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Bill ending nearly all greenhouse gases in New York nears approval

ALBANY – Environmental advocates are hailing the likely approval of a bill that sets an ambitious goal of eliminating nearly all human-generated pollution in New York by 2050.

The governor and legislative leaders this week reached agreement on the Climate and Community Protection Act, which has languished in the State Legislature for several years.

The bill’s boosters say its passage, before the end of the legislative session, would position New York as the nation’s leader in combating climate change and ending a reliance on fossil fuels.

“Our goal from day one was to reclaim New York's legacy as the progressive capital that showed the other states and the country the way forward,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a radio interview Tuesday. “I think climate change is the issue of our lifetime frankly, and the legacy that we leave our children.”

Backers say it’s important for New York to take the lead on this issue at a time when the federal government is ignoring the effects of climate change.

The new law would require 70% of electricity used in the state to come from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydro by 2030 – and 100% a decade later.

The act also sets the goal of eliminating 85% of greenhouse gas emissions – from a baseline of 1990 levels – from the state’s entire economy within 30 years.

“It will completely impact the way everybody lives, works and plays,” said Peter M. Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York.

This will lead to a shift toward electric cars and mass transit and away from gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles; change how people heat, cool and power their homes; and drive the industrial and agricultural sectors, in particular, to limit their emissions, Iwanowicz said.

The law imposes enforceable deadlines for making these changes and sets aside a portion of the state climate fund for investment in the communities most affected by climate change and pollution.

An earlier version had required the prevailing wage be paid to workers on projects receiving state energy funding, but that’s been removed because it’s being addressed in separate legislation.

The legislation also includes reporting requirements and the formation of a climate action council and reporting requirements.

The New York State Business Council had strongly opposed the original draft of the climate change act, saying it was unrealistic, expensive and harmful to businesses in the state.

Changes to the bill include additional input from the business community, notably manufacturing interests and a requirement that affordability be considered as a factor as provisions of the bill are put in place, officials said.

Those changes make the bill more palatable to the Business Council’s members, but the group was waiting to see what the final version of the bill looks like before committing to support the legislation, said Darren Suarez, the group's senior director of government affairs.

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