ALBANY, NY (02/09/2023) (readMedia)-- This week, BP – the sixth of the world's biggest oil companies to share its 2022 earnings – announced it raked in a record $27.7 billion in 2022. This announcement brings the top oil companies' combined 2022 profits to a record-shattering $215 billion, allowing them to deliver unprecedented returns to shareholders while doing little to address the climate crisis they knowingly created. That's why a coalition of environmental groups and lawmakers are calling on Governor Hochul to make the world's largest oil companies pay for the staggering infrastructure costs of dealing with climate change.
The Climate Change Superfund Act (S.2129 Krueger/A.3351 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. In support of the groundbreaking legislation, consumer advocate Ralph Nader said:
"Giant greedy fossil fuel companies have for decades knowingly profiteered and profited from the clear and present threat posed by the climate crisis. Now they are, as is their want, gouging consumers while raking in such record profits that ExxonMobil is buying back $50 billion of its stock. The disaster of climate catastrophe is of their making. They knew of the dangers, and instead of alerting the world, they did everything they could to cover up the approaching devastation.
Now it's time to make them pay for accelerating climate violence, causing more severe and deadly storms, wildfires, and flooding and sticking taxpayers with the bill. Instead of allowing them to keep their record profits, they should pay for the disaster that they caused. New York can lead the nation by putting the cost burden for the climate disaster on the corporations who caused it, not the people."
In order to make these massive profits, big oil companies blamed the war in Ukraine, using the human rights crisis to price-gouge consumers, resulting in:
"No matter what actions we take to tackle the climate crisis going forward, New York State faces billions of dollars in damages over the next three decades from baked-in climate-driven weather events. The question we face in Albany is who should pay to deal with those threats – taxpayers, municipalities, and New York businesses, or the biggest oil companies that got us here in the first place? As their mind-boggling profits demonstrate, they have the money. So let's apply the most basic principle we all learned in kindergarten: if you make a mess, clean it up. Let's make polluters, not New Yorkers, pay for the problem their pollution caused," said Senator Liz Krueger.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said: "The callous disregard for our climate and our people shown by oil companies is appalling. For generations, there has been a concerted effort to cover-up climate science in order to protect the immense profits of oil companies - putting us on the precipice of global catastrophe from devastating storms, wildfires, droughts, extreme temperatures, and more. Just this year, under the auspices of global conflict in Ukraine and supply chain disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, oil companies repeatedly gouged consumers in order to generate record profits to line their own pockets. There once was a time in our nation's history where Americans would come together in times of crisis to defeat societal challenges. But oil company executives seem to have decided that they don't need to care about anybody except themselves. It's time to make polluters pay and enact the Climate Change Superfund Act."
"While these mega-corporations celebrate their most profitable year ever, it's going to cost at least $100 billion over the next ten years to clean up the mess they made, and everyday people shouldn't have to foot the bill. It's that simple. Governor Hochul and Albany leadership can lead the nation by making climate polluters pay," said Blair Horner, Executive Director of NYPIRG.
Climate change resiliency measures are uniquely necessary - and expensive - in New York. Governor Hochul just announced she's releasing $100 million in funds to roads damaged by climate change-driven extreme weather – funds that could instead be paid by big oil.
A recent report from Rebuild by Design gives a county-by-county breakdown of storm recovery risk and costs across New York State. In a separate report, the group 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 New York Times recently reported that 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."
Current research shows that climate change has made deadly storms more frequent and at least 10% stronger. In 2021, Hurricane Ida killed at least 43 New Yorkers and surrounding states. In 2011, Hurricane Irene killed 5. Superstorm Sandy killed 48 in 2012. But it's not just severe storms taking New Yorker's lives – according to a new study from the American Heart Association, extremely cold weather increases the risk of heart failure by 37 percent. Extreme heat increases risk of heart failure by 12 percent.
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/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.
In December, 200+ groups including NYPIRG, WE ACT, Food & Water Watch, and League of Women Voters NYS sent a letter to Governor Hochul urging her to include the Climate Change Superfund Act in the executive budget. In their letter, the groups wrote 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."