Growing up in Western New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul was all too familiar with pollution and its aftermath. Now as governor, Hochul says the effects of climate change need to be dealt with by New York.
Hochul on Wednesday outlined her plans to expand New York's efforts in tackling climate change — a push that comes as federal efforts have stalled.
"This is a threat to our way of life — here and now," she said. "That's why we must implement an ambitious agenda to meet this moment."
Hochul's climate priorities include requiring all school buses to go electric by 2035, increasing funding for the proposed environmental bond act by $1 billion to $4 billion and harden infrastructure for future flooding.
The plans also address efforts to boost the adoption of clean energy goals, power capacity, transportation and a new generation of buildings.
"She laid out incredibly ambitious proposals to tackle climate change and also to help communities to deal with some of the impacts of what's going to happen now regardless of the action we take," said Jessica Ottney Mahar, The Nature Conservancy NY policy and strategy director.
New York is vulnerable to extreme conditions created by climate change, including increased flooding and stronger hurricanes. Flash flooding in August in the New York City region from the remnants of a hurricane was only the latest example
"Time is of the essence and all the climate scientists are saying that we have very little time and these are huge and daunting issues," Mahar said. "What we're seeing from the extreme weather that we're seeing is we don't really have a choice."
Hochul's proposals come as action on climate change at the federal level have ground to a halt with. Julie Tighe of the New York League of Conservation Voters says she's hopeful the measure known as the Build Back Better Act can still get through Congress.
"But regardless, New York has a law on the books with the Climate Change and Community Protection Act," Tighe said. "So because there's uncertainty in Washington, it's more important than ever that New York acts."
It's estimated the proposed bond act for shoring up green infrastructure would create tens of thousands of jobs in the coming years if granted approval even prior to the additional $1 billion being added to the borrowing proposal.
"We're going to need lots of construction jobs in order to build a lot of the clean energy that we're talking about — offshore wind, large-scale renewables, wind, solar, transmission lines," Tighe said. "That's going to create a lot of construction jobs as well as maintenance jobs over time."