This week, we heard how New Yorkers want action to fight climate change. They want less pollution and more clean energy. That conclusion came through loud and clear this week at the People’s Hearing on the Repeal of the Clean Power Plan.
People gathered at the event to express their concerns about the Trump Administration’s efforts to roll back the Clean Power Plan – which, if implemented, would be the first federal limit on global warming pollution from power plants. The nearest official hearing held by the Environmental Protection Agency on this unfortunate proposal was in West Virginia. Therefore, local leaders – including the New York State Office of the Attorney General and the New York City Office of the Mayor, in partnership with NYC Councilmember Costa Constantinides, and The New School – put together this event to ensure that New Yorker’s voices would be heard.
If fully implemented, the Clean Power Plan would reduce U.S. power plant emissions 32 percent by 2030, with huge corresponding health and environmental benefits. By 2030, it would prevent as many as 4,500 premature deaths each year, along with 90,000 asthma attacks and 300,000 missed work and school days.
The Clean Power Plan would also accelerate the transition to clean energy that is already underway. That would help put the brakes on the warming of our planet, which is driving increasingly severe weather events – like Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, Irma and Sandy – and increasing coastal flooding risks as sea levels rise. Extreme weather events in 2017 – which was the third warmest year in recorded history – caused more than $300 billion in damage across the United States.
Here in New York, we know that the best thing we can do to fight warming is to cut pollution. That’s why Governor Cuomo helped lead a bipartisan coalition of 9 Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states last year to strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (or RGGI). This program – which helped to lay the foundation for the national-level Clean Power Plan – was already one of the most effective climate protection policies anywhere in the country. Now it is even stronger – on course to cut power plant pollution by another third by 2030. That’s comparable to shutting down more than 30 coal-fired power plants.
It’s also why Governor Cuomo is working with neighboring states to create a new program to reduce pollution from cars and trucks – which are now the largest source of pollution across the region.
And it’s why New York City Mayor DeBlasio is working to improve the energy efficiency of buildings across the city, divest from fossil fuel companies, and suing five large oil companies, seeking damages to help protect the city from the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise.
While the Trump administration is pouring more fuel on the fires of climate change, we here in New York are working to put them out. If the federal government won’t lead, we’ll go first. Even if we have to hold our own public hearings to make sure that our voices are heard.
Heather Leibowitz, Esq. is the Director of Environment New York, a statewide advocacy organization that is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.