people they choose to represent them at all levels of
Build a Dynamic, User-Friendly Database of Economic Development Projects: In
an effort to increase transparency and modernize the information available on
State economic development efforts, the Governor is directing Empire State
Development (ESD) to build and host a searchable online database that will give
the public more current and relevant information on projects that receive ESD
assistance. When deployed, the new database will provide the public with more
recent information on projects and combine the data from many static,
program-specific reports into one dynamic, user-friendly website.
Ensuring Immigrant Rights
Pass the Jose Peralta DREAM Act: Governor Cuomo will pass the Senator
Jose R. Peralta DREAM Act to finally open the doors of higher education to
thousands of New Yorkers. The Senator Jose R. Peralta DREAM Act will give
undocumented New York students, who are deserving of the same advantages given
to their citizen peers, access to the Tuition Assistance Program, as well as
state administered scholarships.
Codify Executive Order Prohibiting State Agencies from Inquiring About
Immigration Status: In 2017, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 170,
prohibiting State agencies and officers from inquiring about or disclosing an
individual’s immigration status unless required by law or necessary to
determine eligibility for a benefit or service. Building upon further
amendments to the Executive Order, Governor Cuomo proposes codifying the
protection of the amended EO 170 into law.
Protecting LGBTQ Rights
Pass the Gender Identity and Expression Non-Discrimination Act:Governor
Cuomo supports the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act
(GENDA), solidifying protections against discrimination, harassment, and hate
crimes against people on the basis of gender identity.
Banning Conversion Therapy: Governor Cuomo supports legislation to
expand the definition of professional misconduct for professions licensed under
the education law to include engaging in, advertising for, or allowing someone
under one’s direction or oversight to engage in conversion therapy with a
patient under the age of eighteen years.
Ban the “Gay Panic” Defense: Governor Cuomo will again
push to close the loophole in New York State by passing legislation to ban gay
and trans panic defenses.
Make Surrogacy Legal in New York State: New York State law
presently bans the practice of gestational surrogacy, and creates destabilizing
uncertainty about who the legal parents are when a child is conceived via other
reproductive technology like artificial insemination or egg donation. The
Governor is proposing legislation to lift the ban on surrogacy contracts to
permit gestational carrier agreements.
Serving Our Veterans
Support for Transgender Troops: New York will stand with all
veterans regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This year, all
New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs staff will receive LGBTQ cultural
competency training to help understand how to best serve LGBTQ veterans. DVA
will also work with LGBTQ-focused organizations to make sure that each and
every LGBTQ veteran receives individualized assistance in a safe and supportive
environment, including by helping LGBTQ veterans upgrade their service
discharges so that these brave veterans will be able to access healthcare,
education, financial compensation, and other benefits they have earned.
JUSTICE FOR ALL NEW YORKERS
Protecting Quality, Affordable Health Care
Codify Health Care Protections and Coverage Guarantees for New
Yorkers: In light of the continued federal attacks on the ACA,
Governor Cuomo believes it is essential that New York codify key ACA
provisions, including the state’s health insurance marketplace, as well as
enhanced State regulatory protections into State law. This is critical to
stabilizing the health insurance market and inoculating New York from any
further federal attacks on the health care system.
Take Action to Achieve Universal Access to Health Care: Governor
Cuomo is establishing a Commission on universal health care to be supported by
Department of Health and Department of Financial Services, and comprised of
health policy and insurance experts to develop options for achieving universal
access to high-quality, affordable health care in New York. This review process
will consider all options for expanding access to care, including strengthening
New York’s commercial insurance market, expanding programs to include
populations that are currently ineligible or cannot afford coverage, as well as
innovative reimbursement models to improve efficiency and generate savings to
support expanded coverage.
Fighting to End the Opioid Epidemic
Protect New Yorkers from Predatory Practices: Governor Cuomo will
advance legislation to 1) require that out-of-state facilities be licensed in
their home state and accredited by a nationally recognized organization, and 2)
prevent predatory out-of-state providers from targeting justice involved
individuals by working with courts to immediately connect individuals to
in-state treatment programs and by advancing legislation to protect in-state
court ordered treatment. He will also direct OASAS to implement regulations
that require out-of-state marketers comply with OASAS requirements when
marketing in New York State. With these actions, New York will implement the
strongest practices in the nation to protect its residents, forcing predatory
treatment programs to look elsewhere to fill their facility quotas.
Expand Access to Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is an important
advance in Medication Assisted Treatment, which, like methadone and injectable
naltrexone, is used in combination with counseling as appropriate to help
people reach and sustain recovery from Opioid Use Disorder. To expand use of
buprenorphine, Governor Cuomo will direct the Department of Health to require
all hospitals statewide to develop protocols for their Emergency Departments to
address Opioid Use Disorder based on the standard of care for treatment or
referral for treatment.
Expand Access to Medication Assisted Treatment in Criminal Justice Settings: To
expand access to treatment in prisons and jails, Governor Cuomo has directed
OASAS to distribute over $4 million to support addiction treatment services in
over 50 facilities. Additionally, Governor Cuomo will expand access to
Medication Assisted Treatment by providing $1.2 million to support the
establishment of up to three new MAT programs in State prisons.
Increase Access to Naloxone: Governor Cuomo will direct DOH to
advance legislation that expands Good Samaritan laws to apply to workers in
restaurants, bars, and other retail establishments. In addition, Governor Cuomo
will increase access to naloxone at SUNY and CUNY by ensuring that naloxone is
provided as part of every dorm first aid kit, or available for the Resident
Assistant on duty every night in every SUNY and CUNY dorm.
Launch a Comprehensive Substance Use Prevention Blueprint for Schools: At
Governor Cuomo’s direction, New York State will launch a statewide
collaborative to streamline all prevention resources and develop best
practices, standards, and metrics for substance use prevention into a focused
“Prevention Blueprint” that will assist schools to follow a
comprehensive, evidence-based and data-driven approach to prevention. OASAS
shall work in collaboration with the State Education Department, Department of
Health and the Office of Mental Health to develop the Prevention Blueprint for
use in the 2020-21 school year.
Creating Healthy Communities
Protect New Yorkers from Unknown Exposure to Toxic Chemicals: Governor
Cuomo will introduce new legislation authorizing the Department of
Environmental Conservation, the Department of Health and the Department of
State to develop regulations establishing an on-package labeling requirement
for designated products, indicating the presence of potentially hazardous
chemicals, developing a list of the more than 1,000 carcinogens and other
chemicals that will trigger labeling, and identifying the types of consumer
products that will be subject to the new regime. DEC and DOH will be further
empowered to require manufacturers to disclose the chemical contents of
consumer products in sold or distributed in New York State and explore possible
additional measures to protect consumers.
Control Health Threats from Tobacco: Governor Cuomo is proposing
comprehensive legislation to combat the rising use of tobacco products. This
Raising the Minimum Sales Age for Tobacco and
Electronic Cigarette Products from 18 to 21: Most underage youth obtain tobacco and vapor
products from friends who are over 18 and can legally purchase products.
Raising the minimum age will remove sources of tobacco from high schools.
Ending the Sale of Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette
Products in Pharmacies: Health
care related entities should not be in the business of selling tobacco,
the leading cause of preventable death in New York State. Ending the sale
of tobacco and electronic cigarette products in pharmacies will reduce the
availability, visibility, and social acceptability of tobacco use,
especially to youth.
Clarify the Department of Health’s Authority to Ban the
Sale of Certain Flavored E-Cigarette Liquids: Flavored combustible cigarettes, except menthol, were
banned by the FDA in 2009 to reduce youth smoking as they were frequently
used as a starter product. Most e-cigarette users said their first
e-cigarette was flavored. Flavors, such as sweet tart, toffee, and bubble
gum, make e-cigarettes more attractive and make e-cigarettes more attractive
to youth. Legislation is being introduced to provide the Department of
Health the authority to ban the sale of flavored liquids that target youth
use of e-cigarettes.
Restricting Available Discounts Provided by Tobacco and
Electronic Cigarette Manufacturers and Retailers: New York has the highest cigarette tax in the
nation, but manufacturers and retailers have developed tactics to reduce
prices, such as “buy one, get one free” discounts. These tactics
directly target price-sensitive consumers, including youth. Restricting
discounts on tobacco and vapor products will strengthen the impact of New
York’s tax on tobacco and disincentivize tobacco use.
Introduce a Tax on E-Cigarettes: Tobacco use is reduced or prevented when the price of
tobacco products is high. Youth are particularly sensitive to price
increases on tobacco products. New York State has one of the highest taxes
on combustible cigarettes and one of the lowest youth smoking rates in the
country. The same rationale is expected to apply to taxation and youth use
of electronic cigarettes and e-liquids.
Require E-Cigarettes to Be Sold Only Through Licensed
Retailers: Currently the sale of
e-cigarettes is almost entirely unregulated. Restricting the sale to
licensed retailers will allow the current enforcement infrastructure to
ensure that minors do not purchase tobacco products.
Invest in Community-Based Supports for Aging New Yorkers: Governor Cuomo proposes investing $15 million in community-based supports for aging New Yorkers. This needed targeted investment in NYSOFA’s programs and services will help serve more older adults and will help them maintain their autonomy, support family and friends in their caregiving roles, and delay future Medicaid costs. Working with the Department of Health, NYSOFA will develop specific metrics to evaluate the success of this investment.
Create the Family First Transition Fund: The state will leverage the investment of private foundation funding to create a Family First Transition fund that will provide resources to local departments of social services and foster care agencies to have the resources needed to prepare for the implementation of the Family First federal legislation. This investment will allow New York State to adequately prepare for the implementation of Family First and will position New York to continue to prioritize the needs of its most vulnerable children and families and ensure the local departments of social services are fully equipped to meet those needs while maintaining compliance with important federal benchmarks.
Continuing New York’s Environmental Leadership
Launching the Green New Deal: Amidst the Trump Administration’s assault on the environment and in order to continue New York’s progress in the fight against climate change, Governor Cuomo is announcing New York’s Green New Deal, a nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will put the state on a path to carbon neutrality across all sectors of New York’s economy. At the Governor’s direction, New York will move boldly to achieve this goal with specific near-term actions and long-term strategies to spur unparalleled innovation and transform the state’s electric, transportation, and building infrastructure while prioritizing the needs of low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. This landmark initiative will further drive the growth of New York’s clean energy economy, create tens of thousands of high-quality 21st century jobs, provide all New Yorkers with cleaner air and water by reducing harmful emissions, and set an example of climate leadership for the rest of the nation and world to follow.
Establish $10 Billion Green Future Fund: This year, Governor Cuomo will advance a $10 billion Green Future Fund to support clean water infrastructure, renewable energy and clean transportation, and open space and resiliency. This fund includes $5 billion in total for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure—building upon the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act and effectively doubling the state’s investment in clean water over the next five years.
Continue Historic $300 Million Environmental Protection Fund: Governor Cuomo proposes maintaining the State’s historic $300 million EPF. This investment will prioritize programs to protect New York’s water bodies, promote stewardship projects in parks and on other state lands, revitalize municipal waterfronts, and build community resilience to climate change—all while creating jobs and stimulating local economies.
Expanding the Bottle Bill to Include Most Nonalcoholic Drinks: In order to reduce litter and provide relief to overburdened municipal recycling entities who are struggling amidst changes to the global recycling markets, Governor Cuomo will expand the Bottle Bill to make most non-alcoholic beverage containers eligible for 5 cent redemption, including those for sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit and vegetable beverages and ready-to-drink teas and coffee.
Prohibiting the Use of Plastic Bags: To address the environmental impacts of single-use plastic bags, Governor Cuomo proposes a statewide plastic bag prohibition with certain exceptions.
New York State has launched the second solicitation for large-scale renewable energy projects under the state’s Clean Energy Standard. The solicitation for up to 20 projects will accelerate New York’s transition to a clean energy economy and is expected to spur up to $1.5 billion in private investment and create more than 1,000 new well-paying jobs for New Yorkers. The solicitation is expected to support 1.5 million megawatt-hours of renewable electricity per year, enough to power 200,000 homes, and advance New York’s nation-leading commitment to secure 50 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
“This administration continues to champion renewable energy projects across New York, and this is a major step forward in our efforts to create clean jobs and set an example for the rest of the nation,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “With this action we will continue to capitalize on our natural assets, expand economic opportunities and lay the groundwork for a cleaner, greener New York for generations to come.”
The state is issuing this solicitation as the second in a series of major procurements that are expected to result in the development of dozens of large scale renewable energy projects by 2022 under the Clean Energy Standard. Community engagement and on-the-ground support is crucial for the successful development of renewable energy projects, and the RFP released today includes new standards and requirements for effective community outreach and planning. The RFP also ensures that good-paying jobs will be created by requiring the prevailing wage for applicable positions.
Notable new provisions in this solicitation include:
Requiring that workers associated with the construction of any awarded facility be paid the applicable prevailing wage, a standard set by the New York State Department of Labor, ensuring that the projects will result in quality, good-paying jobs for New Yorkers;
Preserving and protecting New York’s valuable agricultural resources by providing bonus points for renewable energy projects that avoid overlap with land of agricultural importance to New York State;
Ensuring that communities that would host successfully awarded projects are fully aware of the development process, proposers will be required to demonstrate that they have engaged with those communities and have also commenced the associated permitting processes; and
Continuing to encourage proposals that cost-effectively pair renewable energy with advanced energy storage technologies to help meet Governor Cuomo’s commitment to deploying 1,500 MW of energy storage by 2025.
The announcement maintains a predictable pace of annual solicitations for renewable energy developers and will support continued development and investment in clean energy projects across New York State.
The move builds on the Governor’s announcement with Vice President Al Gore in March when the state reaffirmed its commitment to cleaner, smarter energy solutions, including the announcement of large-scale renewable energy project awards and a formal request to the federal government for an exclusion from the new five-year National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.
This solicitation supports NYSERDA’s 2017 solicitation through which a $1.4 billion investment dedicated to renewable energy projects was announced earlier this year. That investment included 22 utility-scale solar farms, three wind farms and one hydroelectric project. One of the wind farms features an energy storage component, marking the first time a large-scale renewable energy project has done so in New York State.
The request also builds upon a New York Power Authority solicitation announced last June in concert with NYSERDA’s first solicitation, that will procure 1 million MWh. This investment in large-scale clean energy supply will further expand NYPA’s leadership role as the state’s largest supplier of renewable electricity. NYPA received more than 130 proposals from 51 clean energy developers in response to its RFP. NYPA plans to announce selected developers and customers once contracts are signed, which is expected to be this summer.
These projects will advance the Clean Climate Careers initiative announced by Governor Cuomo in June 2017. The initiative focuses on accelerating renewable energy and energy efficiency to make New York home to 40,000 new, good-paying clean energy jobs by 2020. According to the 2017 New York Clean Energy Industry Report, 146,000 New Yorkers were employed in the clean energy sector, including 22,000 in renewable energy power generation.
Richard Kauffman, Chairman of Energy and Finance said, “Investment in clean energy has been a proven catalyst in jump-starting the economy and providing jobs throughout the State. The significant interest the state is seeing from companies to invest in New York’s clean energy agenda is testament to our resolve to ensure generations to come can enjoy the natural resources which surround us.”
Alicia Barton, President and CEO, NYSERDA said, “Making progress in the battle against climate change requires a sustained commitment to supporting clean energy projects that will make our communities stronger and more resilient. Governor Cuomo has set the stage for New York to lead this effort through his bold commitment to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, and we expect that this solicitation being announced today will help us maintain the early momentum we witnessed in the last round, and to pick up our pace in the march towards a cleaner future.”
Gil C. Quiniones, President and CEO, NYPA said, “Renewable energy is a priority for New York State. With these latest sizeable investments in clean and green energy projects and jobs, we are making great progress toward Governor Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard. Through large-scale renewable projects, we are changing the energy landscape in New York, and ensuring that our energy mix is viable and affordable now and into the future.”
Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee Chair Senator Joseph Griffo said, “The development of renewable resources is crucial to New York’s efforts to become more energy efficient. This announcement is a significant step forward and will support the state’s investments in a clean energy economy and job growth across the state.”
Assembly Energy Committee Chair Michael Cusick said, “While fighting climate change, the State is also investing in our economy by providing jobs for New Yorkers. With this plan, Governor Cuomo is ensuring opportunities for businesses to participate in the State’s agenda to have 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. Once again, New York is leading the nation in creating clean energy.”
Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Steve Englebright said, “I am thrilled to see New York taking more aggressive steps towards meeting our renewable energy goals, and in turn, our climate change mitigation goals. The state must rapidly move to produce clean power for homes and business and create well-paying, stable jobs for New Yorkers. Renewable projects, in concert with smart, economy-wide policies, will show that New York is a trendsetter in climate action.”
The Alliance for Clean Energy New York Executive Director Anne Reynolds said, “The renewable energy industry is committed to investing in New York to create jobs and help achieve Governor Cuomo’s ambitious clean energy goals. We applaud the Governor for his commitment to clean energy and for the release of the second solicitation for projects under the Clean Energy Standard. Our member companies look forward to competing for the opportunity to serve New Yorkers and provide pollution-free power.”
Climate Jobs NY Executive Director Ya-Ting Liu said, “New York has become a model for the rest of the country on how to tackle climate change while creating good, middle-class jobs with benefits. We applaud Governor Cuomo’s ongoing commitment to build a robust clean energy economy in New York that supports working families.”
The Nature Conservancy in New York Chief Conservation and External Affairs Officer Stuart F. Gruskin said, “The Nature Conservancy applauds Governor Cuomo for continuing progress on New York’s ambitious renewable energy goals and is thrilled to see a new approach in this solicitation to begin to consider land use. We look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to proactively address siting concerns to ensure clean energy for all New Yorkers while reducing impacts to our critical natural resources.”
Independent Power Producers of New York President & CEO Gavin Donohue said, “We applaud Governor Cuomo’s leadership in moving the Clean Energy Standard forward using competitive auctions. It is important to recognize the benefits of in-state energy resource development to local economies, and a diversity of resources is essential to electric system reliability.”
Reforming the Energy Vision is Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s strategy to lead on climate change and grow New York’s economy. REV is building a cleaner, more resilient and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers by stimulating investment in clean technologies like solar, wind, and energy efficiency and requiring 50 percent of the state’s electricity needs from renewable energy by 2030. Already, REV has driven growth of more than 1,000 percent in the statewide solar market, improved energy affordability for 1.65 million low-income customers, and created thousands of jobs in manufacturing, engineering, and other clean tech sectors. REV is ensuring New York reduces statewide greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and achieves the internationally recognized target of reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050. To learn more about REV, including the Governor’s $5 billion investment in clean energy technology and innovation, visit rev.ny.gov, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
About 1,000 people gathered in Washington Square Park in downtown Manhattan for a rally, teach-in, and March for Science. Speakers, including Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, decried the politicization of science, the censorship, banning and defunding of scientists and research, and warned that the United States will lose its economic and political leadership in the world if it loses its place on the forefront of scientific innovation and development.
All I could think about as I marched the 1.8 miles from Washington Square Park down Broadway to Zuccotti Park (famous for the Occupy Wall Street movement), is how sad, how pathetic, what an embarrassment for the United States of America to have to hold demonstrations to “Save Science.” We have regressed back to the Salem Witch Trials.
The New York City March for Science was one of many organized around the country during this Earth Month (April 22 is Earth Day). Last year, the first year of such demonstrations, brought out 1.3 million in support of robust science research, evidence-based policies, and science education. “Today, we continue the momentum gained from last year’s inaugural march to show policy makers that the March for Science is more than a single-day event. It’s a movement.”
“The 2018 March for Science New York City recognizes the importance of an informed democracy in order to maintain a free, healthy, happy, and accessible society. That is why we come together as a community of non-partisan scientists and friends to show the importance of protecting and promoting people’s rights, the public’s access to scientific information, the environment in which we exist, and scientific research. We hope to use this march to spark increased community involvement for the promotion of science for the common good through sustained action.”
“Science is beacon to a better future, health care, technology, transport,” declared Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). “Devotion to science is at the root of progress in every industry, lifting people from poverty; expanding opportunity, saving lives, feeding the hungry. We will never fund a better investment.
“But Congress wants to cut funds for research, cut fuel efficiency standards. [America] is losing leadership because of cutbacks,” she said. “We have to go forward….Science took us to moon.. America is the tech, innovation leader in the world because of science. Science brought us success.
“We must support science, truth, freedom and democracy,” said Maloney, a sponsor of the Science Integrity Act to shield science from ideology.
Paul Gallay of Riverkeeper, which has helped to clean up the Hudson River and drinking water throughout the state, contrasted the backward movement by the federal government to the progress in New York State. Largely based on the data collection by Riverkeeper and other advocates, New York has allocated $3 billion to improve water infrastructure based on scientific data, and a new law that requires testing and regulation of “emerging contaminants, “because we in New York value science.
“The EPA has been decimated. Hundreds of scientists who were there in January 2017, are gone. Ideology masquerades as policy. There is no quantitative analysis, just press releases.
“You keep doing research, driving innovation and groups like Riverkeeper will fight for policies to get clean water. And if politicians don’t, we’ll keep suing.
“We need to get politics out of science – get more active. And not just once a year. Make policies about science, not in spite of science. Pound pavement, so they can hear it in DC. Tell your state senators, local politicians to fight for science, save science,” Gallay said.
Bill Ulfeder, executive director of The Nature Conservancy, declared, “Science is what makes America great. It is essential for health, prosperity, safety, security.
“This is Earth Month (April 22 is Earth Day). Scientists, including Rachel Carson, alerted the country to the dangers of pollution, pesticides. Science informed the Endangered Species Act.
“For 65 years, the Nature Conservancy has been guided by science. We believe in the power of science to solve the problems we face – climate change, food shortage, disease. Only through science can we create a world where nature and humans thrive together.
“Invest in science. Appreciate that science needs and deserves diverse voices – more perspectives – to inform, promote healthy debate to make the best choices.”
Lauren Kurtz, Executive Director of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund (CSLDF), charged that “Scientific facts are downplayed, rejected. Policies are advocated that run counter to known science, including climate science.” And when that happens, CSLDF, which works to protect the scientific endeavor in general and climate scientists in particular by providing legal support and resources to scientists who are threatened, harassed, or attacked for doing their job, fights back.
“We keep track: 126 incidents when the government silenced scientists. Regulations have not kept pace with science and of the health risk of certain chemicals. We want stronger rules.”
“Removing ‘climate change’ [from EPA, Department of Agriculture and other government agency sites], staffing with ideologues… undermines out competitiveness and position on the forefront of science, leader in scientific discovery.
“We have the power to fight back – shine spotlight – call attention to misrepresentation, to speak out when censorship. March, speak out, act where can have impact such as on the local level. Vote.”
State Senator Brad Hoylman, who represents the district that New York University is in, noted “People think NY is deep blue state, that everyone smart, watches Rachel Maddow, reads NY times, understands a fact is not opinion. But things are different in Albany when comes to science. We need more evidence-based policy making.
“We know vaccinations save lives,” he said, drawing a cheer. Vaccination is one of greatest turning points in health. But when I introduced a bill to make vaccinations mandatory for elementary school children, you would have thought I called for destruction of society. The Anti-Vacs movement, even though the link between vaccines and autism has been disproved over and over again…
“Gay conversion therapy,” he continued, drawing boos.”There are mental health providers licensed by New York State who are trying to convert people from being gay. New York needs to yank their licenses.” People who are exposed to such conversion therapy, he said, “affects who they are as a person, sends a message to others, and perpetuates myth.”
Another issue is climate change, “one of the most important issues of our time. When Trump was inaugurated, the White House page on climate change was removed. [In reaction], in Albany, we tried to pass a resolution about the danger of climate change but Republicans wouldn’t allow a vote, saying there was ‘disagreement on the validity. Science doesn’t back that up.
“We need to take this energy today and elevate public discourse, based on facts from people who know what talking about – scientists, researchers, academics, experts. Everything else is bluster…We will embrace our intellectual, academic, research to bring to bear the best policies for New York.”
“Where live shouldn’t Increase risk to pollution, toxins, pesticides,” stated
Beverly Watkins, a community-based research scientist and health care provider who does “Big Picture Science” research into health disparities. “Health is a human right – growing up poor, your gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background should not have a higher rate of disease – diabetes, asthma, hypertension. Yet a difference in socioeconomic status perpetuates health disparities.”
Laurie Garrett, former senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York, currently developing the
Anthropocene Disruption Project, raised the issue of global competitiveness.
“In a race with three centers- China, France and Canada are welcoming scientists, with the appeal, ‘America may not be a home for you.’
“America needs science. And Science needs globalization.” Take for example what happens when you destroy globalization and internationalism – Brexit. Already, Britain is experiencing an 11.8% decrease in technology investment because of its impending dissociation with the European Union.
But besides a reduction in investment, “Collaborative science is failing. There is diminished freedom to emigrate from the EU to UK.
“Democracy depends on science. Congress can’t protect us from Russian trolls, from surveillance by greedy companies. We need science to advise, create appropriate policies. If we don’t have strong science, Research & Development, our economy can’t survive.
“The good news after all the panic about [the Trump Administration’s determination to slash the science budget, it got its biggest increase, 12.2%. National Institutes of Health budget is up 8.3%; energy up 15%; NASA saw its allocation increased to $1.2 billion; the US Geological Survey’s budget was increased to $1.1 billion; EPA was allocated $8.1 billion. The American people get it.”
But Science is not just global, international and collaborative, she continued, “We need to get out of our silos to solve the biggest challenges we face – climate change, microbiological resistance, cybersecurity, robotics, water and food scarcity, safety, acidification of the oceans. The world needs globalized, collectivized, interdisciplinary science.”
“Why we march? We march for evidence-based policy; for increased diversity, inclusion in the scientific community, for meaningful engagement between science and society, to build global community of advocates for science,” David Kantor, professor of environmental studies of NYU and the coordinator for New York’s March for Science.
Here are more images from the March for Science NYC:
(New York, NY) – Nearly one year after 750,000 people marched through Manhattan in support of women’s rights and civil equality, Women’s March Alliance is gearing up for a second Women’s March on January 20, 2018 in New York City. Dubbed a “March to Action,” and organized by Women’s March Alliance, the demonstration will join a coalition of sister marches from coast to coast in support of the shared vision that all humans are equal and deserve equal treatment.
The “March to Action” kicks off a year-long partnership between Women’s March Alliance, Vote.org, Rock the Vote, HeadCount, League of Women Voters, VotoLatino, and various local groups like Activists Against Apathy seeking to bring women’s voices to the ballot box by registering one million women to vote by the 2018 National Voter Registration Day. (Information regarding the voting initiative can be found here.)
“Over the past year, basic rights for women, immigrants, LGBTQ+, the religious and nonreligious, people of color and even Mother Earth have struggled to survive under the weight of the current administration,” Women’s March Alliance stated. “America’s First Amendment has been challenged and healthcare for millions has been threatened. We must stand together to demand and defend our rights. We will not be silent. We must remind everyone that red, white, and blue are the colors of tolerance.”
“The goal of January’s march is to defend and maintain the basic rights of women, immigrants, LGBTQ+, the religious and nonreligious, people of color, and the environment,” said Katherine Siemionko, founder and President of Women’s March Alliance. “Over the last year, we’ve heard an overwhelming call for a second demonstration. With each successive degradation of basic human rights, the outpouring of support for this form of social activism grows exponentially.”
The 2017 New York City march was one of hundreds held domestically and internationally, each organized and produced by local teams of activists who had never met nor spoken to one another. These individual, local efforts resulted in the public assembly of millions of people across the world.
“The 750,000 who marched in Manhattan last year, the 250,000 who walked in the ‘Women’s March on Chicago,’ and the millions around the world who participated at the local level, proved that our voices would not be muted or silenced,” Siemionko continued. “We’re proud to be part of a sustained global movement that defends human rights in the face of adversity.”
The march is slated to begin near Columbus Circle and continue south and west through midtown, culminating in an activism fair whose aim is to connect people with the causes they care most about. These logistical plans are currently under review by the NYPD.
MARCH AND RALLY LOCATION
Rally: 11:30-1:00 EST on 61st Street and Central Park West (speakers and musical performances occur in this 90-minute block; the stage is on 61st facing north)
Entry point for marchers: Main entrance on 71st & Columbus, overflow entrances on 64th/Broadway, 68th/Columbus and 75th/Columbus.
Entrance for disabilities and ASL: 61st and Broadway.
End Point: Exits on 6th Avenue and 45th, 44th, and 43rd Street (there are post-march events planned)
Route: The March will begin on Central Park West and 61st and move south; marchers will turn east on 59th Street and then South onto Sixth Avenue; exit long 6th avenue at 45th, 44th or 43rd Streets.
Rising out of the local Women’s March on NYC, Women’s March Alliance is a nonprofit whose focus is on building strategic alliances with grassroots organizations in order to provide our community with a wide range of opportunities that empower them to demand and defend their rights. WMA aims to unify the voices and resources of grassroots organizations to collectively foster an informed and engaged community that both understands the current state of human rights across the globe and has the tools necessary to defend and advance those rights. Our mission is to amplify the collective voice and resources of human rights organizations to foster an informed and engaged community.
WMA, which stands in solidarity with the mission of sister marches across the country, has no official affiliation with the Women’s March National Team or its team of organizers.
The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund hosted the 2017 Nassau County Executive Candidate Forum on Environment & Sustainability at Adelphi University in Garden City on October 15. The format was a panel of three posing questions to the candidates individually and separately, first to Laura Curran, the Democratic candidate, then, in a second session, posing the same questions to the Republican candidate, Jack Martins. With the Trump Administration and Republican Congress pulling back on environmental protection and climate action, the stand that localities take becomes more significant. What follows is a loosely edited transcription, putting the candidates’ replies together after each question—Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
Laura Curran: I never planned to get involved in politics. I wanted to help my schools, my community, succeed. That sparked my interest to step up and serve the community in a bigger way – I have been in the Nassau County Legislature for four years, I am proud to have worked across the aisle when it was the right thing to do for the people I represent –For example, I was able to restore 10 bus routes that were cut.
As a legislator, I have had a front row seat to the corruption, the mismanagement [of county government]. I know how hard people work, the high taxes we pay. I believe we deserve a government that lives up to us. When I hear about indictments, it’s clear that the machine is breaking down, is not accountable to the people.
Jack Martins: I believe strongly in the Kenyan proverb, we don’t inherit the land from our parents we borrow it from our children. That is motivating. It hasn’t always been the case – water quality, the way we have treated sole-source aquifer historically, the lack of comprehensive sewering, nitrogen outflow to bays and and Sound, have significant environmental issues that is our responsibility to take care of and not simply kick the can down the road. Options for us – priorities, investments in infrastructure – I have had a history of working across the aisle – with Schimel in Assembly – But if there is a critical issue for us here in Long Island it’s water. Environmental sensitivity, wind energy, opportunities for our economy, need to expand bus service.
Addressing Nitrogen Loading
Adrienne Esposito, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment: You know the first question: nitrogen. The Bay Park sewage treatment plant is responsible for 85% of the nitrogen loading into the western bays and the western bays are dying – depleted fish, closed shellfish beds, wetlands degrading. The solution is to combine Long Beach with Bay Park, take treated effluent, use the water viaduct currently in place, and discharge out the Cedar Creek ocean outfall pipe. Will you expedite the process of hooking up Long Beach to Bay Park to the existing pipe to the ocean outflow pipe – so bays can be restored and thrive?
Curran: This is a very exciting project. The county was trying to get outflow pipe for bay…. It’s expensive. The county wasn’t able to get (funding?) from the state, federal government. [But] this is an example of how government works well: smart guys had a eureka moment: they realized there is a viaduct under Sunrise Highway,100 years old from an old waterworks, so big, a grown man could stand up in it .What if we bring water up to the viaduct, out to Cedar Creek, 6-7 miles, then there is 2 mile outflow pipe already in Cedar Creek? Altogether it would be half the cost. A viability study showed the plan is viable – they would put a polymer sleeve inside.
The key is expediting [the plan]. We have to work closely with towns and villages because we’ve got to get the treated effluent from Bay Park up the viaduct and back down. We’ve got to work with communities on either side, so we have to make sure they understand and have buy in –we don’t want to shove it down people’s throats. It will reduce the amount of nitrogen into the bays immediately, restore the shellfish. It doesn’t take long before nature will rebound. It would be good for economy, too. A win- win.
Jack Martins: There is a critical need on Long Island, how we discharge effluent into South Bay. Right now, both Long Beach and Bay Park go to Reynolds Channel and we know the effect. Someone came up with the ingenious proposal to connect via existing viaduct – the most complicated part is how to connect from Bay Park to the water viaduct…The viaduct is viable, we can move forward immediately…There are a couple of different options. The sooner we close Long Beach sewer treatment plant …Connect Cedar Creek – lateral to plant to outflow – and discharged 3 miles out. It’s important because of nitrogen loading [which] killed the shellfish industry, killed coastal wetlands. We realized after Sandy that those coastal wetlands protect against tidal surge during these 100-year storms. That’s my commitment, that’s what we will do.
Eric Alexander, Vision Long Island: This issue is on human level: Nassau County has some of most dangerous roads in NYS for pedestrian, bikers, – restaurants, downtowns, growing 55-plus population, growing number of young people who don’t want to drive – what will you do to encourage walkability, ‘Complete Streets’.
Curran – I often talk about how transit oriented development [TOD] will be what saves us as a region – it keeps young people, empty nesters, creates a tax base, jobs. But [existing] infrastructure doesn’t quite support TOD. There are places where we have to reengineer what already have.
I live in Baldwin in the town of Hempstead. We won $5 million in funding for a Complete Streets project to redo our main road, Grand Ave, to make it more navigable for bikers, walkers, cars and buses. This is called a “road diet“: taking two lanes in each direction and turning them into one lane in each for the part of the road that’s in the plan. There is [often] a lot of resistance because people are concerned about change, that it will take longer. But [delays are mitigated by] engineering traffic lights, making turn lanes that fan out so drivers can get to lights in time – that will make it more navigable. But when people can walk around, ride bikes, have alternatives to using a car, people tend to spend more money – they want to stop, shop – which is good for economic development. We’re built up in Nassau County, so we need to reengineer what we already have. That’s what we are doing in Baldwin. I am looking forward to working with zoning municipalities.
Martins: As we consider the next generation of downtown residents, transit oriented development, how we get around safely. I supported Safe Streets legislation in Albany – it made a requirement that when we reengineer streets, we do so in a way that is safe for cars but also pedestrians and cyclists. For us, it’s a question of who we are as a county. We have to have every option for transit – bicycles, pedestrians. We need to make sure we keep roads safe. I represented one of the most dangerous areas in New York State – Hempstead Turnpike – more fatalities – Complete Streets have to be integral to what we do. The county has hundreds of miles of county roads, some of the most heavily traveled in the country. As roads are redesigned, maintained, [we need to be] using Complete Streets [strategies]. That is my commitment. As we stress the need for transit-oriented development, Complete Streets are more important [including] connectivity to train stations.
Improving Public Transportation
Nick Sifuentes, Tri-State Transportation Campaign: Transit oriented development requires good transit – something that is slipping. Governor Cuomo announced an advisory council to address dual crises: congestion in/out of New York City, and lack of funding for MTA (including Long Island Railroad). As the future leader of Nassau County what are the policies and proposals you would like to see?
Curran: I would make sure we have strong advocate on the council – Suffolk has a strong guy, Nassau, we don’t even know who it is. I am happy that the third track is on track, because we need to ease getting on/off the island – how trains operate. I would also look to buses and encourage more people to ride the bus even if they don’t have to [instead of driving]. The more choice bus riders, the better we will be. There are interesting examples all over the country: ideas include creating smaller, more flexible routes, more app-based routes to make an appointment to catch a bus. I am excited to pursue these: for every $1 spent on bus transit generates many more dollars in economic activity. It’s not just poor people who need to use buses. It is obviously important for people to take buses to doctors appointments, university, jobs. That’s economic development… Also ride-sharing –I’m glad it’s [now] legal in Nassau County – young people aren’t driving as much.
Martins: Make mass transit more affordable. Use it to make LIRR more affordable, encourage people to leave their cars. As a parent, when I take my children into the city, I have to take out a loan to pay the roundtrip fare. We shouldn’t have that consideration instead of taking car. [Transit] has to be affordable . if they do something with congestion pricing, make it affordable for Nassau County.
Climate Change & Sustainable Development
Adrienne Esposito: Climate change is real. There is no debate. And Long Island is at the forefront of impacts. New York State set a goal of 50% renewals by 2030 but we can’t get there unless offshore wind is part of the [energy] portfolio. Will you support offshore wind (with site-specific environmental assessment)?
Curran: Absolutely. We have to look for renewable energy. Wind is a gift and we should be harnessing it and anything we can do to harness wind. Also renewables are a growing industry, and I don’t want to be on the losing end. I fought against the LNG [Liquified Natural Gas] port off Long Beach.
Solar panels have a really hard time with permitting – people have to deal with towns, villages, all with different permits that expire differently. We have to work hard with partners –because that is right to do for the environment and the economy.
Climate change. I am concerned with the rhetoric of the president that [the US] will be getting out of the Paris Climate Accord– especially being a coastal community, we see the ravages [of superstorms, sealevel rise]. I am heartened that governors and mayors around the country say they will stick to the Paris Agreement, and I have vowed as county executive to do the same.
Trump has said it is no longer necessary to [require that tax money used for infrastructure must take climate change resiliency into account]. I would insure that every penny would be used [would take] climate change [into account, that is, sustainable development].
Martins: Absolutely. Curious at [the goal of] 50% [renewable] by 2030. I visited Portugal a couple of years ago – toured their renewable portfolio. Portugal gets 60% of their energy from renewable – hydro, wind, solar, voltaics. We should too. I’m a big believer in offshore wind, a great resource for us – the corridor for offshore wind runs from Block Island to south Jersey. We’re in a great position to benefit from cheap energy from wind. I also understand great strides are being made in developing battery technology to store energy at Brookhaven National Labs. That would be an economic boost for us. Right now, the largest project in New York, the east end off Long Island is being staged from Rhode Island. That means jobs are in Rhode Island, economic development is in Rhode Island. It needs to be here on Long Island. If we make a commitment to offshore wind as energy, we should make a commitment to have those jobs here. We live on an island, we have a maritime history. Embrace it, make offshore wind industry here -manufacturing blades, turbines, opportunities for engineering next generation of offshore wind.
IDA Tax Incentives
Eric Alexander: Sustainability and smart growth, but also economic development. To focus growth in downtowns, the Nassau County IDA over the last 7 years provided tax incentives to thousands of units of affordable housing, mixed-use development by train stations… In an election year, attacking IDA incentives is politically popular but they have been anchors of revitalization efforts such as in Farmingdale’s affordable housing component. Will you continue that policy?
Curran: Farmingdale is a perfect example of transit oriented development.. The biggest problem now is you can’t get parking on a Saturday night. IDAs play a serious role, but are subject to attack because if you have nine self-storage facilities getting tax breaks, they aren’t economic drivers that create jobs. But when done right, [IDA tax incentives] can be real motivator, bring the right kind of development into Nassau County. That involves land use planning, that when we do a deal with a developer or business, that real jobs are being created or real taxes being generated from an enterprise, so the investment of taxpayers is returned. We need more transparency in the IDA – open up meetings to the public, let the public give input. When I talk about getting community buy-in for projects, that’s the way. You can’t force things on communities.
IDA is a real asset but must be used properly and if a developer or business doesn’t do what was promised, that there be a muscular way of addressing that.
Martins: My experience as mayor of Mineola, master plan, transit oriented development, overlay district –I see the effects when a community comes together – the commitment it has to expand housing stock, providing affordability for senior, next generation housing. The role for county government: it needs to work with local communities to identify areas where TOD makes sense – Hicksville, Farmingdale, Westbury, Glen Cove …. We as a county could expedite and incentivize. What I would do differently would be to make sure developers who are seeking tax (rebates) make sure they tell communities. Communities feel let down. Developers come before zoning boards and say they need greater density, etc, and then will have the ability to build this, and the community makes a decision to support that request, gives a variance they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. [The community] expects a revenue stream and a tax base that comes back to community. But the first thing is [the developer] goes to the IDA and gets tax credits which undermines what the community expects. So there needs to be transparency, part of the discussion before the decision, not after, that causes so much friction we see.
Generating Revenue for NICE Bus
Nick Sifuentes: How would you create additional revenue for the NICE bus?
Curran: I have suggested pots where money could come from: there is money that was borrowed 8 and 10 years ago that hasn’t been spent (that is a one-shot); the fund balance has way more than needs to be (also a one-shot). You are talking about recurring revenue. I propose that a small piece of ride-sharing money, Uber or Lyft – say 25 cents or 50 cents a ride – to go to buses. It makes sense because all are part of transportation. We could use a small portion of MTA tax and put that toward buses. And red light cameras are $12 million over budget – use some of that for buses. That’s also within the theme of transportation.
Martins: One of the first things I did in in the senate in 2010 and 2011 – I was identified as one of 50 most influential people on Long Island – my efforts to secure funding for Long Island bus was underpinning – NICE bus has a $130 million budget, $66 million from New York State, $45-50 from the fare box, the county puts in $6 million and the rest from ancillary fees, etc. – unbelievable the County only provides $6 million for a system that is so critical to the economy, when years ago, the county paid $20 million. Our responsibility is to put money in place because most who take bus have no other option – we want them to leave the car home – going to work, school, doctors appointments, that they have access to vibrant bus service. I suggested that for ride hailing, we have a surcharge – Uber, Lyft – that surcharge go toward bus. 10-11 million rides a year, 50c surcharge, would put $5-6 million directly into buses. A 50c surcharge is not only appropriate, but would provide a dedicated, steady revenue for buses.
Protecting Drinking Water
Audience Question: What is the most Important environmental issue facing the county and how would you address it?
Curran: The aquifer. We get our drinking water from one place: underground. I am concerned New York City is looking to open 70 wells in Queens. We don’t get another source of water but the city does [upstate reservoirs]. They are concerned about flooding basements so they want to bring down the watertable, but the consequences for us could be disastrous: saltwater intrusion, and could cause Grumman and Lake Success plumes [of contamination] to shift [direction. The Grumman plume is 4 miles by 2 miles and 800 feet deep, almost reaching Massapequa. I am glad to see Cngressmen King and Suozzi working together to [get the federal government] to clean it up. The fact this has gone on this long and the Navy and Grumman are not held accountable for decades….
Martins: The most critical issue facing us as a region, Nassau County, is water supply, making sure we protect our sole-source aquifer against all comers. We live on an island, and the aquifer is tied to Suffolk, Queens & Brooklyn. Our responsibility is to protect it. New York City has other options to get water from upstate reservoirs. Our only plan, A to Z is the sole-source aquifer. We haven’t treated it well over the years, with industrial and manufacturing years post World War II, a lot of damage done – Lake Success, Bethpage. We’ve seen the water supply under constant attack. We have great water providers – we do a good job in maintaining water supply –it is as clean as you get from bottled water- but we have a responsibility to do more – responsibility to surface water – protect our coastal waterways, make sure we enhance sewer systems, sewer treatment plants, make sure that years and decades of nitrogen charging, loading into bays are a thing of the past.
Preserving Open Space
Audience Question: How would you preserve open space in Nassau County from development?
Curran: A Great question because pretty much [all of Nassau] is developed. We have to keep what we have green – that is good to recharge the aquifer. We have to use space we have more wisely – in-fill. You sometimes see suburban sprawl – there is already concrete – you can in-fill with transit oriented development, with the buy-in of the community. There is a lot of new technology now. For example, the boat basin parking lot was redone with permeable pavement – that’s expensive, so you can only do it in small places but I hope it will become less expensive down the road. But in this way, it also keeps water coming into the aquifer.
Something I am excited about – with all the potential – is to look to a resiliency officer [for the county] to coordinate all these things, work with Public Works, the IDA, and other departments to coordinate efforts for environment.
Martins: The good news in Nassau County: we don’t have farms any more. We don’t have the kinds of open space issues that perhaps they have out east. We do have open space, it has to be preserved. Most of our development going forward – transit oriented – is reusing space already used, and taking and reassembling parcels. We have seen it in communities with TOD has been predicated on assembling parcels downtown – see it in Westbury, Farmingdale – we are mature communities. That development will take place not on existing open space but existing used space that is being recalibrated and brought into 21st century – to meet energy, parking, density requirements – so we have a more robust selection of housing than we have currently. Nassau County doesn’t have the housing stock, the variety, it needs – a lot will take place in downtowns around train stations to be most effective. Protect open space that exists, protect parks, invest in them, make sure are as good as ever have been.
Future of Renewables in Nassau County
Audience Question: What do see as the future of Nassau County when it comes to solar, wind, charging stations for electric vehicles?
Curran: We should have charging stations for electric cars. We have a county employee who plugs in and was written a letter to ‘cease and desist’ from the county attorney for ‘stealing county property’. We should start by the county using electric vehicles.
Martins: Charging stations, infrastructure wise, is easy. If we made a commitment to have more readily available – we can see best practices in other states, countries, where they have taken the initiative so we have more robust use because people trust infrastructure to be there to recharge. We haven’t done it. There is need need for a full array of renewable energy resources. We should look at the entire portfolio and see where it makes sense – voltaic cells as car canopies in parking lots – why aren’t we? Acres and acres of asphalt we can use to create energy and electricity now through EV. We have a corridor of offshore wind east of Long Island. I spoke to Deepwater Wind, no one better positioned than Long Island to build, maintain, develop that offshore wind corridor. Shame on us, New York State, if they aren’t going to prioritize those turbines, and those blades aren’t built here on Long Island. If we are going to spend billions of dollars for commitment to offshore wind, I want to make sure it is here in Nassau County economy.
Communities Impacted by Climate Change
Do you support legislation to provide for equitable distribution of resources to communities impacted by climate change specifically communities of color often left out?
Curran: We have to make sure all communities treated fairly. See the effects of climate change. The south shore still has zombie houses because of Sandy. They didn’t have an adequate advocate to help them rebuild. As legislator, I helped them connect to NY Rising, get small business funds, to get resources to rebuild.
Martins: Tax money, investment. We have to look at how dealing with county that is predominantly viewed as affluent while understanding we have areas of significant poverty – in places you wouldn’t necessarily think of – people have a home but are struggling to pay mortgage, taxes, raise families because the high cost of living isn’t an accident. We have among highest costs, so we have people relatively wealthy given their home, but still living with challenges. How we take resources, distribute, whether having to do with infrastructure improvements, access to cheap renewable energy, water safety quality, we have that synergy. I have never seen in my experience certain areas cut out of resources that way, but we have to be sensitive to it.
Recycle Treated Effluent
Why not recycle sewage and turn into drinkable rather than dispose into the ocean?
Curran: That’s not so crazy – people who run sewage treatment plants are working on a project – try to explain in not-boring way –to treat sewage so it looks like water – Sewage treatment plants use hundreds thousands gallons of water a day to do the work of cooling, etc. – Now, they draw that out of the aquifer. Wouldn’t it be better to take treated effluent, treat a little more and use that to do the work of sewage treatment plant, instead of drawing water out of aquifer? We are close to make this happen.
Martins: It’s an interesting point. I was happy to participate in Great Neck Water Pollution Control District – state of art facility – where they treat to a level where potable. I said, ‘You first.’
I had an opportunity to deal with different groups, where sewage can be treated and used for irrigation, plant maintenance and different things where not wasting potable water, can be reused for different purposes – not quite ‘there’ for drinking water… But if we send [effluent out to ocean] 3 miles – dilution rate for effluent – it will have negligible effect on ocean – it is coastal wetlands that are impacted if released right there – like Reynolds Channel. I would like to see part reused – whether for irrigation. We have to focus on continuing the current process of getting it as far from shore as possible so not to impact coastal wetlands, coastal environment, coastal economy.
Curran: I want to make Long Island environmentally sound, safe, healthy. I moved to Nassau County 20 years ago before we had kids. I came for the Long Island dream: single family house, great school down the block, parks, beaches. We knew we would pay high taxes, but that was part of the deal. As a taxpayer, resident, it is frustrating to see money spent on nepotism, bloated contracts when it could be used to develop technology. Your money is being wasted. I’m in this race because want to restore trust in government, make sure I hire people based on what they know, not who they know, that your money is not part of my reelection campaign. I am eager to get to work. Elect me to give Nassau County the fresh start it so richly deserves.
Martins: There are a lot of issues at play in this year’s election . I encourage you to do your homework, read up on candidates. Whether challenges are environment,t economy – up to county to pay for own budget. For 17 years, we have been under NIFA, not elected – make decisions, affects ability for us to make decisions for ourselves. We need to take control of own finances, pay bills, balance budget – get rid of NIFA so we can commit resources ourselves – whether environment, infrastructure, TOD, creating jobs we all want – so our children have the ability to come home, find jobs, rent apartment and stay here. The best years for the county are ahead, but contingent upon us making decisions about taking control of own county – an idea we haven’t been able to do, so should be shameful to all of us, myself included. Write that check and make that commitment going forward.
Hurricane Harvey had just devastated Texas, the worst natural disaster up until two weeks later when the entire state of Florida was about to be destroyed by Hurricane Irma, as whole Caribbean island nations as well as the US territory of Puerto Rico had their infrastructure utterly decimated. And Hurricane Jose was on Irma’s tail. Meanwhile, Los Angeles and Oregon were being consumed by record wildfires. Congress had authorized $15 billion toward Hurricane Harvey relief and to replenish the nearly depleted funds of FEMA.
Indeed, in North Dakota on September 6, as Hurricane Irma was barreling toward Florida, Trump, the Tax-Cheat-in-Chief, gave an incoherent speech touting his tax plan that began with his incredulity in discovering that North Dakota was undergoing a massive drought.
“I just said to the governor, I didn’t know you had droughts this far north. Guess what? You have them. But we’re working hard on it and it’ll disappear. It will all go away,” Trump said.
Accuweather is projecting the cost of Harvey and Irma alone at $290 billion, or 1.5% of total GDP, which would erase the growth of the economy through year-end, according to Dr. Joel N. Myers, president and chairman.
That’s also more than one-fourth of the $1 trillion that Trump proposed for a 10-year infrastructure plan. Where will the money come from? And if all infrastructure spending has to be directed to Texas and Florida, where does that leave the rest of the country? Not to mention the $1 billion Trump is demanding as down payment on a $70 billion border wall.
Does this get you thinking that Trump and his administration, especially EPA Administrator and shill for the oil industry Scott Pruitt, should rethink their self-serving notion of climate change denial (self-serving because it is used to fuel their argument that they can overturn environmental regulations on the massively profitable fossil fuel industry)? Of course not.
But it should also cause them to rethink their totally corrupt plan for tax reform which is intended to starve the federal government of funds, balloon the budget deficit and national debt, all to shift more of wealth to the already fabulously wealthy. Especially when so many people have lost their businesses and jobs, which will certainly impact tax revenues.
Let’s just consider for a moment what taxes are supposed to be for. And yes, a considerable amount goes to pay for interest on bonds, but bonds are what are used to pay for infrastructure – they represent an investment in the future. And as we are considering how to replace the destroyed and decimated infrastructure, why not build back with sustainability in mind.
Just as in his speech declaring his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement (forged with US leadership and signed by 195 countries), Trump, who took a $900 million tax deduction on his failed Atlantic City casino and probably has never paid 40% tax in his life,lies to rationalize his tax plan, beginning with the lie that the US is the highest taxed nation in the world (not true) and that workers wages will increase if only shareholders and CEOs and the wealthiest 1% could keep an even greater percentage of their money (history shows the opposite). (See New York Times, The False Promises in President Trump’s Tax Plan)
Remember: the wealthiest people used to be taxed at 90% – that was after World War II when the nation had to rebuild its treasury. We were able to afford the GI Bill which probably did more to create a middle class than anything since the New Deal. Now the wealthiest pay something between 35 to 40% – except that they don’t.
Trump (and Ryan) want to give a $170,000 annual windfall to the wealthiest Americans, while crumbs ($700) to the middle class who will lose the only tax deductions they can use. $170,000 times four years worth mean in terms of free money (from tax-paying schnooks) is a lot of dough to invest in politicians and policy with a spectacular return: policies like enabling Big Pharma Sharks to hike up life-saving drugs by 5000%; Oil Barons to make sure incentives for wind and solar energy don’t help these industries develop into competitors; real estate developers who can delight in the tax advantages that let them take a $900 million deduction and build without interfering regulations on lands that are needed to soak up flood waters and health insurance companies to raise premiums to pad profits.
Now this nation is looking at more than $290 billion just to recover from the climate disasters which are becoming more and more frequent, hitting the high density developed urban centers.
If taxes for those who have the means to pay don’t cover the cost, who does? Ryan and the Republicans love to talk about “sacrifice” but the only ones they demand sacrifices from are not the wealthiest or the corporations, but Social Security and Medicare recipients, struggling middle class kids who need to take out loans to pay for college. Their concept is to take money out of the consumer economy, which starts a downward unvirtuous cycle of economic contraction. How do we know?” Because we have seen this movie before: the Bush tax cuts. Meanwhile, median income has risen to its highest levels in 1999 (under Bill Clinton) and 2016 (under Barack Obama) and their tax-and-spending plans.
The Trump/Ryan tax “plan” requires a federal budget that slashes spending for infrastructure, for research and development, for education, for environmental protection (and of course, eradicating any mention of climate change), even slashing spending for diplomacy and foreign aid. It depends on slashing Medicaid and subsidies to keep health insurance affordable (that’s why they are so desperate to repeal Obamacare).
It slashes the tax rate for corporations which already do not pay the nominal 35% rate. Many highly profitable corporations – including General Electric, Pepco Holdings, PG&E Corp., Priceline and Duke Energy – paid nothing into federal coffers from 2008-2015 yet benefit from all the services the government provides including roads, public safety, an educated workforce, mass transit, a military to defend their shipping.
To get to a tax cut without obscenely increasing the national debt, the Republicans say they will get rid of “loopholes” like the mortgage credit and property taxes – that would only complete the decimation of the Middle Class and destroy any semblance of an American Dream. What would make more sense, if they really cared to “reform” the tax code and stop the income distribution from middle class to the already fabulous rich, is to take away the mortgage tax credits on 2nd, 3rd homes and such, and take away the many special deductions that real estate developers like Trump has benefited from, as well as the loopholes that let hedge fund managers shield all but a fraction of their income from taxes that wage-earners pay.
Indeed, the policies that Trump are proposing – specifically, eliminating the tax deduction for state and local property taxes – would hurt blue-states that tend to have higher state and local taxes because they tend to have higher property taxes but provide more services and get less in federal payments than they send to the government, while red-states that have low state and local taxes (and crappy schools and health care) get more from the federal government (paid for by blue states) than they send.
And what about Puerto Rico. which already was in economic disaster – having defaulted on $70 billion in debt – and basically written off by the US government. It’s infrastructure is now totally destroyed. How will it be rebuilt? Here’s what I imagine: Trump is so transactional, I can see a foreign country (China?) with big bucks and an interest in having a foothold in the Western Hemisphere buying Puerto Rico from the US. After all, what is $100 billion or $200 billion to put the island right?
Of course Trump’s tax “reform” plan – sketched out as if on the back of an envelope without any analysis – is really all about tax cuts to the wealthiest and to corporations. As Hillary Clinton said during a debate (which she won): “trickle down economics on steroids” from the guy who took a $900 million deduction for a failed real estate deal, which taxpayers – normal working stiffs – wind up paying for.
Those who have actually analyzed the plan have said that the wealthiest people – who have done astronomically well for decades, while middle class Americans have scarcely had a salary increase in 40 years, so that the gap between rich and poor has reached Grand Canyon proportions – would get a tax windfall of $170,000 a year, while middle class families would get something like $700. Where do the 1 percenters put that extra money which they scarcely need? Well, they invest in buying politicians and influencing policy, of course.
Tax “reform” figures into the Trump obsession with repealing Obamacare and leaving 32 million people without health insurance. It figures into the administration’s dismissal of the Gateway Tunnel project so important to the New York region’s infrastructure and economy.
But now, Trump’s Republican states are being whacked with climate catastrophes, and the money has to come from somewhere.
And let’s also be reminded that the growth in the economy – first, saving the nation from plunging into another Great Depression, and now rebounding to the highest median income, lowest unemployment rate ever and highest rate of health insurance coverage while reducing the poverty rate – happened because of Obama Administration policies and would have been even more effective in terms of raising wages and living standards if the Trump Administration did not steamroll back policies, like overtime pay, parental leave, and federal minimum wage and obstruct infrastructure development and the transition to clean, renewable energy.
People remark that the devastation in their neighborhoods from these massive climate disasters is like a bomb went off. Well, in wartime, taxes are raised – that’s how the rate on the wealthiest hit 90%, to pay off the World War II debt. This is wartime. This nation has to rebuild, and sustainably, responsibly. We need to invest in 21st and 22nd century technologies, to keep the United States a global leader. Otherwise, we will cede our leverage to China which has basically embraced the American model of spreading its political ideology (nominally, “Democracy”) through capitalism (nominally “free market” as opposed to centralized control) and is literally buying up influence over Africa and Asia.
Of course, Trump’s tax plan is Paul Ryan’s tax plan (Trump never actually had a plan), and the Republicans are content to let Trump destroy the nation and end the social safety net including Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, and possibly embroil us in World War III, until they can get jam through the tax plan they have coveted since Reagan.
Dozens of concerned Long Islanders gathered outside of Congressman Peter King’s office at 1003 Park Boulevard, Massapequa Park on Thursday morning to demand that he pledge to oppose any cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as Congress prepares to reconvene.
The House Appropriations Committee has approved slashing the EPA’s budget by hundreds of millions of dollars, undermining its ability to protect Long Island’s water, air, and climate. The entire House is set to vote on the proposal in September.
“We hope that Rep. Peter King, having lived through Superstorm Sandy, and seeing the current devastation of Hurricane Harvey and other recent hurricanes, will oppose any cuts to funding for the Environmental Protection Agency,” Lisa Oldendorp, lead organizer of Move Forward Long Island, said. Long Islanders are acutely aware of the need for clean water, air, and soil. Suffolk County has the worst air quality in NY State and the toxic Grumman plume is heading south towards Massapequa. We hope that Rep. King will oppose any and all budget cuts to the EPA.”
“Our hope is that Peter King will uphold his commitment to protecting Long Island families from the impacts of water and air pollution by refusing to accept a budget that cuts any funding to the Environmental Protection Agency,” Ryan Madden, sustainability organizer with the Long Island Progressive Coalition, said. “His decision to join the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus is a step in the right direction in tackling the biggest crisis we face as a nation but will be meaningless if the agency tasked with protecting our natural world is dismantled.”
Shay O’Reilly, organizing representative for the Sierra Club, stated, “The EPA budget today is already 20% smaller than it was in 2010. Rep. King must listen to his constituents and stand up for the health and well-being of communities in his district by voting against any budget that cuts funding to the EPA.”
Margaret Maher, a volunteer with Food & Water Watch and a constituent of Rep. King’s, said: “The five-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, and the devastation in Texas, are a reminder of the tragic reality of climate change. Long Islanders need the EPA to protect our water, air and climate. Representative King must draw a line in the sand against any cuts to the EPA budget.”
With Harvey reaping its terror and Hurricane Irma warming up for its debut, Texas’ climate catastrophe is the latest example of how tragically foolish it is to invest billions to combat ISIS (hardly an existential threat), $70 billion to build a wall along the Mexico border, $1 trillion to rebuild the nuclear weapons arsenal, yet deny the reality of climate change with the attendant costs in the multi-billions of every single one of these climate catastrophes – the cost to the Treasury and taxpayers to rebuild infrastructure, to pay for public health consequences, to lose the productivity of the workforce.
“This is the costliest and worst natural disaster in American history,” Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather, stated. “AccuWeather has raised its estimate of the impact to the nation’s gross national produce, or GDP, to $190 billion or a full one percent, which exceeds totals of economic impact of Katrina and Sandy combined. The GDP is $19 trillion currently. Business leaders and the Federal Reserve, major banks, insurance companies, etc. should begin to factor in the negative impact this catastrophe will have on business, corporate earnings and employment. The disaster is just beginning in certain areas. Parts of Houston, the United States’ fourth largest city will be uninhabitable for weeks and possibly months due to water damage, mold, disease-ridden water and all that will follow this 1,000-year flood.”
Meanwhile, around the globe there are even greater flooding disasters –1,200 have died so far and 900,000 homes destroyed in floods in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, taking with it farms and crops that will lead to the next climate catastrophe, famine.
Now Congress will soon take up a budget that proposes to slash the EPA into nothing (Scott Pruitt has already scrubbed any research and mention of climate change from the website and is doing his level best to stop any data collection), cuts to FEMA that was already $25 billion in debt before Harvey, cuts to Health & Human Services and every other social safety net. But Trump threatens to shut down government if he doesn’t get nearly $2 billion (a downpayment on $70 billion) for his border wall with Mexico.
Which has posed more of a national security threat to Americans? Climate disasters or ISIS? The wrong-headed approach to national security came to a head with a rally that drew about 60 people on short notice on Thursday, August 31 at the Massapequa, Long Island office of Congressman Peter King, who makes a great show of concern for protecting national security but drops the ball on the national security implications of climate change. (See story)
You only have to compare the horrid waste of blood and treasure because of a disdain for addressing the realities of climate change to the results of the efforts of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) consisting of New York State along with eight other Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states (not New Jersey because Governor Chris Christie thought it would better position him to become the GOP presidential candidate if he withdrew from RGGI and denied the reality of climate change). Founded in 2005, the RGGI, the nation’s first program to use an innovative market-based mechanism to cap and cost-effectively reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change, is updating its goal to lower carbon pollution by reducing the cap on power plant emissions an additional 30% below 2020 levels by 2030. With this change, the regional cap in 2030 will be 65% below the 2009 starting level.
RGGI has already contributed to a 50% percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from affected power plants in New York, and a 90% reduction in coal-fired power generation in the state. To date, New York has generated more than $1 billion in RGGI proceeds, which are applied to fund energy efficiency, clean energy and emission reduction programs.
RGGI continues to exceed expectations and has provided more than $2 billion in regional economic benefits and $5.7 billion in public health benefits while reducing emissions in excess of the declining cap’s requirements. Analysis by Abt Associates – found participating member states had 16,000 avoided respiratory illnesses, as many as 390 avoided heart attacks, and 300 to 830 avoided deaths by reducing pollution. The health benefits in New York alone are estimated to have exceeded $1.7 billion in avoided costs and other economic benefits.
And contrary to the lie that clean, renewable energy and sustainable development will hurt the economy and increase consumer costs, the economies of RGGI states are outpacing the rest of the country and regional electricity prices have fallen even as prices in other states have increased. So even as the RGGI states reduced their carbon emissions by 16% more than other states, they are experiencing 3.6% more in economic growth. Each of the three-year control periods contributed approximately 4,500 job years to New York’s economy and 14,000 to 16,000 job years region-wide.
Meanwhile, New York consumers who have participated in RGGI-supported projects through December 2016 will realize $3.7 billion in cumulative energy bill savings over the lifetime of the projects, according to New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
New York is actively promoting clean energy innovation through its Reforming the Energy Vision strategy and initiatives. Additionally, programs including the Clean Energy Fund, $1 billion NY-Sun Initiative, $1 billion NY Green Bank, $40 million NY-Prize competition for community microgrids, and others, ensure that progress toward reducing emissions will be accelerated.
New York has devised a host of programs to incentivize local projects aimed at developing clean, renewable energy and sustainability. Most recently, NYSERDA has developed a Solar PILOT Toolkit to assist municipalities in negotiating payment-in-lieu-of taxes (PILOT) agreements for solar projects larger than 1 MW, including community solar projects.
How ironic is the climate catastrophe in Texas, the leading proponent of fossil fuels and opponent of programs incentivizing the transition to clean, renewable energy (and the localized independence that wind, solar and geothermal bring), that Harvey has damaged its oil refining infrastructure, which is already resulting in higher gas prices, not to mention taxpayer money that will be channeled to rebuild the devastation. None of those private, profit-making companies which have gouged and inflicted public health horrors should get funding from taxpayers.
Now Texas will be coming to Congress for billions in aid.
Congress should pass a law: no federal help for states that deny climate change (Florida and North Carolina actually have legislation banning the use of the term) and therefore do nothing to mitigate the consequences, and which deny altogether the concept of a federal, “one nation” government to collect taxes and provide services on behalf of all. Texas, which has cheered the notion of secession, continually supports policies intended to shrink the federal government to a size it can be flushed down a toilet, including dismantling the Environmental Protection Administration and ending environmental regulations. So let them see what that actually means. Let’s also be reminded the Texas’ Republican delegation obstructed federal aid to New York and New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy.
Too harsh? The climate deniers are dooming the entire nation and the planet to such tragic, devastating and costly climate catastrophes. Hundreds of thousands of Texans will emerge from Harvey with their homes, retirement, college funds decimated, very possibly their jobs flushed away along with the floodwaters. Tens of thousands will become climate refugees – just a small fraction of the estimated 200 million worldwide who will be forced to flee flooded coasts as sea levels continue to rise, and storms continue to ravage.
But, since Trump is so keen to dish out taxpayer billions to those he considers his base (one wonders what would happen if and when California is hit with an earthquake), Congress should impose conditions on the billions that will be sent to Texas to rebuild its infrastructure and housing: Texas should do what every other community has done that underwent such devastation: rebuild and transition to clean, renewable energy sources and sustainable, climate-friendly, low-carbon emitting structures.
Congress, which Trump just dared to defy on his tax “reform” (that is, giveaway to the wealthiest 1% and corporations while starving federal government of funding), should make sure that EPA has the people and resources it needs, that climate action is a priority, that the Interior Department does not give away Americans’ legacy (and property) for environment-destroying development, that FEMA and Housing & Human Services (now in the command of a man who dismisses poverty and bad things that happen to some dereliction of personal responsibility) are properly funded and staffed.
My return visit to Pittsburgh for my second Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Sojourn bike tour on the Great Allegheny Passage reaffirmed for me the stupidity of Donald Trump’s justification for abandoning the Paris Climate Agreement, that he was elected by the people of Pittsburgh, not the people of Paris, and that what Pittsburghers want more than anything is to roll back time a century to the days when coal was king and steel mills were belching putrid smoke and men died prematurely in horrid working conditions, their lives under the thumb of Robber Barons who controlled industry and politics. Indeed, the people of Pittsburgh voted 75% for Hillary Clinton’s agenda and vision of America’s future.
But Trump’s entire agenda, beginning with a budget that would similarly reverse course on the very infrastructure and technology developments that would insure America’s leadership in the 21st century, rather than put us back a century.
We get a glimpse of what that is like on the outskirts of the city, in Clairton, where a huge mound of coal dwarfs a tractor truck, and across the bridge over the rail lines, is a chemical plant emitting a foul smell that penetrates the modest residential neighborhood across the street.
The city of Pittsburgh, itself, has risen anew, with glistening office towers and a new economy based on finance, health care, academics, robotics and technology. Its waterfront, once dominated by dirty industrial plants, is now a gorgeous bike path, which you can see so spectacularly from Mount Washington, the place from which George Washington surveyed to find a location to put a fort to protect British colonial interests, but from which in those bad ol’ days, the city would have been shrouded in haze.
Outside the city, where we start our bike tour near the beginning of the 150-mile long multi-purpose railtrail, in the state which built its economy on oil, coal and gas, there are windmills on the hilltops and solar farms in fields. Where we camp one night, in Confluence below the Youghiogheny River Reservoir dam built in 1944 to control flooding, the outflow has been tapped for hydroelectric power.
The biketrail – representing 150 of some 23,000 miles of similarly repurposed railtrails across the country – is a new lifeline for small towns like Meyersdale, which once supported six hotels, an elementary school and a high school, now all shuttered, and Dunbar, once a center for glassmaking and coal production. In Confluence, where the population today is 700, we add 200 to that roll during our stay.
The Trump agenda – and his budget to back it up – would cancel out the line for funding such repurposing projects that has existed since 1991, while eliminating incentives that helped jumpstart America’s fledgling clean, renewable energy industry where jobs are growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the economy. The 374,000 now employed in solar eclipse the 74,000 people working as coal miners, indeed, exceed all the workers in oil, gas and coal combined; while wind energy employed 100,000. Worldwide – and places like Europe which are legions ahead of the US in wind and solar – some 10 million people are employed in clean renewable energy jobs.
At the same time, the Trump Administration – EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke – are sloping the playing field back in favor of climate-destroying fossil fuel industry, rolling back regulations that would allow coal mining companies to pollute water, removing protections on drilling and mining on federal lands, opening up exports of natural gas and oil, creating financial incentives for new nuclear plants, and ending tax credits for renewable energy, among a long, long list. Trump wants to really stick it to climate activists.
Trump’s promise to invest $1 trillion in America’s aging, decaying and obsolete infrastructure is also a sham – as evidenced by his Transportation director exiting the New York-New Jersey Hudson Gateway Tunnel project, and a budget that would rescind funding to rebuild the century-old tunnel.
One contrasts this myopia from the guy who boasted of being a “builder” with the bicentennial of the building of the Erie Canal, in 1817, a bold vision and engineering marvel, which quite literally made New York City the financial capital of the world by connecting the port of New York to the Midwest’s resources and markets with Europe. Even then, globalization, not isolation, is what made the United States a world power.
It’s not just the belching, choking pollution that Trump would like to go back to. In climate policy, energy policy, health care, tax reform, and now infrastructure, Trump envisions exacerbating the divide between rich and poor – and therefore political power as campaign finance and special interests increasingly determine who gets the “ear” in policy. His budget affirms his bias against transitioning away from a climate-destroying carbon energy economy in favor of clean, renewable, decentralized (and cheaper, less monopolistic) energy. His regulatory policy reverses the incentives as well as the progress. The Republican health care policy is as much a mechanism to cement power in the hands of the “haves” versus the have-nots – who are unlikely to challenge abusive employers if they are afraid of losing their health insurance; unable to join protest marches and rallies if they are in pain or suffering; and unable to have their concerns acted on by lawmakers if they don’t have the funds to contribute to campaigns.
Infrastructure, energy policy, the environment, technological innovation and prospects for economic growth, prosperity, social mobility and yes, political power are all connected. Climate justice, social justice, economic justice, political justice are all intertwined.
Trump would have us go back a century or two and cost the United States its global leadership.