N.Y. DEC commissioner: Climate transition will be ‘toughest thing we ever do’

The cost of the doing nothing on climate will far outweigh the cost of a climate transition for New York, according to state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos, who addressed concerns on Capital Tonight. 

“I just want to make sure viewers are clear. People are already paying for the impacts of climate change. That is a certainty. We spent $36 billion to recover from Superstorm Sandy,” Seggos said. “We see a $55 billion bill, potentially, if we don’t do the right things in New York, just on adaptation over the next 10 years.”

There are multiple courses of action when it comes to paying for the climate transition, including the state’s emerging cap-and-invest program.  

The DEC and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) released a climate affordability study in December to examine the best ways to use cap-and-invest program funds, recommending refundable tax credits or using existing benefit programs.

Money from the program, if adopted, would be used for renewable energy projects and consumer rebates.

But there is not yet agreement on how to implement cap-and-invest, according to reporting by Spectrum News 1 reporter Kate Lisa.

State Assemblymember Anna Kelles takes issue with a provision included in the outline released by the DEC and NYSERDA which allows businesses to hold onto, or sell, allowances they don’t use — creating a secondary market.

“We called it a cap-and-invest — and cap-and-invest it is not,” the assemblywoman said. “This proposal is a cap-and-trade.”

Another idea being floated to help pay for the cost of the climate transition is state Sen. Liz Krueger’s Climate Change Superfund Act (S.2129-A.3351). The bill is modeled after the federal Superfund program and would require oil and gas companies to pay $3 billion a year over 25 years to help the state offset the effects of climate change.

According to DEC Commissioner Seggos, the state isn’t ruling out any method of paying for the transition.

“We’re looking at all the tools that are available to us. Cap-and-invest is one tool. What Sen. Krueger is advancing would be another tool, potentially complimentary or not,” he said. 

Seggos underscores that the big challenge facing the Hochul administration is developing affordable programs. 

“This is going to be the toughest thing we ever do – make this transition from where we are today to the future,” Seggos said. 

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