Open Letter To Governor Hochul

The Honorable Kathy Hochul Governor of New York State NYS State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

September 10, 2021

Dear Governor Hochul:

350Brookyn welcomes you to your tenure as governor of our state and looks forward to working productively with you. We are a 3,300-member strong climate action group whose mission is to counter the climate crisis through local action. We work toward a world that is just, equitable, and sustainable and where all beings can thrive. As we are sure you know, if New York State were an independent nation, its economy would be the tenth largest in the world. That means that our contribution to global warming is significant and what we do as a state is critically important not only to New Yorkers but to the fate of the planet. We would like to take this opportunity to share some of our concerns about and hopes for our state.

We are one of the many organizations across New York State who worked to pass the landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019. As part of the New York Renews coalition, we are proud of the goals this law set for our state: 70% renewable energy by 2030 (with 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040); 6,000 MW of solar by 2025; 3,000 MW of energy storage by 2030; 9,000 MW of offshore wind by 2035; and 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. We are closely following the work of the Climate Action Council as it works to write regulations that will ensure that these goals are met. We note with concern that there are members of the CAC who are working to undermine these goals. We ask that you back clear, enforceable regulations that will ensure that New York State meets all of the goals laid out by the CLCPA.

We also note with concern that there is no funding mechanism to carry out the necessary work that will shift New York to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and lowered greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors as envisioned in the CLCPA. We therefore support a bill that is currently before the legislature, the Climate and Community Investment Act. The CCIA would levy a fee on large businesses importing fossil fuels into New York State. The state would then use that money to build projects that will advance the goals of the CLCPA, especially in low- income communities of color, to train New Yorkers for the accompanying green jobs expansion, and to reimburse low-and-moderate income New Yorkers for any raises in their utility bills that may result. We ask that you support incorporating relevant parts of the CCIA into the upcoming state budget, and that you also support passage of the remaining parts in the legislature. New York has a diverse and creative economy. We should be leaders in this arena, so let’s lead!

Another area of concern for us is the continued expansion of fossil fuel gas (so-called “natural” gas) in our state. Despite the state’s ban on fracking and the legal mandates of the CLCPA, as well as the huge opportunity that Offshore Wind and more resilient renewables present for our region, energy companies and utilities continue to push for more pipelines and the expansion or retrofits of existing power plants. Concerted, sustained pressure from the public has blocked some of these projects from proceeding, such as the Northern Access, the Constitution, and the Williams NESE pipelines. But many privately-owned peaker plants and many shareholder- owned utilities in our state remain determined to pull whatever dollars they can out of utility customers’ pockets, even as the planet burns. The Public Service Commission has been slow to acknowledge that it is complicit in this dangerous course. We need a reset here. Volunteer- driven groups like 350Brooklyn, at this point in the climate crisis, should be focused on helping our neighborhoods build out community solar, adopt heat pump technology, and weatherize buildings. We should not be playing whack-a-mole with one fossil fuel project after

another. New York State needs a clear and public plan to get off gas, one that builders, utilities, HVAC contractors, town planners, and ordinary people can use to make good decisions. We ask that you recognize the urgency of this problem and work with your staff to come up with such a plan, along with supporting the laws that will ensure its implementation.

350Brooklyn is a proud part of New York City and here, too, we ask for your help with some local issues.

  • The Clean Futures Act (Senate Bill S5939A/Assembly Bill A6761A) would enable our elected representatives to reject new fossil fuel power plants and put the onus on private investors to prove that the plant is necessary, and not just a money-making scheme.
    On a local level there is an open permit application for the Astoria NRG plant, which would be rendered completely redundant with ConEd’s approved transmission upgrades.
  • The Electric School Bus Bill (Senate Bill S5268 / Assembly Bill A6754) would allow for more flexibility in how Electric School Buses can be funded, helping us to overcome a major hurdle that private contractors have expressed. New York City also needs help with larger-scale charging infrastructure and the grid upgrades in the city to support it.
  • Help us push for and fund renewable infrastructure on Rikers Island to replace its abhorrent and toxic detention facilities – widely acknowledged as a human rights disaster. This facility is built on toxic landfill that leaks methane, making the site unsuitable for most other uses. Currently Rikers costs $300,000/year per detainee to maintain. At that rate we could do much better for these individuals – and for our city – by building resilient renewable infrastructure including a Wastewater Treatment Plant, Solar Farm and Battery Storage on this site and making New York City a model for a green and just recovery. We don’t need more councils and committees to make this happen. The proposal has come out of the grassroots and a broad coalition of environmental, social justice and directly impacted groups, and we need visionary leadership with the funding and muscle to see it through.
  • We thank you for your emphatic verbal support for congestion pricing in NYC and we look forward to your success in seeing that project through to completion.Lastly, Hurricane Ida was only the latest extreme weather event to show us how ill-prepared we are for the severe heat waves, rising sea levels, and violent storms generated by the heating planet. 350Brooklyn thanks you for your strong words in support of investing in resiliency and

the infrastructure to protect New Yorkers even as we work to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that are the source of these events. We look forward to supporting you as you mobilize state and federal dollars to carry out this work.

As we are sure you know, you have inherited a state workforce that has some really great people who are dedicated to the well-being of us all. We would like to acknowledge the good work NYSERDA has been doing on developing renewables in New York, and we’d like to share our respect for many of the staff of the Department of Environmental Conservation who are experienced, serious professionals in their fields. You have a lot of good people to work with, and you have a huge audience of New Yorkers who want nothing more than for you to succeed as our governor.

350Brooklyn is looking forward to partnering with you and your administration in moving New York to a fully renewable energy system, a just transition for affected workers and the broadening of opportunities in a green workforce, and investment in low-income communities and marginalized communities of color such that all of us share in the benefits of a more sustainable New York.

The 350Brooklyn Steering Committee

Danica Novgorodoff, Ella Ryan, Georgi Page, Ieva Zadina, Jan Thompson, Jeremy Kaplan, Jeremy Sierra, Judy Schneir, Laurel Tumarkin, Leigh Evans, Lynn Neuman, Mimi Bluestone, Sara Gronim, Wendy Fried