NEW YORK NOW – Republicans in the state Legislature voiced opposition Tuesday to the Climate and Community Investment Act, which would raise revenue by placing new fees on greenhouse gas emissions in New York.
Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt said he was concerned about a proposed fee in the legislation that would charge fossil fuel companies $55 per ton of greenhouse gases.
Ortt said that as of right now, the state’s ‘gas tax’ is the 7th highest in the country, and an additional fee would make it the highest. This additional fee, he added, would lead to increased transportation and heating costs for all New Yorkers, not just the ultra-wealthy.
The state’s current ‘gas tax’ is 43 cents per gallon, according to the Tax Foundation, a national tax research organization.
“This legislation will raise New York’s gas tax to 98.12 cents per gallon, an increase of more than 127%,” Ortt said. “And it would make New York’s gas tax more than 50% higher than any other state.”
Climate activists say that polluters should be held accountable, and the $55 fee would incentivize a move away from fossil fuels, toward clean energy, while also raising $10 to $15 billion in revenue annually for the first decade.
The CCIA is a follow-up to the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, or CLCPA.
The CLCPA laid out a number time-sensitive goals for the state to reach, including an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040, and a shift to 70% renewable energy by 2030.
Under the CCIA, a third of the money collected through the emissions fee would be used for rebates for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers, which environmental advocates say will offset any potential cost increases that those communities may see.
Another third of the funding would be used for investment in green energy projects, with the remaining third being used to support community-level environmental justice organizations.
One member of the Republican conference, however, doesn’t think the measure has anything to do with the environment, and would be unnecessarily harsh to businesses.
Sen. Pam Helming, R-Ontario, said the motivation of Sen. Kevin Parker, D-Brooklyn, the bill’s sponsor, appears to be political in nature, and suggested that the underlying objective is to redistribute wealth.
“This is a political ploy. This is trying to get votes,” Helming said. “It was put forward, as the leader said, by Senator Parker, who’s running for another office.”
That was in reference to Parker’s run for New York City Comptroller. She suggested that recommendations from a panel created by the state be considered before any action is taken.
The bill is currently in the Environmental Conservation Committee in both houses of the state Legislature, which is several steps away from becoming law.