ALBANY, NY (03/14/2023) (readMedia)-- Today, the NYS Senate released its "one-house" budget proposals. The Senate plan includes a version of the Climate Change Superfund Act (S.2192 Krueger/A.3351 Dinowitz) - Department of Environmental Conservation, Article VII, New Part JJJ. Blair Horner, Executive Director of NYPIRG, issued the following statement:
"Today the State Senate has taken the historic step of moving New York one step closer to becoming the first state in the nation to make Big Oil pay for the climate damage they've inflicted on us for decades. They can afford it: Aramco just announced it made $161 billion in profits in 2022, nearly 50% more than the previous year, bringing the top oil companies' 2022 total profits to an astounding $376 billion. Meanwhile, everyday people are forced to choose between eating and heating. Now it's up to the Assembly and Governor to stand with New Yorkers – not the fossil fuel industry – and make polluters pay by including the Climate Change Superfund Act in the final budget."
Last year, a federal proposal to make polluters pay championed by U.S. Reps Bowman and Nadler (and U.S. Senator Van Hollen, MD) received support from over 40 members of the House of Representatives. But the proposal didn't make it through Congress, and NYS now has the opportunity to step in where the federal government has failed and be the first legislative body to enact such legislation. Three other states - Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont - are also considering similar legislation to make climate polluters pay.
The legislation 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 state taxpayers and ratepayers. 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. 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. 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. Earlier this month, 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."
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.