Editorial — More input needed: State’s Climate Action Council must listen to concerns of critics

May 4, 2022

Livingston County News | May 4, 2022

New York has some very ambitious goals for its long-term energy usage.

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act passed in 2019 set the bar for green power. This law mandates that the state obtain at least 70% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. In addition, New York must achieve zero-emission energy by 2040 and lower its greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050 from 1990 levels.

It’s good that officials are thinking big when it comes to addressing climate change. We all need to take this issue more seriously and help reduce our carbon footprint.

But the state’s desire for major changes may not be matched the resources necessary to achieve them. People attending a forum in Buffalo last week debated the merits of various proposals with the Climate Action Council, which will create a scoping plan so the state can pursue its benchmarks.

“The drafters of a new scoping plan that will guide how New York state reduces carbon emissions over the next three decades heard last week from area environmental groups who urged them to act quickly, and from labor, utility companies and business groups who warned them against proceeding too fast. While Ellen Banks of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter said it was ‘time to move on’ from combustibles that contribute to an ‘increasingly dire’ climate crisis, Joe Benedict of the Western New York Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Contractors argued that some sweeping changes proposed under the scoping plan would cost residents thousands of dollars to transition their homes away from natural gas heating and cooking,” according to a Buffalo News story published Sunday by the Watertown Daily Times. “While Rahwa Ghirmatzion of PUSH Buffalo pleaded for governmental leaders to have the political will to abandon ‘false solutions’ to addressing climate change and instead focus on advancing renewables such as solar, geothermal and wind energy, Grant Loomis of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership said removing natural gas from the state’s portfolio would create grid ‘reliability concerns.’

“And so it went for more than three hours [April 27] inside the auditorium of the main branch of the Buffalo & Erie County Library, with speaker after speaker, nearly 100 in all, arguing for and against elements of the state Climate Action Council’s draft scoping plan,” the article reported. “Council members are gathering public input on the plan, which proposes dramatic changes in the way New Yorkers heat their homes, cook their meals and drive to their jobs. The council will deliver a final plan to Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Legislature by the end of the year.”

State authorities have already put some very unrealistic ideas into motion.

Starting next year, new buildings will only be allowed to use electricity to power them (no gas lines may be connected). This is simply not feasible for the north country.

In addition, New York will ban the sale of vehicles powered by fossil fuels by 2035, a plan likely to fail. Will people comply with this law or continue to buy gas-powered vehicles (either used cars or new vehicles from other states)? And what does this mean for existing gas stations, which must accommodate gas-powered vehicles?

Officials must be more practical in their approach. There’s no way that New York will achieve its goals relying on solar and wind power. Nuclear energy and hydro-electricity must be more a part of the equation.

As the Climate Action Council receives input, members must take their concerns to heart. We won’t address climate change unless we have sensible measures to put into effect.