What Would It Take?
To understand what it would take to actually achieve the CLCPA’s reductions, consider the state’s greatest sources of emissions.
Cars and trucks are New York state’s top source of pollution. As of last year, a mere 46,000 out of about ten million vehicles are electric — less than one percent. More and more high-polluting SUVs are on the road.
Absent a state and federal rescue, the state’s mass transit systems, already underfunded before the pandemic, may soon be forced to cut subway, rail, and bus service almost in half. If people flee mass transit for cars, pollution will rise, not fall.
Energy use in New York State’s several million buildings, from skyscrapers to suburban homes, is the second-largest source of emissions. Almost all buildings are energy-inefficient beasts that run on oil or fracked gas-fueled boilers.
Only 5 percent of the grid’s generating capacity comes from wind or solar, even though the cost of building wind and solar is competitive. Cuomo, famous for flexing his political muscle, hasn’t been using it to close deals on utility-scale solar and wind projects since he took office in 2011 — even as he has approved big new fracked gas power plants.
In each of these areas and others, meeting the CLCPA targets will require a muscular approach, with ample funding and specific requirements backed up by enforcement and penalties.
To slash pollution from cars and trucks, mass transit must be properly funded and expanded as gas-powered cars and trucks are rapidly taken off the road and replaced with electric vehicles.
For buildings, high energy efficiency must be required, with fossil fuel boilers replaced by heat pumps and solar power. New energy-efficient social and supportive housing must be built. Housing infrastructure that’s been neglected, such as the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), must be renewed and upgraded. Landlords must upgrade rent-regulated buildings to high energy efficiency — without making tenants pay higher costs.
And the state cannot allow any new fossil fuel infrastructure to be built. When you’re in a car headed off a cliff, it’s time to hit the brakes. No more new pipelines and fracked gas power plants. Cuomo must reject each of the polluting power plants projects currently seeking permits, and build new renewables, energy storage, and a modern grid in their place.