Top New York State Environmental Priorities for 2019

This past year was all the evidence, if any were needed, that we are living through unprecedented changes in the environment. 

2018 was the 4th hottest year in history, severe droughts plagued the West, raging California wildfires destroyed homes and claimed people’s lives, and monstrous hurricanes pummeled the southeast coastal states, and sea levels along New York’s coast continue to rise at almost twice the global rate. Two reports released last year from leading world experts warn the worst of these impacts will arrive much sooner than previously expected without swift, bold action.

Yet, the Trump administration continues a maddening and unprecedented assault on environmental and energy protections. From his reckless decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, rolling back clean water and clean air standards, sabotaging mercury health protections and unleashing a dangerous war on science, the White House is hellbent on lining the pockets of the fossil fuel industry at the expense of our children’s future.

But the silver lining, amid this chaos, is that leadership at the state level has never been stronger or more cohesive. As Governor Cuomo prepares to deliver his State of the State address tomorrow, residents across the state are counting on him to take our future into his hands and fight back. We urge him to use this moment to build on his work to make New York the leader of the green resistance to the Trump agenda.

We’re already on our way. Take for example, the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of 17 states led by New York that is countering Trump’s policies with solutions that adhere to the goals of the Paris Agreement—advancing sustainability, funding clean energy initiatives, promoting ocean conservation, and restricting the use of fossil fuels. What’s more, these states represent nearly 40% of the national economy.

In the legislature, we are also seeing a potent countervailing force to Trump and the fossil fuel industry’s blitzkrieg on the environment. There’s strong support for a green and clean energy agenda, from seasoned members to the new class—virtually all of whom ran campaigns strongly supporting green initiatives.

This all adds up to an extraordinary opportunity in Albany for serious change and forward motion this session on environmental and energy priorities. This is perhaps the moment New Yorkers have long been awaiting—and we’ll be looking to the Governor and new, eager and energetic legislature for their leadership and decisive action.

That means doubling down on our ability to harness the power of the sun and grow an ambitious reserve of solar power. It means saying no to drilling in our ocean waters and instead capturing the winds blowing off our coasts to jumpstart a responsibly developed offshore wind industry here in New York. It means moving beyond the decaying transportation systems of the past and tackling New York City’s traffic woes—and the harmful emissions that come with it—through a much-need congestion pricing plan. And it means reducing the plastic waste—from bags to bottles and straws—that clog up our waterways, litter our beaches and endanger wildlife.

There’s also enormous potential in the year ahead to embrace fossil fuel divestment, food waste recycling, water affordability, protections for pollinators like bees and butterflies, and a ban on fracking waste.

We are encouraged by Governor Cuomo’s announcement yesterday that he will take decisive action on the blight of plastic bag pollution and call for a ban—it’s our hope that will also go a step further, to aggressively spark a shift to reusables, and champion a statewide fee on paper altogether.

We’ll be watching the Governor’s State of the Speech with great interest and hope that he seizes this moment to build a better future for our children and grandchildren.

About the Authors

Rich Schrader

New York Political Director, NY Regional, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.