One of the bills still up in the air this last week of session is the Climate Change Superfund Act.

The legislation would require oil and gas companies to pay into a fund to help the state offset the effects of climate change.

Anne Rabe, environmental policy director for the good government group NYPIRG, says the premise behind the bill is simple.

“This is peanuts to these companies,” she said. “It requires big oil payers to pay $3 billion a year for 25 years in a row, that’s $75 billion for climate damage repair, resilience, and protection.”

Getting the bill passed has proven to not be so simple. 

It has passed in the state Senate two years in a row but remains held up in the Assembly.

This has launched a blitz of activism in the closing weeks of the legislative session, including an open letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie late last week, and another from a coalition of Local Elected Officials and Environmental Justice & Youth Leaders calling on the speaker to bring the bill to the floor. In that letter, local leaders say they are feeling the squeeze from climate related expenses, and they argue tax payers are as well.

The push is driven in part by young people like high school senior Keanu Arpels-Josiah.

The organizer for Fridays For Future NYC argues that young voters will be the most impacted by the climate crisis, and leaders should take note.  

“They have to listen to our generation and not the fossil fuel interests if they are going to stay in power,” he said.

Asked if the bill stood a chance in the Assembly last week, Speaker Carl Heastie didn’t rule it out.

“We do want to do some environmental things,” he told reporters.

But Heastie infuriated NYPIRG and other groups by making a point of saying that while corporations should pay, he has concerns about costs being passed on to New Yorkers.

“Asking these companies to pay more, it's going to be, of course, taken out on the ratepayer,” he said.

Rabe countered that the built in oversight of the Public Service Commission would prevent unjustified increases by forcing corporations to back up hikes.

“They work hard with the utility in the negotiation process to make sure only real, true costs of production are taken into account,” she said.

Rabe also argued that more than just Heastie is to blame for the holdup.

“The Assembly Democrats, not just the speaker, are in deep climate denial,” she said.

The Climate Change Superfund Act is sponsored in the state Senate by Liz Krueger, while Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz carries the bill in the Assembly.

“It’s only Monday, we have until the end of the week,” he said. “This is a huge bill, it is an important bill. I would be very disappointed if we don’t take this action. If we don’t take decisive action now we are going to be in much worse shape that we already are.”

Dinowitz disagrees that the Assembly isn’t taking climate issues seriously.

“Clearly the Assembly is taking the issue seriously given there are so many members of the Assembly who support the bill,” he said.

For the record, he told Spectrum News 1 he doesn’t agree with Speaker Heastie on the bill’s impact on ratepayers either.

“We can disagree, and we do disagree on that one point,” he said.

Spectrum News 1 has reached out to the speaker for clarification but has not heard back, but Dinowitz stressed that the speaker simply expressed reservations about the bill, he did not say the bill was dead this session.