NEW YORK NOW – While the head of the state Department of Environmental Conservation doesn’t have a position on a controversial climate bill under discussion in the state Legislature, he says the state needs to find revenue from somewhere to achieve its environmental goals.
When asked his position on the Climate and Community Investment Act in a recent interview, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said funding will be crucial moving forward.
“I won’t get ahead of the Climate Action Council, and certainly won’t get ahead of the Legislature and the governor on the CCIA,” Seggos said. “I will say that we do need to find a way to pay for all the transportation, housing, industrial changes that the state will undertake.”
A new climate law approved by the state Legislature last year requires the state to transition to 70 percent renewable energy by 2030, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050.
If passed, the CCIA would impose a $55 fee on fossil fuel companies for each ton of greenhouse gas emissions. Advocates with NY Renews, a coalition of environmental groups, estimate that the fee would generate $10 to $15 billion annually for the first 10 years.
Republicans in the state Legislature have spoken out against the measure in recent weeks, calling it a ‘gas tax,’ and have said that increased costs for fossil fuel companies will lead to increased costs for consumers.
Climate activists say that any costs that roll down to the consumers would be offset by rebates for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers, which is what a third of the revenue would be spent on.
Seggos says that, ultimately, the viability of that fee is something that will have to be considered by the state’s recently formed Climate Action Council, of which he is co-chair.
“This is exactly why this body exists, to source out all the potential fixes for emissions, but also to figure out how we’ll be paying for it,” Seggos said.
The bill remains in the Environmental Conservation Committee in both houses of the state Legislature. If it passes those committees, it will then go to the floor for a vote.