Living Green: Legislative Wins

Dana Levenberg

Dana Levenberg (File photo)

If the air isn’t hazy and air quality poor because of Canadian wildfires, our roads are washing away in floods. The climate crisis is playing itself out in our backyard and, while there are a handful of dedicated climate-deniers and players who benefit financially from climate delay, most people are realizing the urgency of our predicament.

Will that sense of urgency translate into political action? When the state Legislature wrapped up its session last month, there was progress made.

Among the big climate wins were new laws that require state-owned properties that receive power from the New York Power Authority to run on renewable energy by 2030 (the Build Public Renewables Act); ban fossil-fuel hookups in newly constructed buildings of seven stories or fewer after Dec. 31, 2025, and for taller buildings as of Jan. 1, 2029 (the All-Electric Building Act); and create a Climate Action Fund, at least 33 percent of which will be earmarked for consumer and small-business clean energy.

These three bills became law through the budget approval process. Other notable bills passed by both houses and waiting action by the governor would protect Class C streams (designated by use, not size, in this case for non-contact recreation) and prevent corn, soybean and wheat seeds from being treated with neonicotinoid pesticides (“neonics”) starting in 2027 to protect birds and bees.

Dana Levenberg, a Democrat whose district includes Philipstown, was elected last year and joined Jonathan Jacobson, a Democrat whose district includes Beacon, in representing the Highlands. When Levenberg campaigned for the seat, climate change and sustainability were prominent on her platform. She’s been busy so far: Eight of her prime-sponsored bills passed both houses of the Legislature, more than any other first-year member of the Assembly had. 

One bill that garnered much support (and opposition) was the Save the Hudson Act, which would prevent Holtec, the company that is decommissioning the Indian Point nuclear power plant, from discharging wastewater from the plant into the river. (Jacobson is a co-sponsor.) It passed both houses and also awaits action by the governor.

While some bills weren’t passed, such as the Climate Superfund Act, the Clean Fuel Standard, Just Energy Transition Act and New York Home Energy Affordable Transition Act (NY HEAT), Levenberg said: “We’re moving in the right direction.” 

You know the old saying that you can’t put the cart before the horse? Levenberg said she believes “we need to do both. We need things to happen simultaneously. We’ve already waited so long to address the climate. I am so glad we are doing that now. But we can’t drag our feet for very long.”

The Climate Superfund Act would require oil and gas producers in the state to pay $30 billion over the next decade for their share of total greenhouse gas emissions since 2000. It’s only fair that those who contributed significantly to the buildup of climate-warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere bear a share of the costs of needed infrastructure investments to adapt to climate change.

Levenberg said she will continue to push for the NY HEAT Act, which would cap energy bills at 6 percent of a low- or middle-income household’s monthly income, end New York’s remaining fossil-fuel subsidies and create a transition plan to reduce the state’s reliance on natural gas. 

Now that the legislative session is over, Levenberg will be back in the district. Her office is planning a breakfast called Sustaining our Seniors on Wednesday (July 26) at Cortlandt Town Hall that will include information on affordable energy upgrades and an electric car demonstration.

“My mantra is building healthy communities that are environmentally, economically, physically, mentally healthy,” Levenberg said. “I am always focusing on that.” 

As the smoke fades and the roads are repaired, we should rest up, enjoy being outdoors when we can and set our sights on the next legislative session. Like Sisyphus, keep pushing the boulder up the hill in the hope we succeed.

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