August 8, 2022

Hochul signs off on package of labor-backed environmental bills

ALBANY — Gov. Hochul signed a trio of bills Tuesday meant to strengthen the state’s commitment to clean energy development while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring fair pay for workers.

The new laws will boost efficiency standards for both buildings and appliances, expand thermal energy networks and strengthen clean energy labor standards as New York seeks to reach strict climate goals.

“We are the first generation to really feel the effects of climate change. We’re also the last ones that can do anything about it,” the governor said during a signing ceremony in Brooklyn where she was joined by state lawmakers, labor leaders and climate activists. “That’s the weight that’s on our shoulders, and that’s why New York will continue leading our nation into the clean energy future.”

The Advanced Building Codes, Appliance and Equipment Efficiency Standards Act will ensure building codes are in line with the state’s climate timeline and also establishes higher standards for appliances, equipment or fixtures that consume energy, including TVs, computers and lighting.

A second bill allows public utilities to own and operate thermal energy networks as well as supply distributed thermal energy with oversight from the Public Service Commission.

The third measure will ensure renewable energy projects are held to the state’s prevailing wage standards, meaning workers will be paid a living, competitive wage.

“Putting prevailing wages and organized labor at the helm of our State’s transition to renewable energy will allow New York to lift up communities with family-sustaining wages while leading on our efforts to tackle the climate crisis,” Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) said.

The bills were approved by the Legislature before last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Hochul, noting actions taken by the state to strengthen gun laws and ensure abortion access in response to other recent rulings by conservative-led court, said New York will continue to work on reducing carbon and building up renewables.

“Here in New York, we are not letting the Supreme Court block our goals or our bold ambition for our state,” she said.

Under the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York is attempting to achieve a mandated goal of a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040 after attaining 70% renewable energy generation by 2030.

The statute requires the near total decarbonization of the state’s economy by 2050.

Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, applauded Hochul for signing off on the new measures, saying they will help New York attain the goals set in the CLCPA.

“This legislation will ensure more efficient buildings and appliances, along with an innovative approach paving the way for utilities to build emissions-free ways to heat and cool our homes and buildings, we are providing enormous cost and greenhouse gas savings for New Yorkers,” she said.

Hochul has taken some heat from environmental groups for not yet signing off on a bill approved by the Dem-led Legislature that would place a two-year moratorium on crypto mining facilities in the state.

Last week, state officials declined to renew an air permit for an upstate crypto mining operation, arguing the facility’s power consumption is not in line with the New York’s climate goals.

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