State Legislature introduces first “Green New Deal” bill in the nation

Legislative Gazette photo by Dylan Hirsh
Sen. James Sanders, at podium, is joined by Assistant Assembly Speaker Felix Ortiz, to announce New York’s “New Green Deal” legislation.

Modeling state-level legislation on Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s national fight for a greener nation, New York Democrats are introducing a “Green New Deal” of their own.

Sen. James Sanders Jr., D-Queens, is sponsoring a “Green New Deal for New York,” saying the U.S. is in a “state of climate emergency.”

According to Sanders, 18 of the 19 hottest years worldwide have been recorded since 2001. Sanders’s Green New Deal task Force would develop a plan for New York to become carbon neutral by 2030; transitioning from a fossil fuel-based economy from one based in 100% clean renewable energy.

“We can both save the planet from climate change and create economic growth and green jobs. In fact, you can’t do one without the other,” Sanders said.

The bill (S.2878-A/A.5334) would create a task force and require it to develop a “detailed statewide, industrial, economic mobilization plan” to ensure the transition happens by 2030. Senate Democrats are hopeful the legislation will spur economic growth, create jobs, and reduce poverty.

The bill memo notes that on October 8, 2018, a landmark report was issued by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warning the world has only 12 years to keep the global average temperature increase since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Anything above a 1.5 degrees Celsius jump is thought to significantly increase the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty worldwide.

The report states that the world must transition off of fossil fuel and replace it with clean energy, such as solar, wind, water, and geothermal, to stop further temperature increases.

On November 23, 2018, the fourth National Climate Assessment, a quadrennial report
mandated since 1990 by Congress, was released by the U.S. Government. The 1,500-page report, prepared by 13 federal agencies using the best available science, predicts “severe negative consequences” from climate change if drastic action is not taken.

According to the report, climate change disproportionately hurts most low-income communities, communities of color, and indigenous people.

“If you live in the Rockaways, as I do, then I don’t need to tell you about the chronic flooding problem we have in our community,” Sanders said. “Just bringing it up might cause you to have bad memories of past storms and streets that look more like lakes.

“In order to better understand how to tackle this issue, we need to understand climate, which is very real and important factor in why flooding has, and likely will, continue to get worse.”

The Sanders-Ortiz bill would establish a Green New Deal for New York Task Force consisting of 19 voting members. The task force would hold hearings, consult with experts, and meet with local officials as well as business groups to develop a plan by September 1, 2019 that would be reviewed by the Senate and Assembly. A final plan would be submitted in early 2010.

According to the bill, there are eight objectives that would have to be met within 10 years of the execution of the final Green New Deal:

  • Dramatically expand existing renewable power sources and deploying new production capacity with the goal of meeting 100 percent of New York state power demand through clean renewable sources;
  • Build a statewide, energy-efficient, “smart” grid;
  • Upgrade every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety;
  • Eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing, agricultural and other industries, in part by promoting local-scale agriculture in communities across the state;
  • Eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and other infrastructure, and upgrading water infrastructure to ensure universal access to clean water;
  • Fund massive investment in the drawdown of greenhouse gases;
  • Make “green” technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major export of New York state, with the aim of becoming the undisputed international leader in helping other states and countries transition to completely greenhouse gas neutral economies and bringing about a global green new deal;
  • Explain how these actions will be paid for and what the economic impact will be for taking these actions as opposed to not taking these actions.

Being the first Green New Deal legislation to be introduced at either the state or federal level, the legislation is modeled heavily after Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal.

“Like the New Deal launched by a former New York governor in the 1930s, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Green New Deal for our generation can result in a new era of economic transformation to promote economic growth and jobs,” Sanders said.

The Senate bill was introduced on January 30 and the Assembly bill was introduced on February 8.