New York lawmakers pass stringent climate bill

New York is poised to adopt what would be one of the most aggressive greenhouse gas reduction targets in the U.S. under a bill passed by the state Legislature in the early morning hours of June 20 and supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

New York will cut its GHG emissions by 85 percent by 2050 below 1990 levels and offset 15 percent of its emissions to become carbon neutral by mid-century under the legislation (S. 6599). The legislation sets a 40 percent reduction target for 2030.

Besides setting a GHG reduction target, the “Climate and Community Protection Act” requires utilities regulated by the New York Public Service Commission to get 70 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2030. All electricity must come from carbon-free sources by 2040.

The renewable targets can be temporarily changed by the PSC if the commission determines they pose safety problems or prevent the delivery of enough electricity.

Also, the PSC must by 2024 set up a program for utilities to procure 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035, 6,000 MW of solar by 2025 and 3,000 MW of energy storage by 2030, according to the legislation.

New York released about 218 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, including electricity imports, in 2015, according to the most recent emissions inventory issued by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Most GHG emissions — 33 percent — came from the transportation sector, followed by homes at 16 percent and the power sector at 13 percent. The industrial and waste sectors each made up 6 percent of overall carbon emissions and agriculture accounted for 4 percent of emissions, according to the report.

The legislation directs that the investments in renewables and other GHG-reduction measures target disadvantaged communities.

The legislation establishes a 22-member climate action council that will develop a plan within two years for meeting the GHG reduction goals while helping workers, communities and businesses deal with the pending energy transition.

The legislation requires the council to consider various options for meeting the GHG goals, including performance-based emissions standards for the transportation, building, industrial, commercial and agricultural sectors.

Emissions sources will be able to use alternative compliance measures, such as GHG offsets, to meet their reduction obligations, according to the legislation.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have greenhouse gas reduction targets, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a non-profit group.

New Jersey, for example, unveiled a draft framework this month to be net carbon-free by mid-century. Hawaii aims to be carbon neutral by 2045 and California intends to cut its GHG emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

The New York legislation is available here