NY Takes Two Major Leaps Forward in Climate Change Fight

Governor Cuomo signs an ambitious climate bill into law and ramps up the state’s clean energy plan.

Currently the only offshore wind facility on the East Coast is the Block Island Wind Farm, off Rhode Island. Now New York is poised to join the clean energy future with its commitment to build 9,000 MW of wind farms by 2035.

Jessica Russo/NRDC

New York State took two historic steps forward in the fight against climate change today, cementing its status as a national leader and helping supercharge the state’s clean energy future. 

First, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the nation-leading Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) into law, which sets the state on a path to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions statewide; requires a rapid scaling up to 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and zero-emission electricity supply by 2040; and prioritizes equity for historically marginalized communities. 

The governor also announced a major milestone in ramping up the state’s clean electricity sector, unveiling that the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) has entered into the largest combined contract ever awarded by a state to support the construction of offshore wind. The contract commits to building a combined 1,700 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind, supporting New York’s nation-leading goal of 9,000 MW of offshore wind by 2035—a target that is now codified into law thanks to the state’s new climate law.      

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act 

Here are some of the most important provisions of the ambitious climate bill, which was passed in the state legislature this past June. 

  • Net-zero emissions: Under the CLCPA, New York is committed to an 85 percent reduction in statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with any remaining emissions to be reduced or offset through projects that remove climate pollution from the atmosphere. The offset program must be designed in a manner that does not disproportionately harm disadvantaged communities.  
  • Ambitious electric sector targets: The CLCPA codifies several electric sector targets, including the following requirements:
    • 70 percent of the state’s electricity will come from renewable energy by 2030.
    • All of the state’s electricity will be emissions-free by 2040.
    • 9,000 MW of offshore wind will be installed by 2035.
    • 6,000 MW of distributed solar will be installed by 2025.
    • The state will reduce energy consumption by 185 trillion BTUs from forecasted consumption by 2025.
    • 3,000 MW of installed storage will be in place by 2030.    
  • The Climate Action Council and scoping plan: A 22-member body—made up of the heads of different state agencies, as well as experts appointed by the governor and other state officials—will be required to create a scoping plan in the next two years. This plan will set out recommendations for reducing emissions across all sectors of the economy, be incorporated into the state’s energy plan, and inform the actions of the state’s regulatory agencies.  
  • Disadvantaged communities and the climate justice working group: Disadvantaged communities must receive 40 percent of the overall benefits from the state’s climate programs, and at a minimum, they must receive no less than 35 percent of those benefits. The CLPCA also creates the Climate Justice Working Group, which will advise the Climate Action Council and establish the final criteria for identifying disadvantaged communities based on considerations related to public health, environmental hazards, and socioeconomic factors. 

Under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, 9,000 MW of offshore wind farms will be built off the coast of New York State by 2035.

iStock

Jump-starting New York’s Offshore Wind Industry 

Today's offshore wind announcement shows tremendous progress toward achieving the CLCPA’s goals. The NYSERDA is awarded contracts to two projects: the 880 MW Sunrise Wind Project (to be developed in Long Island by Ørsted and Eversource) and the 816 MW Empire Wind Project (to be developed south of New York City by Equinor).  

On top of that, Governor Cuomo announced a $287 million commitment to build manufacturing and port facilities, as well as $20 million for job training. Together with the awarded contracts, this positions New York to become the country's leading hub for offshore wind construction.

The supply chain and construction process for offshore wind developments promises to yield thousands of good-paying jobs. The port facilities supported by today’s announcement, located both upstate and downstate—in Albany, Long Island, and Brooklyn—will together house offshore wind terminals, provide a staging area for the assembly of the giant turbines and other equipment, and accommodate the barges and other vessels traveling between the shore and the wind farms.

NRDC looks forward to working with our partners in New York to ensure that all offshore wind projects follow best management practices to protect the North Atlantic right whale. There are only about 400 of the species left in the world, less than a quarter of which are reproductively active females. In the previous calving season, no calves were born, and at least 20 whales have been killed in the last two years after becoming entangled with fishing gear or being hit by ships. 

Together with our partners, NRDC reached an agreement with Vineyard Wind on how the company will construct its 800 MW project in a way that’s most protective of the North Atlantic right whale. Working with a broader coalition, we also established best management practices, and we continue to encourage states and developers to do all they can to ensure quiet installations.

New York’s announcements today are especially encouraging and necessary given the federal government’s failure to protect Americans from climate pollution. On June 20, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized its repeal of the Clean Power Plan, replacing it with a do-nothing alternative. NRDC will fight the Trump administration’s rollbacks, but as that battle plays out, it is critical that states like New York step into the breach, taking immediate action to scale up clean energy. New York’s actions today demonstrate the power of states to ensure continued climate progress.

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About the Authors

Cullen Howe

Senior Renewable Energy Advocate, Climate & Clean Energy Program

Nathanael Greene

Senior Renewable Energy Advocate, Climate & Clean Energy Program

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