Governor Hochul Delivers State of the State Address

After the hottest year on record and a seemingly unending string of extreme weather events, it is time for New York to pivot from envisioning climate solutions to implementing policies that will deliver tangible results and the environmental priorities that Governor Hochul laid out in her State of the State address have the potential for real impact and can be implemented swiftly with support from the legislature.  

New York’s gas pipeline system is an antiquated, non-renewable heating source that, if left unchecked, will contribute to rising consumer energy prices over the coming years and put a stranglehold on the state’s fight against climate change, which is why we were especially pleased that the Governor voiced her support for elements of the NY HEAT Act. This measure would push gas utilities carefully in a new direction and enable them to comply with New York’s Climate Act, all while avoiding billions of dollars in costly new infrastructure investments and helping customers switch to affordable and reliable zero-emissions heating and cooling. Governor Hochul’s support for repealing the 100-ft. rule and the obligation to serve is a promising step and we will fight for the NY HEAT act to be included in this year’s final budget.

Another major choke-point in our transition to a clean energy economy is transmission, so we were thrilled with the Governor’s “Renewable Action Through Project Interconnection and Deployment” proposal, which will help streamline the siting process for transmission lines so the infrastructure is in place to efficiently deliver clean wind and solar energy to homes and businesses across the state. Moving the Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) into the Department of Public Service (DPS) would also be a positive step as it would to enable ORES to utilize the skill and experience of DPS staff to speed up the siting of renewable energy and transmission.

At a time of economic uncertainty, the governor introduced several measures that will make clean energy more affordable, including the “Statewide Solar for All” initiative which will benefit low-income ratepayers, the “Smart Energy Savings Initiative” that will lower energy costs for owners of EVs and heat pumps, and the  “NY Grid of the Future” initiative which will utilize modern grid monitoring technology and virtual power plants to reduce emissions and shrink utility bills. 

We will not meet our emissions reduction targets if we don’t do more to clean up the transportation sector, which is why passing a Clean Fuel Standard is a top NYLCV priority in 2024. A CFS would immediately cut air pollution, lower climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions, and improve public health for millions of New Yorkers. While we appreciate the governor’s announcement of a study, it must not delay the passage of this important legislation, which has already been recommended by the Climate Action Council and passed by the Senate.

On one hand we need to enact policies that will turn the tide of climate change, and on the other we need to deal with the impacts that we are already experiencing, and here the governor proposed several measures, including investing in disaster response, updating the Coastal Erosion Hazard Area Maps, and boosting flood-control structures and other green infrastructure projects. 

Clean drinking water is a fundamental right. While we are pleased the governor is increasing grant availability for rural and disadvantaged communities and investing in clean water measures to protect vulnerable lakes and watersheds in the state, we must also ensure the Clean Water Infrastructure Act is fully funded at $600 million in this year’s budget to continue the success of the program, secure union jobs, and take full advantage of federal infrastructure funding.  

Part of preparing for the impacts of climate change is empowering New Yorkers with the resources they need for this new reality. One of the gravest threats we face is coastal flooding, and so we are pleased the governor will allocate Bond Act funds for voluntary buyouts, an indispensable tool for people who live in flood-prone communities. 

Trees are critical components of the climate fight and we applaud the governor’s goal of planting 25 million new trees across the state by 2033. 25 million trees will capture a lot of carbon, and if done right, they will be distributed in a way that provides much-needed cover for the most vulnerable communities and reduces the heat island effect that is so prominent in urban areas.  

The environmental priorities the governor spoke about today are a positive step forward, however, there is so much more that needs to be done. We look forward to advocating for a robust and effective cap-and-invest program, a clean fuel standard for transportation, and increasing offshore wind energy targets, among the other policies outlined in our 2024 State Agenda.  

01.16.24 // AUTHOR: Devin Callahan //