By GREGORY ZELLER //
It’s a virtual race against the clock in Albany, where the current legislative session has less than a month to go and a landmark climate-equity bill hangs in the balance.
The Climate and Community Protection Act (S2992/A3876) – designed to rapidly ween New York off fossil fuels, invest nearly half of the state’s climate funds into low-income communities and set higher wage standards for “green” jobs – would instantly anoint the Empire State a climate-justice leader.
But it’s not the CCPA’s first time at the plate. The ambitious package of environmental laws, backed by bigwigs like U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), has been revamped repeatedly, after thrice passing the New York State Assembly but failing to reach the governor’s desk.
With Albany’s current legislative session set to expire June 19, the clock is ticking down again. And the sister bills’ sponsors – State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Rockville Centre), who chairs the Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee, and Assemblyman Steven Englebright (D-East Setauket), who heads the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee – are looking for an 11th hour victory.
The two teamed up Thursday to lead a Mineola rally in favor of the CCPA, featuring a large delegation of Long Island elected officials, community organizations and others with skin in the regional environmental game.
The press event, held outside the Nassau County Legislature Building, was bolstered by a number of state senators, assemblypersons, Nassau County legislators and municipal officeholders, among others, all of whom came to support legislation that “tackles the climate crisis head-on,” according to co-sponsor Kaminsky.
“As Washington politicians shrug, our planet is in peril,” the senator said Thursday. “It is critical that New York lead the way and do all we can to protect the environment.”
But the proposal remains stuck in legislative limbo – specifically, idling in Assembly committee – and is not currently scheduled for an Assembly floor vote. And that June 19 line in the sand is no arbitrary or artificial deadline, according to Englebright, who noted “our time to act on the climate crisis is short.”
“We need to pass a strong Climate and Community Protection Act this year to begin to transition our state’s economy off fossil fuels … and provide a model for other states to follow,” the assemblyman added.
In addition to the environmental benefits of carbon-emission reductions and state-funded sustainability programs, the CCPA plays an important role in the economies of the present and future, according to Michael Gendron, executive vice president of Patchogue-based Communications Workers of America Local 1108, who trumpeted the proposed law’s efforts to “ensure green jobs are good jobs.”
“The CCPA protects the standards for the workers in the energy industry by including prevailing-wage (and) safety policies and apprenticeship programs,” Gendron noted. “It is vital that we protect the workers who will build the clean, renewable energy network.”
The socioeconomic proposal goes further even than Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s own “Green New Deal,” itself an ambitious environmental policy that dives deep into critical societal and ecological issues – but not deep enough, according to some critics.
New York needs more than “an aspirational goal” to be a true environmental and social-justice leader, according to Ryan Madden, sustainability organizer for the Long Island Progressive Coalition, a Massapequa-based grassroots group dedicated to sustainable development, revitalized downtowns and social justice, among other causes.
And Progressive Coalition members, standing firmly behind the CCPA, are “counting on our elected leaders to make sure climate legislation in New York is ambitious, enforceable, equitable and just,” Madden noted.
“That means we have to move all of our economy off of fossil fuels, not just electricity, and we need an enforceable deadline to do it,” he said Thursday. “Climate legislation must center equity and justice by investing resources in the communities on the front lines of climate change and pollution.
“That’s what the Climate and Community Protection Act does,” Madden added. “Let’s pass it this year.”