ALBANY, NY (02/17/2023) (readMedia)-- Yesterday, 200+ groups, including key labor unions, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie. As the NYS legislature writes their one house budget bills, the groups urged them to make big oil companies, not taxpayers, financially responsible for the growing climate damages facing the state.
The groups write, "This bill, S.2129 (Krueger) and A.3351 (Dinowitz), will ensure that the oil, coal, and gas industries are held financially responsible for the rising costs of the climate catastrophe that all of us already are-and will continue-enduring. Those industries' decisions led to global warming; justice requires that they-not New York's other taxpayers-be financially responsible for the tragically enormous climate crisis impacts that they created."
Read the full letter attached and below.
The legislation, The Climate Change Superfund Act, assesses the largest greenhouse gas emitters to pay $3 billion annually for the next 25 years to offset the expected tens of billions of dollars in expected climate damages that will have to be paid by the state. The legislation is modeled on the existing toxics superfund law (which deals with land and drinking water contamination) that makes polluters financially responsible for the environmental damages that they have caused.
2022 was a record profit year for big oil, with the top companies' combined profits reaching an astounding $215 billion. In order to make these massive profits, big oil companies blamed the war in Ukraine, using the human rights crisis to price-gouge consumers. Meanwhile, they delivered unprecedented returns to shareholders while doing little to address the climate crisis they knowingly created. Starting in the 1970s, scientists working for Exxon made "remarkably accurate projections of just how much burning fossil fuels would warm the planet." Yet for years, "the oil giant publicly cast doubt on climate science, and cautioned against any drastic move away from burning fossil fuels, the main driver of climate change."
Big oil is at fault for climate change, and it can certainly afford the costs - which are uniquely necessary - and expensive - in New York. A new report from Rebuild by Design "Atlas of Disaster: New York State'' identifies the impacts of recent climate disasters across New York State at the county level, for the years 2011-2021. The data shows that every single county in New York has experienced a federal climate disaster between 2011-2021, with 16 having five or more disasters during that time. More than 100 New Yorkers died as a result of climate-driven disasters. In a separate report, Rebuild by Design estimated that the climate costs to New York could be $55 billion by the end of this decade. Furthermore, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated that it would cost $52 billion to protect NY Harbor alone. And while storms get worse, sea levels are rising and groundwater poses a higher risk of flooding - and we don't even know how much yet. Clearly, New York is facing staggering – and growing – climate costs.
The Climate Change Superfund Act isn't just necessary – it's popular. According to a poll from Data for Progress, 89% of New Yorkers support fossil fuel companies covering at least some of the cost for climate damages. These costs wouldn't fall back on consumers, according to an analysis from the think tank Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU Law.
The Climate Change Superfund Act (S.2129 Krueger/A3351 Dinowitz) requires companies most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions to pay a total of $75 billion over twenty-five years ($3 billion annually) for the environmental damage they have done. The funds allow New Yorkers to invest in massive and life-saving infrastructure improvements, upgrade stormwater drainage and sewage treatment systems, prepare the power grid for severe weather, create systems to protect people from extreme heat, and respond to environmental and public health threats.
Dear Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie,
We write on behalf of the undersigned environmental organizations, such as Environmental Advocates and NYPIRG, environmental justice organizations, such as WE ACT for Environmental Justice and NY Renews, labor unions, such as District Council 37 and UAW Region 9A, faith-based groups, such as Sisters of Mercy and Interfaith Climate Justice Community of WNY, and regional groups such as 350Brooklyn and the Long Island Progressive Coalition. We request the inclusion of the Climate Change Superfund Act in your one house budget bills and your support for its inclusion in the final FY 2023-2024 Executive Budget. This bill, S.2129 (Krueger) and A.3351 (Dinowitz), will ensure that the oil, coal, and gas industries are held financially responsible for the rising costs of the climate catastrophe that all of us already are-and will continue-enduring. Those industries' decisions led to global warming; justice requires that they-not New York's other taxpayers-be financially responsible for the tragically enormous climate crisis impacts that they created.
As you know, New York State-and the nation-is facing an existential threat posed by a rapidly heating planet. The climate changes resulting from the burning of fossil fuels are costing New Yorkers tens of billions of dollars in damages due to extremely powerful storms and flooding, escalating and frequent heat waves, and increased air pollution. Moreover, oil, coal, and gas companies are now benefiting from windfall profits as consumers pay higher heating and transportation costs. It's time for some of those profits to be directed to protection, mitigation and remedial programs to address damages caused by the climate crisis. Last week, BP – the sixth of the world's biggest oil companies to share its earnings – announced it raked in a record $27.7 billion in 2022.1 This announcement brings the top oil companies' combined 2022 profits to a record-shattering $215 billion,2 allowing them to deliver unprecedented returns to shareholders while doing little to address the climate crisis they knowingly created.
The United Nations Secretary-General Anto?nio Guterres said it best this year:
"It is immoral for oil and gas companies to be making record profits from the current energy crisis on the backs of the poorest, at a massive cost to the climate. This grotesque greed is punishing the poorest and most vulnerable people while destroying our only home. The combined profits of the largest energy companies in the first quarter of this year are close to $100 billion. I urge governments to tax these excessive profits, and use the funds to support the most vulnerable people through these difficult times."
The climate crisis is happening now and updated data show continued increases in sea level, heat waves, wildfires, and many other impacts. The burning of fossil fuels has had severe adverse effects on New Yorkers, especially in environmental justice and low-income communities, such as extreme weather events that cost too many New Yorkers' their lives and results in billions of dollars in damages. For example, "Super Storm Sandy" caused $19 billion in damages.4 Hurricane Irene devastated the state, resulting in over $1.3 billion in damages.5 Tropical Storm Lee brought drenching rains that caused over $1 billion in damages.6 Last year Hurricane Henri drenched the State with record-busting torrents of rain, and then Hurricane Ida shattered those records, causing devastating damage and tragically drowning New Yorkers in their own cars and homes. Recently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' plan of how to protect the downstate region from future storms reported that it will cost a staggering $52 billion.
Blistering heat waves have smashed temperature records this summer across the country, scorching crops, fueling wildfires and killing people. Extreme heat is the number one weather-related killer in America, responsible for over 130 deaths in New York City per year, a number that could increase to more than 3,300 deaths annually by 2080 if action is not taken.9 The impacts are most severe in frontline disadvantaged communities, and other vulnerable populations, such as senior citizens and people with chronic illnesses. The escalating extreme heat necessitates urgent investments in mitigation and a substantial increase in medical care due to increases in illnesses.
It is clear from historical records that for the better half of the late 20th Century, oil companies knew burning fossil fuels was warming the planet. Nevertheless, starting in the 1980s, the industry championed an aggressive climate change denial campaign opposing any policy proposals and undermining climate science. Their success in bamboozling many Americans has pushed the planet to the brink.
New York State must take the nation's lead in developing and implementing a responsible and fair approach to fund critically important mitigation, adaptation, and community protection programs to respond to accelerating storms, floods, extreme heat, and other serious impacts of global warming. The "Climate Change Superfund Act" ensures that those responsible for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions-the oil, gas, and coal industries-are responsible for the state's climate-related environmental costs.
New York has a strong history of holding polluting industries accountable for the contamination they created. Both the Federal and State Superfund and the Oil Spill Fund are based on the "polluter pays principle," with funding coming from annual fees placed on the oil and chemical industry for hazardous waste generated, and for their use of toxic chemicals and petroleum. These precedents provide a fitting and appropriate model for the fossil fuel industry-climate crisis contributors should be responsible for the costs related to the growing catastrophe from GHG emissions. There is broad public support for the "polluter pays" principle. National polling by the Center for Climate Integrity found 70 percent of Americans support holding climate polluters financially responsible for programs to fight climate change, jumping to 82 percent when respondents were informed of the fossil fuel industry's deception and denial campaign.
The Climate Change Superfund Act requires companies most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions to pay a total of $75 billion over twenty-five years ($3 billion annually) for the environmental damage they have done. The Act extends the "polluter pays" principle to greenhouse gas pollution released into the atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuel, the primary cause of climate change from global warming. The bill states that the funds can be spent on job-creating infrastructure damage and community protection due to the climate crisis. Specifically, infrastructure projects that are "designed to avoid, moderate, repair, or adapt to negative impacts caused by climate change, and to assist communities, households, and businesses in preparing for future climate change-driven disruptions." 11Two concerns that have been raised about the Act are whether the state has the authority to enact it and whether the costs will be passed onto the consuming public. You will find analyses by the think tank, Institute for Public Integrity, that answer both of those concerns at https://www.nypirg.org/climatechange/ Put simply, the state has the authority and the costs.
The climate crisis poses an immediate, grave threat to the state's communities, health, environment, and economy. NYPIRG urges that the Legislature include the Climate Change Superfund Act in the Assembly and Senate one house budget proposals this session. The legislation would make New York a national leader with this first-in-the-nation, just and fair approach to ensure the state's efforts to respond to global warming are appropriately funded by the industry that profited from and is responsible for the climate crisis. The bill is included in the NY Renews coalition's prominent Climate, Jobs & Justice legislative package.
Our organizations strongly urge you to include S.2129 and A.3351 in your one house budget bill, and to support its inclusion in the FY 2023-2024 Executive Budget. Thank you for considering our request.
119 State Street Corp. 350Brooklyn
369th Veterans Association Adaptive Sports Foundation ALIGN
All Our Energy
All Souls NYC Peace & Justice
Alliance for a Green Economy
Alliance of Public Retiree Organizations American Military Retirees Association American Ex-Prisoners of War AMVETS
AU Environmental Action Coalition
Black Veterans for Social Justice
Blinded Veterans Association
Bronx Climate Justice North
Bronx Council for Environmental Quality
Bronx River - Sound Shore Audubon Society Building Performance Contractors Assoc. NYS Campaign for Renewable Energy
Carbon Tax Center
Carroll Gardens Association, Inc.
Catholic War Veterans
Center for Global Affairs, NYU
Center for Independence of Disabled, NY
Church Women United in New York State
Citizen Action of New York
Citizens' Climate Lobby – New York City Citizens' Climate Lobby - New York State Citizens' Environmental Coalition
Clean + Healthy NY
Clean Air Coalition of Greater Ravena-Coeymans Clean Air Coalition of WNY
Climate Caucus of West Harlem Progressive Democrats
Capital Region Chapter Climate Reality Project, Finger Lakes Greater Region New York Chapter, Hudson Valley Chapter Climate Reality Project, Long Island Chapter Climate Reality Project, Climate Reality Project Metro NY City, NY State Chapters Coalition Climate Reality Project, Westchester Co. Chapter Climate Reality Project, Western NY Chapter
Climate Families NYC
Climate Solutions Accelerator of Genesee-Finger Lakes Region
Coalition Against Nukes
Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline Coalition for Outreach, Policy & Education Coalition of Concerned Medical Professionals Coalition to Protect New York
Coastal Research & Educ. Society of Long Island Combat Infantrymen's Association
Community Advocates for a Sustainable Environment
Communities for Local Power
Concerned Citizens About NL Industries Concerned Health Professionals of New York Council 82 AFSCME Veterans Committee County Veterans Service Officers Assoc. of NYS CSEA Veterans Committee
Deep Green Resistance
Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society
Disabled American Veterans
District Council 37
Divest New York
Dominican Sisters in Committed Collaboration Don't Waste New York
Drawdown New York City
Earthkeeper Health Resources
Extinction Rebellion Mid-Hudson
Fleet Reserve Association
Food & Water Watch
For the Many
Forest Hills Green Team
Fossil Free Tompkins
Free the People WNY
Gas Free Seneca
Good Shepherd Intern. Justice Peace Office NY Grassroots Environmental Education
Gray Panthers NYC
Green Education and Legal Fund
Green Map System
Green Party of Monroe County
Green Party of New York
Green Sanctuary Team at Albany UU
Human Impacts Institute
Hells Kitchen Democrats
Hudson River Audubon Society of Westchester Hudson River Sloop Clearwater
Human Impacts Institute
Interfaith Climate Justice Community of WNY Inwood Indivisible
Ironworks Software Inc.
Jewish Climate Action Network NYC
Jewish War Veterans
Katal Center for Equity, Health & Justice
Korean War Veterans Association
Lights Out Norlite
Long Island Progressive Coalition
League of Women Voters of NYS
LWV Cortland County
Marine Corps League NY Dept.
Military Order of the Purple Heart
Melissa Carlson Architect
Metro NY Catholic Climate Movement
Mothers Out Front NYS
New Paltz Climate Action Coalition
New York City Chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby New York City Friends of Clearwater
New York Climate Action Group
New York Climate Advocacy Project
New York Communities for Change
New York Environmental Law & Justice Project New York Progressive Action Network
New York Public Interest Research Group
New York Renews
New York State Council of Veterans' Organizations New Yorkers for Clean Power
North American Climate, Conservation and Environment
North Bronx Racial Justice
North Country Earth Action
North Country NYPAN
Northern Catskills Audubon Society
Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. of NY
North Shore Audubon Society
North Star Fund
Nuclear Information & Resource Service Nurses Rise-Nurses for Safe Water
NYPAN Environmental Committee
Occupy Bergen County
Operation Resilient Living & Innovation Plus Operation Splash
Partnership for the Public Good
Peace Action Bay Ridge
Peace Action New York State
PEF Veterans Committee
People for a Healthy Environment
People of Albany United for Safe Energy Peoples Climate Movement NY
Queens Climate Project
Reach Out America
Renewable Energy Long Island
Rensselaer Environmental Coalition
ReWild Long Island
Rise & Resist
Rivers & Mountains GreenFaith Circle
Riverside Salem UCC/DoC
Rochester Mennonite Fellowship
Safe Energy Rights Group
SANE Energy Project
Sanford-Oquaga Area Conc. Citizens
Seneca Lake Guardian
Seventh Generation, Inc.
Sheridan Hollow Alliance for Renewable Energy Sisters of Charity Federation
Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt
Sisters of the Good Shepherd Province of New York /Toronto
Sixth St. Community Center
Solidarity Committee of Capital District
South Asian Fund Educ. Scholarship & Training South Bronx Unite
Staten Island Urban Center
Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline
Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion
Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development Sunrise Movement NYC
SUNY New Paltz Environmental Task Force
Sure We Can, Brooklyn
Sustainable Finger Lakes
The Retired Enlisted Association
Third Act NYC
Thomas Berry Forum at Iona Univ.
TIAA-Divest! from Climate Destruction
Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative Ulster Activists
United Auto Workers Region 9 A
United Federation of Teachers Veterans Committee United Neighbors Conc. About GE Dewey Loeffel United for Action
United For Clean Energy
United Spinal Association
Uptown Progressive Action
Upper Nyack Green Committee
Upper Green Side
UU Congregation of Binghamton, Green Sanctuary Veterans of Foreign War NYS
Veterans For Peace
WE ACT for Environmental Justice
West Branch Conservation Association
Western New York Environmental Alliance WESPAC Foundation