NY legislator joins coalition to confront carbon-based fuels

NY legislator joins coalition to confront carbon-based fuels

New York Senator Kevin Parker has joined a coalition of legislators working to minimize the effects of climate change and hold polluters accountable. Each representative is currently working towards their own approach to reduce carbon emissions–through proposals such as a carbon-based fuel tax–as the federal administration continues to roll back environmental regulation.

Brought together by the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL), a nonprofit networking organization, the “Carbon Costs Coalition” has been meeting informally for two years and is made up of representatives from nine states: New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, Washington and Oregon.

“It’s up to states to take action,” Washington State Senator Kevin Ranker said. “We’re standing up to take a united front…to advance a powerful national conversation.” Together, the representatives discuss and compare the language of their bills and how they approach different communities with their prospective legislation.

Sen. Parker’s bill (S2846) taxing carbon-based fuels was introduced in January 2017 and has been reintroduced again earlier this month. The senator also introduced a version of this legislation in the 2015-2016 legislative session. The proposed bill states that the tax will “mitigate greenhouse gas emissions causing anthropogenic climate change…helping New York to reach its target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by the year 2050.”

According to section 289 G-K of the bill, the carbon emission tax would be imposed on fuel distributors for the distribution or sale of carbon-based fuels at no less than $35 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalency, increasing by $15 per ton each year to a maximum of $185 per ton.

It would also establish a “Carbon Dioxide Emissions Fund” through the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, consisting of the taxes collected from fuel distributors. Sixty percent of the fund would be distributed to low-income communities in the form of tax credits and the remaining 40 percent would go towards the “transition to 100 percent clean energy in the state” as well as supporting mass transit to further reduce carbon emissions and improving state adaptation to climate change through infrastructure and emergency response funding in events of extreme weather.

Parker told The Alt that he hopes the bill may make enough of an impression to become part of the current budget negotiations.

“The governor is fond of talking about the fact that New York has probably been hit as hard as any place in the country around climate change. We’re having ‘hundred year storms’ every two years now,” he said.

The senator is, however, aware that there will be resistance.

“A big obstacle, to be honest, is that we have a Senate that is controlled by Republicans and, like their national counterparts, [they] don’t necessarily have the same understanding of climate change and how important it is to deal with,” Parker said.  

New York–as well as a number of states that have joined this carbon costs coalition–has already taken steps to combat carbon-based emissions through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) setting a cap on carbon dioxide levels within the northeast.

“I think that has been extremely successful and I think that this is the next logical step,” Parker said. “This is not just just individual states acting, but a movement that has to really take hold across the entire country.”

While RGGI effectively sets a cap on the northeast area, the legislation coming from the coalition would affect a broader area.

“RGGI only deals with the power sector. This would be a carbon tax, economy wide, on all other forms of carbon pollution,” Jeff Mauk, executive director of NCEL explained.

The members of the newly formed coalition hope to set an example at a multi-state level, showing states that may still be on the fence that combating climate change can be a way to prioritize public health and safety while also promoting economic development.

“Carbon pollution pricing is about equity,” Parker said about his proposal. “We are aggressively cutting emissions that have disproportionally damaged the health of low-income communities of color [and] generating revenue to make sure that those communities are not left behind but instead lead the transition to a just and sustainable economy.”

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