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Despite budget constraints, NY shows continuing commitment to combat climate change

April 23, 2020
By: Connor LaVelle

Although uncertainty and fear about the state’s fiscal situation continue to grow, New York’s 2021 budget stands strong in its commitment to deliver a green economy and resilient communities, preserve natural ecosystems and ensure access to clean drinking water. The State of New York has recently approved its budget for the fiscal year of 2021, which includes investments focusing on environmental resilience, conservation, green energy, and carbon-free transportation.

To continue the state’s commitment towards renewable energy development, the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) will be tasked with administering the newly created Clean Energy Resources Development and Incentives Program to “work with its state partners and local communities to rapidly advance new ‘Build-Ready’ projects, prioritizing the development of existing or abandoned commercial sites, brownfields, landfills, former industrial sites, and abandoned or underutilized sites. Once sites are fully permitted and developed, NYSERDA will competitively auction the developed sites, bundled with contracts for renewable energy payments, to provide a fully de-risked package for private developers to construct and operate projects at these sites.” This program is part of the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act, passed as part of the enacted budget that will “advance renewable energy, drive statewide economic growth and create jobs.” In addition to the Clean Energy Resources Development and Incentives Program, the act also establishes the Office of Renewable Energy Siting, which will be able to provide a consolidated review of renewable energy developments while also providing a forum for community input into the decision making process.

With the passage of the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act, New York continues its goal to receive 70 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030 and to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector by 2040, goals originally established in the state’s 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

The governor’s $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act aims to “reduce flood risk, invest in resilient infrastructure and revitalize critical fish and wildlife habitats.” By working with both the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Environmental Protection Fund, New York would begin “connecting streams and waterways, right-sizing culverts and dams, restoring freshwater and tidal wetlands, reclaiming natural floodplains, restocking shellfish populations and upgrading fish hatcheries, preserving open space, conserving more forest areas, replanting more trees, reducing contamination from agricultural and storm water runoff, and expanding renewable energy.” Implementation of the Mother Nature Bond Act will be decided by the citizens of New York as the issue is put forth to voters this November.

Despite the growing deficit that has accompanied the fight against the spread of COVID-19, the state remains committed to combating climate change and investing in conservation. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state was already facing a $6 billion dollar deficit. As the coronavirus outbreak has worsened, New York State Comptroller Tom Di Napoli projected the deficit to grow by $4-7 billion. While the fate of some environmental efforts such as the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act will ultimately be decided by the voters, the state of New York has established a clear directive that environmental protections must remain a top priority going forward.

The FY 2021 New York Enacted Budget may be accessed here, while the Environment, Energy, and Agriculture section can be found here.

New Yorkstate budget, clean energy