The Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA) is legislation that would raise around $15 billion per year for the state of New York by charging corporate polluters $55 per ton of released greenhouse gas emissions.
To address the category of emissions called “co-pollutants,” the bill directs the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to set a fee on major sources. While those sources already pay a fee, it’s not on the scale of what is necessary to cover the health and climate impacts they are causing.
According to NYRENEWS, a coalition of over 300 labor unions, community groups, environmental organizations, faith communities and environmental justice advocates, which is pushing for passage of the CCIA, “The concept is simple: levy a gradually increasing fee on pollution that warms our climate and makes people sick. Then collect all that revenue, and invest it in a few key things.”
The investments would be in wind power, workers who are currently employed in the fossil fuel industry, disadvantaged communities, and rebates for low-income New Yorkers.
There is fear that producers of greenhouse gas emissions would simply pass the new costs onto consumers. The rebates are deemed necessary to offset those costs for low-and-moderate-income New Yorkers. According to NYRENEWS, the rebate will be equal to, or more than, any increase in costs.
But Senate and Assembly Republicans, who have held listening sessions with various industry stakeholders, say that small businesses, farms and various sectors of the energy industry will be negatively affected if the legislation passes.
Senator Tom O’Mara (R-Big Flats) told Capital Tonight that it won’t be exclusively corporate polluters who pay more to release greenhouse gas emissions.
“What we’re talking about here is industry in New York,” O’Mara said. “But we’re also talking about hospitals, schools, colleges – any entity that has a Title V permit and produces any emissions whatsoever, in their industrial, educational or healthcare process will be paying these increased fees.”
According to environmental advocates, the lion’s share of pollution comes from the fossil fuel industry. These are mostly big emitters, including power plants, cement plants, and garbage incinerators.
Another criticism from Republicans is the cost to consumers.
“There is going to be taxes and fee increases on everyday New Yorker of .55-cents a gallon on gasoline, 26% on home heating fuels,” O’Mara said. “In the future, you wouldn’t be able to have a natural gas furnace in your home.”
The Business Council of New York State agrees with O’Mara that the legislation will be costly.
“There is no doubt the CCIA will lead to cost increases for New Yorkers,” Ken Pokalsky, the vice president of The Business Council told Capital Tonight earlier this year. “Even with its rebate program, there is no guarantee that eligible households or small businesses will be made whole, and we believe many will not under the CCIA’s ‘one size fits all’ of rebates."
Republicans, including O’Mara, say if the bill passes, there will also be significant job losses in the energy sector, something the bill’s Senate sponsor, Senator Kevin Parker, told Capital Tonight the bill addresses.
“Not only does CCIA provide an economic disincentive to produce carbon in New York, but it lays out how New York would be able to build a clean energy economy. There’s a real serious economic opportunity here,” Parker said.
According to a study released earlier this year, passage of the CCIA would create 160,000 jobs over the next 10 years in New York in construction, renewable energy, agriculture, public schools and transportation.
It’s not clear how many jobs would be lost because of the transition to cleaner energy.
O’Mara made the point that asking for a cost-benefit analysis of the CCIA doesn’t make him a climate denier.
“That is the furthest thing from the truth,” he said.