ALBANY, NY (04/17/2023) (readMedia)-- Today, the NYS Senate Environmental Conservation Committee passed the Climate Change Superfund Act (S.2192 Krueger/A.3351 Dinowitz), after the NYS Senate included the Act in its one-house budget. Now, it's up to its Assembly counterpart to do the same. Blair Horner, Executive Director of NYPIRG, issued the following statement:
"Today the NYS Senate Environmental Conservation Committee moved NYS toward protecting ratepayers and taxpayers from the projected tens of billions of dollars the state will have to spend in climate damages. New York is now one step closer to becoming the first state in the nation to make Big Oil pay for the climate damage it's inflicted on us for decades. Big Oil can afford it: last year was its most profitable in history, with the top companies' combined total profits reaching an astounding $376 billion. As climate change inflicts more expensive damage on NYS every day and New Yorkers are already forced to choose between eating and heating, we urge the Assembly Environmental Committee to follow the Senate's lead. Stand with New Yorkers - not wealthy multinational fossil fuel companies - by making corporate climate polluters pay and moving the Climate Change Superfund Act. Governor Hochul and the Assembly must also follow the Senate's lead by including the Climate Change Superfund Act in the final budget"
The Climate Change Superfund Act is first-in-the-nation legislation to put Big Oil, who is still driving the climate crisis, on the hook for climate damages and resiliency. Currently, taxpayers are footing the bill for this mess. The legislation is modeled on the existing toxics superfund law (which deals with land and drinking water contamination) that makes corporate climate polluters financially responsible for the environmental damages that they have caused. These costs wouldn't fall back on consumers, according to an analysis from the think tank Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU Law.
2022 was a record profit year for big oil, with the top companies' combined profits reaching an astounding $376 billion. Those record profits allowed them to deliver unprecedented returns to shareholders while doing little to address the climate crisis they knew was coming, but did all they could to undermine climate action. 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. In that decade, more than 100 New Yorkers died as a result of climate-driven disasters. In 2022 that number grew exponentially when Winter Storm Elliot in Buffalo killed 39 people.
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. 200+ groups including key labor unions such as DC37 sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie urging them to include the bill in the one house budgets. In their letter, the groups write that the fossil fuel industry should be subject to the state's climate costs since their "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."