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Making Environmental Justice a Priority in State Climate Plans

RGGI states are considering doubling annual reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. (digifly840/Pixabay)
RGGI states are considering doubling annual reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. (digifly840/Pixabay)
September 2, 2016

NEW YORK - A coalition of environmental groups, labor unions and community organizations wants Governor Andrew Cuomo to make environmental justice a priority in plans to combat climate change. A draft plan for compliance with the EPA's Clean Power Plan is due later this month.

Mark Kresowik, regional deputy director for the Sierra Club, said doubling pollution reductions under the highly-successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to five-percent a year must be part of that plan.

"Achieving that level of pollution reduction will keep New York on track to hit the state's climate goals, and help slash pollution in those communities that have long suffered from neighboring power plants," he said.

The coalition, called New York Renews, sent the governor a list of recommendations to include strong action on environmental justice in the Clean Power Plan.

Annel Hernandez, resiliency planner at the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, pointed out that the auction of emission allowances under RGGI has generated hundreds of millions of dollars for investment in clean energy and pollution-reduction plans in New York.

"We need to direct at least 40 percent of any revenue coming from RGGI toward renewable energy projects, energy efficiency projects, directly into these disadvantaged communities," she said.

The coalition wants the state to perform an equity analysis of climate investments that addresses the specific needs of disadvantaged areas.

Clarke Gocker, director of policy and strategy with PUSH Buffalo, said targeting investments to help improve substandard housing in poor neighborhoods would improve living conditions, create jobs and cut pollution.

"Substandard housing conditions often drive up energy and healthcare costs for vulnerable households, and prevent these households from accessing the kinds of improvements that can lower energy bills and improve health outcomes," he explained.

New York is currently negotiating with the eight other RGGI states over changes to the agreement, including a proposal to lower the cap on carbon emissions by five-percent each year.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY