Long Island will have the first stand-alone
large-scale anaerobic digester – a type of food waste recycling center that
converts waste into energy – in the New York City metropolitan area. When operational
in 2020, It will produce four megawatts of clean energy and reduce greenhouse
gas emissions on Long Island by 85,000 metric tons a year, the equivalent to
removing 18,000 cars from the road.
The Board of Trustees of the Long Island Power Authority voted to approve the project which directly supports Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Green New Deal, a clean energy and jobs agenda that puts New York State on a path to a carbon-free economy and supports the State’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
“New York State continues to lead the way
with clean energy initiatives and innovative solutions that benefit both our
neighborhoods and our planet,” Governor Cuomo said. “By implementing this
groundbreaking technology on Long Island, we can not only produce clean energy
and reduce greenhouse gases, but also spare our landfills and keep our
communities cleaner and greener for decades to come.”
The project will create at least 10 full-time jobs and help retain more than 100. The facility provides a lower cost waste disposal option for food service businesses such as supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants, commercial food processers, cafeterias, catering halls, and hotels. The Town of Brookhaven will also have the capability to divert 10,000-15,000 tons per year of food waste to the project from the more expensive disposal options currently used.
The project, to be operated by American Organic
Energy (AOE) at Long Island Compost in Yaphank, will process approximately
180,000 tons of local food waste per year. This waste would have otherwise been
transported by gas and diesel-powered trucks to distant landfills, along with
30,000 tons of fats, oils and greases (FOG). Working with GE Water and Scott’s
Miracle-Gro, AOE will collect, separate, pre-process, break down, and transform
Long Island’s food waste into convertible energy, electricity, fertilizer, and
nutrient-rich clean water.
Greenhouse gas emissions are expected to be
reduced by 85,000 tons of CO2 per year, equivalent to removing 18,000 cars off
the road. It will also reduce truck traffic on Long Island roads by 1.4 million
miles per year, compared to current landfill disposal practice. In addition,
Long Island Compost will convert certain stationary equipment from diesel
to electricity, which is expected to reduce diesel fuel consumption by an
estimated 200,000 gallons per year.
Anaerobic digestion is a biological process
that occurs when organic matter is decomposed by bacteria in the absence of
oxygen. During the decomposition process, the biogas released can be recovered,
treated and used to generate energy in place of traditional fossil fuels.
The agreement also establishes annual and hourly limits on the delivery of energy to LIPA. The average residential bill impact would be approximately $0.10 per month, competitive with pricing of other comparable clean energy facilities under contract to LIPA. The anaerobic digester is expected to be operational by December 31, 2020.
The project is also supported by New York
State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) Cleaner Greener
Communities initiative, which provided $1.35 million and also was chosen for a
$400,000 Empire State Development award by the Long Island Regional Economic
“Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New
York continues to find innovative ways to produce and deliver clean energy to
consumers,” Tom Falcone, LIPA’s Chief
Executive Officer, said. “Turning food waste into energy here on Long
Island diverts waste from Long Island landfills, reduces carbon emissions, and
helps LIPA meet New York’s aggressive clean energy goals.”
“By transforming waste into energy,
digester projects like this will reduce harmful emissions and material going
into landfills, while providing economic and environmental benefits to Long
Island residents,” Alicia Barton,
President and CEO of NYSERDA said. “NYSERDA is proud to collaborate with
LIPA to advance clean energy solutions that support New York’s nation-leading
clean energy goals under Governor Cuomo’s Green New Deal.”
“This project, the largest this side of
the Mississippi, has many societal benefits including creating renewable
energy, reducing solid waste and reducing truck traffic,” Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of the
Citizens Campaign of the Environment said. “Today the project is cutting
edge, tomorrow it will be standard operating procedure. This transformational
project was seven years in the making, the permits are now completed, and we
are thrilled the construction can begin.”
Empire State Development President,
CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “Clean energy projects like this facility aren’t just good
for the environment, they’re good for the health of our communities and help
build a greener economic future for our entire state.”
Executive Steve Bellone said,”Governor Cuomo understands the
importance of investing in renewable energy initiatives to ensure a sustainable
future for our communities and communities across the state. We are focused on
expanding our efforts to create a cleaner, more efficient Long Island, and I
thank the Governor for his continued support in making projects like these
“Through this partnership, Brookhaven
will continue to move forward with our plans to create an energy park at our landfill
as we cap and close this facility, piping methane to this anaerobic digester to
produce an estimated 1.5 megawatts of energy,” Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said. “Using food scraps and
other organic matter in this facility to create compost and energy is an
important part of our overall strategy to reduce our waste stream on Long
Island to benefit our environment. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his
support of this important an innovative clean energy project.”
Todd Kaminsky said,”For a sustainable future, Long Island must stop sending
excess food to landfills, and instead utilize state-of-the-art technology that
turns waste into clean energy. The future is now, and the approval of this
large-scale anaerobic digester is a breakthrough that marks the beginning of a
new, green era.”
Sammy Chu, CEO,
Edgewise Energy, and Chairman, US Green Building Council – Long Island Chapter
project represents a very exciting opportunity for Long Island. It not only
supports Governor Cuomo’s goal of decarbonizing our electric supply but also
addresses our growing regional waste crisis. This is the type of creative
solution that we need right now.”
President, and CEO of the Long Island Association said, “The anaerobic digester is the most
sophisticated food waste processing facility in the region. This technology
will digest food waste taken from supermarkets, restaurants, and hospitals and
turn this material into a source of clean energy. The LIA is in full support of
this project which will benefit Long Island’s economy, environment and energy
Executive Director of the Molloy College Sustainability Institute said,”This project addresses the
interconnection of energy, food and carbon emissions. This anaerobic digester
helps with the solid waste problem on Long Island by reducing food waste, while
also generating electricity. Biogas is a renewable form of energy that should
be put to work for us, rather than causing emissions issues in landfills and
President, New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV) said, “We are in full support of this
effort to deploy technology and solutions that can help New York State achieve
its ambitious climate, clean air, and economic development goals. We
applaud LIPA and look forward to continued efforts to help Long Island develop
a robust organic waste-to-fuel industry.”
New York State’s Green New Deal
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Green New Deal, the nation’s leading
clean energy and jobs agenda, will aggressively put New York State on a path to
economy-wide carbon neutrality. This initiative will provide for a just
transition to clean energy, spurring the growth of the green economy and
mandating New York’s power be 100 percent clean and carbon-free by 2040, one of
the most aggressive goals in the U.S. The cornerstone of this newly proposed
mandate is a significant increase of New York’s successful Clean Energy
Standard to 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030.
As part of the unprecedented ramp-up of renewable energy, New York has already invested $2.9 billion into 46 large-scale renewable projects across the state as it significantly increases its clean energy targets, such as: quadrupling New York’s offshore wind target to a nation-leading 9,000 megawatts by 2035; doubling distributed solar deployment to 6,000 megawatts by 2025; and deploying 3,000 megawatts of energy storage by 2030. To support this ambitious work, NY Green Bank intends to use its expertise in overcoming financing gaps to foster greater environmental impacts per public dollar by raising over $1 billion in third party funds to expand climate financing availability across New York and the rest of North America.
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
Governor Andrew Cuomo sees the opportunity to create a new industry centered largely on Long Island to take advantage of the offshore windpower in an area of the Atlantic Ocean, considered “the Saudi Arabia of windpower.” In this, the state is acting much like other nations which jumpstart new industries by funding critical studies, research centers, workforce development. This is all to ease the way, lessen the risk and increase likelihood of success for the private companies which are expected to vie for leases from the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
Cuomo has set a standard of the state generating 50% of its energy needs through renewable by 2030, and offshore wind, in addition to solar, hilltop windpower, hydroelectric and other sources (“all of the above”) are considered essential to meeting that goal, which Cuomo has proudly declared the most ambitious in the nation.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation just released proposed regulations to require all power plants in New York to meet new emissions limits for carbon dioxide (CO2), a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. The regulations, a first in the nation approach to regulating carbon emissions, will achieve the Governor’s goal to end the use of coal in New York State power plants by 2020.
Environmental groups including Sierra Club have long advocated offshore wind, especially as Long Island faces a crucial transition juncture of expanding or upgrading fossil-fuel based power plants to meet its energy needs, versus investing and transitioning to renewable energy.
The state is targeting acquiring 2,400 megawatts of energy from offshore wind – the equivalent of what is generated by the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant – enough to power 1.2 million households. The associated industries that would develop to manufacture the wind turbines and platforms, construct ports and stage the equipment, install the turbines, operate and maintain the systems are expected to employ some 5,000 people in relatively high-paying jobs, and generate $6 billion for the region. What is more, over time, windpower will bring down the cost of electricity on Long Island, where high costs of energy are considered impediments to economic growth.
At the same time, the state has invested in new research programs at State Universities, including Stony Brook to address key issues such as storage batteries (for when the wind does not blow), and transmission.
The master plan, being unveiled in public hearings, has been developed over a period of years by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
The strategy is to be the furthest along in order to be first in line to contract for the electricity, which could be sold to New Jersey and other regions, to reduce cost and risk to private entities which will bid for the rights to construct and operate the wind turbines. The state is not actually seeking to be the winning bidder for the leases, but to be the customer for the power for those that do. And the state is also aware that other customers – New Jersey, as one example (though the former governor Chris Christie showed little interest, the new governor Phil Murphy is) – will also be bidding. But there is great confidence because of proximity and the sheer market size, that New York City and Long Island residents will be the beneficiary. And there is so much energy potential from this area, there is “enough for all.” Indeed, NYSERDA is eyeing 3,200 MW of production from the sites it has targeted, of which it would contract for 2,400.
NYSERDA has conducted studies in 20 areas –literally every environmental, biologic, economic and engineering aspect – in order to define every aspect of locating the best places to position turbines and cables, where to stage construction, where to manufacture the turbines and components, even where to invest in workforce development. All along the way, the agency has engaged stakeholders – from municipalities and environmentalists to labor unions to consumer advocates, to commercial fishing interests.
The state has allocated $15 million to spend on workforce development and infrastructure advancement (for example, building port facilities), and is allocating up to $5 million for multi-year research studies that will assist project developers with the data will be made available by NYSERDA in real time to public. For example, data on wind speeds particularly impact economics of projects and will improve the certainty of bids to state.
“We are seeking to invest $20 million or more, kicking off in 2018, for research and development – component design, systems design, operational controls, monitoring systems, manufacturing processes,” said Doreen Harris, Director, Large Scale Renewables, NYSERDA.
To attract private investment in port infrastructure and manufacturing, the state is hoping to spotlight promising infrastructure investments (60 sites have been identified), helping jumpstart project development and “secure its status as the undisputed home for the emerging offshore wind industry in the US.”
Think of it: Long Island used to be the center for America’s aerospace industry. Now it can be a leader in a global offshore windpower industry. What is more, off shore windpower can also bring down Long Island’s historically high utility rates which are considered an impediment to business development and economic growth.
“We’ve established technical working groups to determine best use of funds – to insure new Yorkers well prepared to serve offshore wind industry and connected to the global Industry.” Indeed, offshore wind is brand new for the US, but has been in force in Europe for 25 years.
The United States projects will have the benefit of leap-frogging over earlier technology, with more efficient, productive, and less environmentally risky structures.
The state is estimating that the near-term incremental program cost would be less than 30 cents a month for a typical homeowner – the cost of windpower is front-loaded in the initial construction, as opposed to fossil-fuel generated energy which continues to get more expensive over time because it is a finite resource that is increasingly more difficult and costly to obtain and needs to be transported from further distances to users. Electricity generated from wind is already competitive with fossil-fuel generated power, but over time, as usage thresholds and technology improvements are reached, the costs will go down. And this does not even factor in the environmental and public health benefits of transitioning from carbon-based fuel.
The only kicker is that while New York State is being pro-active, it is BOEM that ultimately controls the leases and is undertaking similar studies, so people are concerned this can be unnecessarily time-consuming and duplicative. And while BOEM under the Obama Administration was full-speed ahead and keen to develop offshore windpower, concern was raised after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke declared the entire continental shelf open for drilling, and this prime windpower area used instead for drilling rigs or equally horrible Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals such as the Port Ambrose that had been beaten back by Governor Cuomo.
But BOEM’s Energy Program Specialist Luke Feinberg, who attended NYSERDA’s May 8 public hearing in Melville expressed enthusiasm for offshore wind in this area (not to mention the area does not seem to have much potential for oil). BOEM presented a timetable that projects out two to five years before actual construction can begin; BOEM intends to hold its next lease auction no later than 2019.
BOEM is taking comments on the proposed “New York Bight” Call Area by May 29. Submit comments and view documents at boem.gov/New-York/
The New York Public Service Commission is now considering a number of options for the state to advance solicitations once the leases are awarded; send comments or view materials at http://documents.dps.ny.gov.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s the backdrop for the People’s Climate March, which took place April 29, on the 100th day of Trump’s occupation of the Oval Office: the administration withdrew its challenge in the court paving the way for Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan, regulating coal-powered plants and the essence for how the US would meet its commitment under the Paris Climate Agreement, to be overturned by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma AG, was one of the states challenging the plan in court.
And, two days before the climate march, Trump signed an Executive Order, effectively opening up all the protected marine sanctuaries through to the Continental shelf to new oil and gas drilling and exploitation. What is more, Trump’s goal is not just under the banner of American First Energy Independence, he sees the US as the major new supplier of fossil fuel energy to “allies”, which would necessitate building and converting infrastructure designed for import to export.
Most of the so-called “accomplishments” Trump has touted for his first 100 days have been reflexively overturning and reversing President Obama’s climate actions and environmental protections (with anti-women’s health and reproductive rights thrown in). It’s now okay for mining companies to throw their toxic waste into streams.
At the signing “ceremony” for the “Executive Order on an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy,” Trump declared, “This is a great day for American workers and families, and today we’re unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs. Our country is blessed with incredible natural resources, including abundant offshore oil and natural gas reserves. But the federal government has kept 94 percent of these offshore areas closed for exploration and production. And when they say closed, they mean closed.
“This deprives our country of potentially thousands and thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth. I pledged to take action, and today I am keeping that promise.
“This executive order starts the process of opening offshore areas to job-creating energy exploration. It reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban. So hear that: It reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban, and directs Secretary Zinke to allow responsible development of offshore areas that will bring revenue to our Treasury and jobs to our workers. (Applause.) In addition, Secretary Zinke will be reconsidering burdensome regulations that slow job creation.
“Finally, this order will enable better scientific study of our offshore resources and research that has blocked everything from happening for far too long. You notice it doesn’t get blocked for other nations. It only gets blocked for our nation.
“Renewed offshore energy production will reduce the cost of energy, create countless good jobs, and make America more secure and far more energy independent. This action is another historic step toward future development and future — with a future — a real future. And I have to say that’s a real future with greater prosperity and security for all Americans, which is what we want,” Trump said during the signing ceremony.”
The day before, at a press availability, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said, “94% of outer continental shelf is off limits for possible development – as of Mar 1 2007, only 16 million acres on the outer continental shelf out of 1.7 billion acres were under lease for oil & gas development; more than 97% of current leases are in Gulf of Mexico.”
In 2008, revenues of $18 billion came from offshore; in 2016, that amount dropped $15 billion to $2.8 billion, he noted.
Zinke added, “We like export to other countries – energy security is not only to provide for ourselves but supply allies – oil and gas exports to Asian basin is all part of it. A lot requires infrastructure – this country set up for importing energy, looking at ways to reverse that – a lot is infrastructure, we are behind. We want to supply our allies with affordable energy.”
Asked whether melting ice caps in the Arctic Circle has made for new opportunities (and have any companies specifically asked for leases), he said he had not thought about climate change shifting geographical requirements.
EarthJustice greeted the EO with promises of a lawsuit: “We won’t let this administration destroy these essential protections at a time when they’re so critically needed. In response, we’re preparing to file a lawsuit immediately to challenge this order,” writes Trip Van Noppen, President.
“Tomorrow, people from Washington, D.C., to Oakland, CA, will march in the streets to show this new administration that if the next four years are anything like the first 100 days, we’ll be here, fighting back every step of the way.”
The Peoples Climate March on Saturday, April 29 will begin near the Capitol, travel up Pennsylvania Avenue, and then surround the entire White House Grounds from 15th Street in the East to 17th Street in the West, and Pennsylvania Avenue in the North to Constitution Avenue in the South. The march will close with a post march rally, concert and gathering at the Washington Monument.
Events also are being held in hundreds of communities around the country.
Here is the White House Fact Sheet touting their America First Energy Independence Plan:
President Donald J. Trump to Open Up America’s Energy Potential
“I am going to lift the restrictions on American energy, and allow this wealth to pour into our communities.” – Donald J. Trump
AMERICA’S ENERGY RESOURCES ARE LOCKED AWAY: Under the previous administrations, America’s offshore resources were blocked from responsible development.
Ninety-four percent of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf’s (OCS’s) 1.7 billion acres are either off-limits to or not considered for oil and gas exploration and development under the current (2017-2022) leasing program.
o Days before leaving office on January 17, 2017, the Obama Administration approved the latest schedule for oil and gas lease sales that would last for five years until 2022.
o There are hundreds of millions of acres of federal waters in the Arctic Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Gulf of Mexico.
The OCS is expected to contain 90 billion barrels of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered technically recoverable natural gas.
In FY 2016, Federal revenues from the OCS were $2.8 billion; the actual sales value of the oil and gas resources was $26 billion and generated $55 billion in total spending in the economy. These expenditures supported approximately 315,000 American jobs.
Alaska has seen a number of nearby OCS areas closed off to development and now has the second highest unemployment in the country, as its resource sectors, particularly oil and gas, have lost thousands of jobs.
o At least one energy company has announced it would withdraw from all but one of its OCS leases in Alaska because of uncertain federal regulations.
Revenue to the Federal Government from leasing the OCS has fallen by over 80 percent, from $18 billion in 2008 to $2.8 billion in 2016. On average, OCS energy development generates $10-12 billion annually.
FREEING AMERICA’S ENERGY POTENTIAL: President Donald J. Trump is removing restrictions on the OCS that locked away America’s energy potential.
President Trump signed an Executive Order today to direct the Secretary of Interior and Secretary of Commerce to take action on OCS restrictions.
The Secretary of the Interior will review areas closed off by the current five-year plan for sale of oil and gas leases in the OCS, without disrupting scheduled lease sales. These planning areas include:
o Western and Central Gulf of Mexico
o Chukchi Sea
o Beaufort Sea
o Cook Inlet
o Mid and South Atlantic
The Secretary of the Interior will review four rules and regulations put in place last year that could reduce exploration and development in the OCS. These include:
o Notice to Lessees and Operators of Federal Oil and Gas, and Sulfur Leases, and Holders of Pipeline Right-of-Way and Right-of-Use and Easement Grants in the Outer Continental Shelf
o Oil and Gas and Sulfur Operations in the Outer Continental Shelf-Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control
o Air Quality Control, Reporting, and Compliance
o Oil and Gas and Sulfur Operations on the Outer Continental Shelf—Requirements for Exploratory Drilling on the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf
The Secretary of Commerce is directed to refrain from designating or expanding National Marine Sanctuaries unless the proposal includes “a timely, full accounting from the Department of the Interior of any energy or mineral resource potential”—including offshore energy from wind, oil, natural gas, and other sources—within the designated area and the potential impact the proposed designation or expansion will have on the development of those resources.
The Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of the Interior will work together to develop a streamlined permitting approach for privately funded seismic data research and collection to expeditiously determine the offshore resource potential of the United States.
FOLLOWING THROUGH ON HIS PROMISE TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE: President Trump is following through on the energy development policies he promised to the American people.
o “We need an America-First energy plan. This means opening Federal lands for oil and gas production; opening offshore areas; and revoking policies that are imposing unnecessary restrictions on innovative new exploration technologies.”
Today, Donald Trump took steps to dismantle President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing climate-changing carbon emissions that are warming the planet, resulting in melting icecaps at the Arctic and Antarctic, rising sea levels that are making island nations and coastal communities uninhabitable, contributing to catastrophic weather events that are producing floods and famine and triggering millions of climate refugees, and was incentivizing a transition to a clean, renewable energy economy and away from a society run on fossil fuel. Trump claimed it would save money and reinvigorate the coal industry, restoring jobs to coal miners. But you pay now or later in terms of repairing infrastructure, not to mention the public health impacts of air and water pollution, wildfires, heat exhaustion, and so forth. Trump is pitching it as “energy independence policy” but the US already is becoming energy independent and there are far more people permanently employed in an emerging clean energy industry than there are coal miners.
In the announcement, the White House made sure to emphasize how Trump is fulfilling a campaign promise, giving the beleaguered Donald a “win.” But instead of it being an American Energy Independence Policy, it is an American Dependence on Fossil Fuel Energy Policy. It will be up to states like California and New York, whose governors’ announced a commitment to continuing to meet or exceed the Clean Power Plan targets.
Here are the details from the White House on Trump’s “Energy Independence Policy.” – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
“I am going to lift the restrictions on American energy, and allow this wealth to pour into our communities.” – Donald J. Trump
MUCH NEEDED REFORM: The past Administration burdened Americans with costly regulations that harmed American jobs and energy production.
The previous Administration’s Clean Power Plan could cost up to $39 billion a year and increase electricity prices in 41 States by at least ten percent, according to NERA Economic Consulting.
The Clean Power Plan would cause coal production to fall by 242 million tons, according to the National Mining Association.
27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 rural electric co-ops, and 3 labor unions are challenging the Clean Power Plan in Federal court.
AMERICAN ENERGY INDEPENDENCE: President Donald J. Trump’s Energy Independence Policy Executive Order reverses the regulations on American jobs and energy production.
President Trump’s Executive Order directs the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend, revise, or rescind four actions related to the Clean Power Plan that would stifle the American energy industry.
o President Trump’s Executive Order directs the Attorney General to seek appropriate relief from the courts over pending litigation related to the Clean Power Plan.
President Trump’s Executive Order rescinds Executive and Agency actions centered on the previous administration’s climate change agenda that have acted as a road block to energy independence.
o President Trump’s Executive Order lifts the ban on Federal leasing for coal production.
o President Trump’s Executive Order lifts job-killing restrictions on the production of oil, natural gas, and shale energy.
President Trump’s Executive Order directs all agencies to conduct a review of existing actions that harm domestic energy production and suspend, revise, or rescind actions that are not mandated by law.
o Within 180 days, agencies must finalize their plans.
President Trump’ Executive Order directs agencies to use the best available science and economics in regulatory analysis, which was not utilized by the previous administration.
o It disbands the Interagency Working Group (IWG) on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases.
By revisiting the federal overreach on energy regulation, President Trump is returning power to the states – where it belongs.
FREEING AMERICA’S POTENTIAL: President Trump has worked tirelessly to free American industry and ingenuity from the constraints of Government overreach.
President Trump has signed four pieces of legislation to clear burdensome and costly regulations on energy production from the previous Administration.
President Trump has required that for every new Federal regulation, two existing regulations be eliminated.
President Trump has directed each agency to establish a Regulatory Reform Task Force to identify costly and unnecessary regulations in need of modification or repeal.
President Trump has directed the Department of Commerce to streamline Federal permitting processes for domestic manufacturing and to reduce regulatory burdens on domestic manufacturers.
President Trump signed legislation, House Joint Resolution 38, to prevent the burdensome “Stream Protection Rule” from causing further harm to the coal industry.
President Trump ordered the review of the “Clean Water Rule: Definition of Waters of the United States,” known as the WOTUS rule, to evaluate whether it is stifling economic growth or job creation.
President Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum and gave a Presidential permit to clear roadblocks to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline.
President Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum declaring that the Dakota Access Pipeline serves the national interest and initiating the process to complete its construction.
FULFILLING HIS PROMISE:By taking action on the Clean Power Plan, President Trump is fulfilling his promise to the American people.
As a candidate, Mr. Trump promised “we will eliminate… the Clean Power Plan—these unilateral plans will increase monthly electric bills by double-digits without any measurable improvement in the climate.”
With the announcement that the United States will begin to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued the following statement reaffirming their ongoing commitment to exceed the targets of the Clean Power Plan and curb carbon pollution:
“Dismantling the Clean Power Plan and other critical climate programs is profoundly misguided and shockingly ignores basic science. With this move, the Administration will endanger public health, our environment and our economic prosperity. “Climate change is real and will not be wished away by rhetoric or denial. We stand together with a majority of the American people in supporting bold actions to protect our communities from the dire consequences of climate change. “Together, California and New York represent approximately 60 million people – nearly one-in-five Americans – and 20 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. With or without Washington, we will work with our partners throughout the world to aggressively fight climate change and protect our future.”
New York and California lead the nation in ground-breaking policies to combat climate change. Both states – which account for roughly 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States – have adopted advanced energy efficiency and renewable energy programs to meet and exceed the requirements of the Clean Power Plan and have set some of the most aggressive greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in North America – 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. New York and California will continue to work closely together – and with other states – to help fill the void left by the federal government.
New York’s Climate Leadership
Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions: Established ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to reduce emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. These targets have made New York a leader across the country in fighting climate change.
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI): Spearheaded the formation of the successful RGGI cap-and-trade program between northeast and mid-Atlantic states, led effort to reduce RGGI’s carbon emission cap by 45 percent in 2014, and recently called for an additional cap reduction of at least 30 percent between 2020 and 2030.
Reforming the Energy Vision: Established a comprehensive energy strategy to make the vision for a clean, resilient, and affordable energy system a reality, while actively spurring energy innovation, attracting new jobs, and improving consumer choice.
Clean Energy Standard: Established the most comprehensive and ambitious clean energy mandate in the state’s history, requiring that 50 percent of electricity in New York come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030.
Clean Energy Fund: Established a $5 billion fund that is jump-starting clean-tech innovation, mobilizing private investment, capitalizing the nation’s largest Green Bank, and helping eliminate market barriers to make clean energy scalable and affordable for all New Yorkers.
Coal-Free New York: Committed to close or repower all coal-burning power plants in New York to cleaner fuel sources by 2020.
Offshore Wind: Approved the nation’s largest wind energy project off the Long Island coast in 2017 and made an unprecedented commitment to develop up to 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030.
California’s Climate Leadership
Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions: Established ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to reduce emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. These targets have made California a leader across the country in fighting climate change.
Cap-and-Trade: Established the most comprehensive carbon market in North America, investing more than $2.6 billion from the Cap-and-Trade program in programs and projects that reduce emissions and support communities disadvantaged by pollution.
Renewable Energy: Established landmark targets that require at least 33 percent of California’s electricity comes from renewable energy sources by 2020, and 50 percent by 2030.
Energy Efficiency: Established targets that double the rate of energy efficiency savings in California buildings and require residential buildings to be Zero Net Energy by 2020, and all commercial buildings to be Zero Net Energy by 2030.
Super Pollutant Reduction: Established the nation’s toughest restrictions on destructive super pollutants, such as methane, black carbon, and hydrofluorocarbon gases.
Low Carbon Fuel Standard: Established requirements for producers of petroleum-based fuels to reduce the carbon intensity of their products, helping drive the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable natural gas and diesel, low-carbon ethanol, and clean electricity, giving consumers more clean fuel choices while driving significant clean fuel investment and creating new economic opportunities.
Zero Emission Vehicles: Established a program requiring increased sales of zero emission vehicles – a policy adopted by 10 states – resulting in more than 30 new models of clean and affordable vehicles that are reducing consumer gasoline and diesel costs. California also adopted North America’s first greenhouse gas emission car standards – later adopted as a national program – and adopted the nation’s first heavy-duty vehicle and trailer greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements, which led to similar national requirements.
These efforts complement New York and California’s ongoing efforts to broaden collaboration among subnational leaders on climate change, including through the Under2 Coalition – a pact among cities, states and countries around the world to limit the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius in order to avoid potentially catastrophic consequences. New York and California are among the Under2 Coalition’s 167 jurisdictions representing more than one billion people and $25.9 trillion in combined GDP – more than one-third of the global economy.