… and environmental justice for all

Signs of the times: What do they want? Environmental justice. When do they want it? Now.
By ANNE LOTITO-SCHUH //

New Yorkers are ready to lead the nation in the battle against climate change.

Whether it is our homes being destroyed by intensifying storms, our flood insurance premiums rising, increased public spending on infrastructure intended to secure us from future storms or the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, it is little wonder that New Yorkers, and specifically Long Islanders, understand the calamitous effects of climate change and the need for bold action.

The projected costs we will incur in the form of associated deaths, mass migration and economic damage as a result of climate change threaten Long Islanders’ very way of life.

There is widespread support among New Yorkers for the Climate and Community Protection Act, legislation that commits the state to zero carbon emissions by 2050, major reductions in methane emissions, dramatically improved energy-efficiency standards and a widely expanded supply of clean-energy sources.

A study from the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute finds that New Yorkers can achieve all of this, delivering 145,000- to 160,000 new jobs in the State of New York annually. Step one of this plan is passing the Climate and Community Protection Act.

Having passed the State Assembly for three years in a row, the Climate and Community Protect Act is also co-sponsored, in bipartisan fashion, in the State Senate by Long Island Sens. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), John Brooks (D-Massapequa), Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), Carl Marcellino (R-Oyster Bay) and Elaine Phillips (R-Mineola).

However, State Senate Majority Leader (and climate change denier) John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) has blocked the legislation from coming to the floor for a vote. Once labeled “an inconvenient truth,” climate change deniers may be in denial because of perceived economic costs. Too often in the discussion surrounding climate change, economy is pitted against environment; however, this is a false dichotomy.

The same University of Massachusetts study demonstrates that a modest polluter fee starting at $35 per ton of greenhouse gas emissions could generate over $7 billion in state revenue every year. This money could be used not only to spur investments in renewable energy, but also to protect shoreline communities and to support fossil fuel workers as they transition to the clean energy economy.

Again, there is widespread support for holding corporate polluting entities accountable for the damage they have caused by charging them a fee for the pollution they create and using the revenue to make sound investments in solar, wind and other renewable resources, creating local jobs by building clean infrastructure for the future.

Just as private citizens are held personally accountable for illegal dumping of trash and chemicals, New Yorkers realize we need bold leadership acting now to hold corporate fossil fuel polluters accountable for the greenhouse gases they have been permitted to pour into our environment with impunity, the cost of which taxpayers now pay.

Long Islanders deserve clean air, clean water, storm safety, security and economic prosperity. Committing New York State to renewable energy, holding corporate fossil fuel polluters accountable and investing in clean infrastructure is the way to ensure all of those things for future generations of Long Islanders.

Ms. Lotito-Schuh is a volunteer with New York Renews, a coalition of labor unions, community groups, environmental organizations, faith communities, environmental justice advocates and others pursuing clean- and renewable-energy legislation.


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