ALBANY — New York is now on track to achieve an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 20150 as a result of Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing what he called the nation's most aggressive climate law Thursday.
Cuomo was accompanied by former Vice President Al Gore when he signed the legislation in New York City. Gore said the measure provides new momentum in countering global climate change.
The new climate law carries an interim goal of getting 70 percent of the state's electricity from wind and solar generation by 2030. All of the state's electric power would be from renewable sources by 2040, under the targets.
Gavin Donohue, president of the Independent Power Producers of New York, an industry group, said the state has been steadily reducing emissions of carbon dioxide as a "direct result of competitive market principles" that attracted private investment to emissions control technologies and new power generation.
Since 1990, Donohue noted, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions in the state has been chopped by 56 percent.
To figure out strategies for achieving the targets, the legislation authorizes the creation of a 23-member climate action council. It would include state agency bureaucrats and representatives of both environmental organizations and the business community.
The state's business lobby warned that the legislation could have unintended consequences.
During the debate over the measure, the Business Council of New York suggested the legislation could produce "a potential shipwreck" if it results in New York jobs migrating to places that lack stringent environmental standards, thus triggering even higher greenhouse gas emissions.
Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, noted he voted against the legislation because there is no requirement the council run its recommendations through the Legislature.
"They are not going to have to be answerable to anyone but the governor," Seward told CNHI. "We need to know what this is going to cost and what is it going to mean in terms of jobs. It was like buying a pig in a poke."
Seward pointed out he agrees with the objective of increasing reliance on renewable forms of energy, however.
In a related development, Cuomo announced contracts for massive offshore wind power stations to be built off the coast of Long Island. Two projects are expected to generate a total of 1,700 megawatts and provide power to an estimated 1 million homes in the downstate region.
Cuomo is aiming to have 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind power in New York's energy portfolio by 2040, the same year for completing the 100 percent green energy goal.
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org