Climate and Community Investment Act: Two Perspectives

Much of the argument for a climate bill going through the legislature is about its cost to consumers. But supporters of the Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA) say some politicians and business organizations have been spreading misinformation.

Here is a little history:

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which passed in July 2019, sets one of the nation’s most aggressive climate targets.

It creates legally binding emissions reduction standards to transition New York completely from fossil fuels by 2050. Additionally, it requires that 40% of state climate and energy funding be invested in communities. environmental justice, primarily poor communities of color.

But realizing the lofty aspirations of the CLCPA requires funding for renewable energy and incentives to change behavior.

Both are in the CCIA, which the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Kevin Parker, today called a “logical next step.”

“It’s absolutely essential. New York State has the most aggressive climate targets in the country,” Parker said during a virtual press conference with the NY Renews clean energy coalition. “Not only does the CCIA provide an economic disincentive to produce carbon in New York, but it explains how New York could build a clean energy economy. There is a real serious economic opportunity here.

According to Parker, who chairs the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, there are 27 CCIA sponsors in the Senate and “many more” in the Assembly.

Wednesday’s virtual press conference was an opportunity for climate activists and CCIA supporters to tout the results of a new study released this week showing that 160,000 jobs would be created over the next 10 years in New York if the CCIA were to be implemented.

“These jobs in the report we publish are in a variety of sectors: construction, renewable energy, agriculture, public schools, care economy, efficiency, maintenance, professional services and transportation. “, explained Elizabeth Yeampierre of UPROSE.

But many Republican members of the New York Legislature and Business Council have argued that incentives to ditch carbon will come at a high cost. Such a cost? An increase of 55 cents per gallon of gasoline at the pump.

To be clear, there is no gasoline increase in the wording of the CCIA bill.

What is in the bill is a tax on carbon and other air pollutants that industrial polluters will have to pay.

The Business Council of New York State, as well as the Tax Foundation, predict that oil companies will pass these increased costs on to the consumer.

Extract from a press release from the Republican Assembly published on Wednesday:

“According to the Tax Foundation…this legislation would raise New York’s tax to 98.12 cents per gallon, an increase of more than 127%, and would make New York’s gasoline tax more than 57% higher than that of any other state.

Indeed, North Country state senator Dan Stec (R – Queensbury), who represents one of the most rural parts of the state (and one of the coldest), said capital tonight that the CCIA is “regressive”.

“It’s a very regressive way of doing business,” he said. “I mean, we’re supposed to be the most progressive state in the country and here we are. The people who are going to be hit hardest by this are the working class, the struggling families. »

But the bill’s advocates strongly disagree with that calculation and insist that groups, including the Business Council, are spreading misinformation. The reason given for the Business Council’s stance against the bill, according to members of NY Renews, is that the group’s chairman, Donna DeCarolis, is president of National Fuel Gas Corporation, one of the companies likely to see taxes. higher under the CCIA.

“Over the past few weeks, the Business Council and the GOP have been spreading misinformation saying it will drive up costs for New Yorkers, ignoring many of the bill’s provisions that will put money back in our pockets. “said Ryan Madden of the Long Island Progressive Coalition said capital tonight.

One such provision, according to NY Renews, would provide $1,100 rebate checks to every household in upstate New York earning less than $77,000 a year.

When asked to respond to the refund provision in the bill, Senator Dan Stec said he was unfamiliar with the provision and had to read the fine print.

Madden also challenges the idea that fossil fuel companies will automatically pass on higher costs to consumers.

” Let’s be clear. This (higher prices at the pump) is not inevitable. Fossil fuel companies are incredibly profitable and there is no reason to pass all the costs of doing business on to consumers,” he said.

capital tonight contacted the New York State Business Council for a response to Madden’s accusation.

“I haven’t calculated these costs because I believe they should be avoided,” said Ken Pokalsky, vice president of the Business Council. “I think people need to understand that state carbon targets won’t come free.”

As for the $1,100 rebate for upstate New York households earning less than $77,000 a year, Pokalsky is skeptical.

“The bill doesn’t say that, but I guess it’s possible,” he said.

Ken Pokalsky, vice president of the Business Council of New York State, released a statement in response to Madden’s accusation:

“Although we oppose the adoption of the CCIA, it is not primarily based on its fee structure. Frankly, if New York were to pass a carbon tax, we think it should be broad-based. But there is no doubt that the CCIA will lead to cost increases for New Yorkers. Even with its reimbursement scheme, there is no guarantee that eligible households or small businesses will be reinstated, and we believe many will not be under the CCIA’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ reimbursements.”

The legislative session ends on June 10.

Jill E. Washington