The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on June 18, made headlines as the nation’s most aggressive greenhouse gas emissions reduction program, mandating the State achieve a carbon free electricity system by 2040 and reduce its total emissions 85% by 2050.

Such an ambitious emissions reduction program understandably raises concerns that it may harm the State’s economic competitiveness. Indeed, it is difficult to forecast how exactly the CLCPA will impact municipalities, businesses and the overall economic well-being of the State because the CLCPA does not set out a definitive action plan. It provides only a framework for a comprehensive regulatory program implemented by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) over the course of the next four years.

Aside from the emission reduction targets, the most notable aspect of the law is that there is a significant opportunity for public input.

Nonetheless, the CLCPA appears to acknowledge that reducing emissions cannot come at the expense of the State’s economy. It includes exemptions for small businesses and agricultural livestock operations, a carbon-offset alternative for a percentage of sources where compliance is not technologically feasible, and prescribes various studies on workforce issues and reports on how to minimize anti-competitiveness impacts of future policies.

Aside from the emission reduction targets, the most notable aspect of the law is that there is a significant opportunity for public input. The CLCPA requires a total of 17 public hearings on issues such as the methodology for computing the emission limit to the draft scoping plan and final regulations.

Working Groups

The CLCPA establishes a 22-member volunteer Climate Action Council, which will be assisted by various 5-member advisory panels advising on specific topics such as transportation, energy intensive and trade-exposed industries, and land-use and local government issues. The Council will prepare a scoping plan outlining recommendations for attaining the statewide greenhouse gas emission limits. In addition, there will be a 13-17 member “just transition working group.” This working group will report on the number of jobs created to counter climate change, formulate an inventory of the jobs needed and the skills and training required to meet the demand, and will report on workforce disruption due to communities’ transition to a low carbon economy. Lastly, a “climate justice working group” will be established to address environmental justice issues.

Timeline for Action

A comprehensive regulatory program will be developed over the course of the next four years with various deadlines for when targets must be met.

Within 6 months a “climate justice working group” will be charged with establishing criteria to identify disadvantaged communities that will receive 35-40% of the overall benefit from spending on clean energy and energy efficiency programs.

Within 1 year the DEC must establish a statewide greenhouse gas emission limit as a percentage of 1990 emissions. Establishing this threshold requires one public hearing.

Within 2 years the Council is to prepare and approve a scoping plan outlining recommendations for attaining the statewide greenhouse gas emission limits. The most important aspect of the draft scoping plan is that six regional public hearings and 120 days for written comment are to be provided. The Public Service Commission (PSC) shall further establish a program requiring that by 2030 a minimum of 70% of the state-wide electric generation be generated by renewable energy systems and that by 2040 the statewide electrical system be zero emissions.

Within 3 years the Council is to submit the final scoping plan to the Governor, speaker of the assembly and temporary president of the Senate. The Council is required to revisit and update its final scoping plan every five years.

Within 4 years the DEC shall promulgate final rules and regulations ensuring compliance with the reduction limits. Preparation of the final rules requires public workshops, input from the Council, input from the working groups, and two public hearings. Every four years thereafter the DEC will evaluate and report on whether the State is on track.

And by 2024 the PSC is required to establish programs to achieve six gigawatts of distributed solar energy capacity installed by 2025 and nine gigawatts of offshore wind capacity installed by 2035.

A clearer image of how the CLCPA may impact the State will emerge as the program is developed. It’s too soon to say what the full impact of the CLCPA may be on local businesses or the wider State economy, but there is a significant opportunity for public input, an opportunity that should not be overlooked given the far-reaching implications of the CLCPA.

Questions about CLCPA

With more than 45 years’ experience assisting local businesses, Cuddy & Feder is well poised to address your concerns about the CLCPA and all your energy and environmental law concerns. Contact us at: info@cuddyfeder.com or 914-761-1300.

Authors
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