BUFFALO, N.Y. -- New York state estimates already this year taxpayers are spending more than $800 million for projects related to climate change-caused damages and resiliency projects.
State Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, sponsors legislation that would hold the world's biggest oil and gas companies responsible for at least some of those costs moving forward.
"Somebody's going to pay," Krueger said. "The question is are the consumers going to pay or are we going to be able get some of it directly out of these enormous companies making fortunes on their continued efforts to destroy the planet?"
The bill establishing a Climate Change Superfund is modeled after the federal Toxic Superfund that collects from companies that pollute land and water. It would apply to companies responsible for at least one billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions between 2000 and 2018, roughly 30 companies total.
"Those companies are now making more money than they ever have in history," Krueger said.
The legislation would require the companies to account for roughly $3 billion annually, proportional to their emissions, for 25 years totaling about $75 billion. New York Public Interest Research Group Executive Director Blair Horner said NYPIRG has contributed analysis that the cost will not be passed on to consumers.
"If company X is on the hook for a significant amount under the Climate Superfund program and wants to charge 50 cents more at the pump for a gallon of gas but they're competing against companies that are paying zero, they face the loss of market share," Horner said.
He said the estimated costs of climate change to the state continue to rise and could be as much as $10 billion annually by the middle of the century. Horner said the superfund could be spent to cover the impacts of things like rising sea and lake levels, extreme weather and air quality deterioration.
"You put all of that toxic stew together and it's going to be big-ticket items. I mean the infrastructure costs alone are going to be enormous and right now the taxpayers of New York are going to have to pick up the tab," he said.
The state Senate already included the legislation in its budget proposal this year but it didn't make it into the final deal. Krueger said she believes she can move it through the Senate again and is hopeful the Assembly and governor will support it too.
Because the budget was a month late, advocates said time is a hurdle this session. However, they point out, because of continuing cost and the likelihood of litigation around what will be the first-of-its-kind legislation, it is important to pass the bill as soon as possible.