ALBANY, NY (05/11/2023) (readMedia)-- So far this year, Governor Hochul has announced an estimated $800 million plus in taxpayer spending for projects related to costs from climate-related damages and resiliency projects. While the bills pile up for taxpayers, the industry responsible for this mess is making record profits. Coming off of last year's record oil profits, on Tuesday, Aramco – the last of the top Big Oil companies to announce its 2023 Q1 profits – announced $31.88 billion, higher than expected. The top 3 U.S. Big Oil companies – Exxon, Shell, and Chevron – each earned more in Q1 of 2023 than their record-breaking profits for the same period in 2022.
Blair Horner, Executive Director of NYPIRG, issued the following statement:
"New Yorkers are forking over a whopping more than $800 million for climate-related damages and resiliency projects and that's just over the last five months. As everyday New Yorkers foot the bill for Big Oil's mess, they face utility rate hikes just in time for a scorching summer of choosing between everyday necessities and keeping cool. And it will be another hot one due to Big Oil's decades of undermining climate science and using its wealth and political muscle to block science-based environmental and public health measures. New Yorkers can't afford it.
Meanwhile, the Big Oil companies still driving the climate catastrophe are raking in huge amounts of cash and stuffing shareholders' pockets on their way to another year of record-breaking profits. It doesn't have to be that way.
The Climate Change Superfund Act, already moving in the Senate, is the obvious solution. If Governor Hochul and the State Assembly want to deal with affordability and the climate crisis, they must pass the Climate Change Superfund Act and make corporate climate polluters - not hardworking New Yorkers - pay."
After reviewing Governor Hochul's news releases, the group identified $800 million plus in projects related to costs from climate damages. But New Yorkers' climate change bill doesn't stop with this year's nearly $1 billion bill. The Long Island Regional Planning Council is projecting $75 to $100 billion in taxpayer funds for new roads and other infrastructure improvements, thanks to worsening storms and sea level rise. And a new study from NYS Comptroller DiNapoli found that over a ten-year period (the last five and next five years), 55% of New York localities' municipal spending outside of NYC was or will be related to climate change. Separately, the State Comptroller's office looked at New York City's FY 2023 budget and found that the City plans to spend $829 million on projects fully intended for climate change adaptation and resilience just this year. The City also plans to spend an additional $1.3 billion on projects that are partially for these purposes.
"In just the first five months of this year, the Governor has announced more than 800 million dollars in spending to protect New York from the growing climate emergency. That's 800 million dollars paid by New York taxpayers, and it doesn't include the billions more being spent by localities, businesses, and individuals to prepare for and recover from extreme weather and other climate-related damage," said Senator Liz Krueger. "Meanwhile, Big Oil – who caused this mess in the first place – are laughing all the way to the bank. I believe it is our responsibility as legislators, before we ask taxpayers to pick up the tab, to first go after those responsible for creating the problem. There's no question that someone will have to pay these costs; the only question before us in Albany is who – Big Oil, or our constituents?"
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said: "Once again this year, big oil is raking in enormous profits. After making a record-breaking $161 billion in profits last year, in Q1 this year Saudi Aramco made almost $32 billon. US based companies Exxon Mobil, Shell, and Chevron also cleared records of profits last year and are already making astronomical profits this year, with Exxon Mobil earning $11.43 billion in Q1 profits, more than double from last year, and Shell and Chevron recording $9.6 billion and $6.57 billion Q1 profits respectively. Estimates are that New Yorkers have already been on the hook for over $800 million in climate change related costs this year. Yet, the parties most responsible aren't being charged a cent. The big oil companies are most responsible for climate change, they should be required to clean up their mess."
"When will New York State's largest and most egregious polluters, major oil companies, be held accountable for the harm they've caused? Right now, New Yorkers are the ones who pay... and we pay double. Working people are the ones who bear the burden of tax increases to prevent our state's infrastructure from crumbling from damages sustained during ever-worsening storms and again, steeply, in terms of poor health and lost lives due to polluted air, a superheated atmosphere, and extreme weather. The Climate Superfund Act would finally make polluters-rather than working New Yorkers-pay for the mess they've made," said Stephan Edel, Coalition Coordinator, NY Renews.
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."
The Act was included in the Senate One-House budget bill and has already passed the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee. Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins indicated support for making polluters pay earlier last week, saying on the Senate Floor:
"We will never burden everyday New Yorkers in our climate fight, or ask them to give up more than our greatest polluters."