The 2023 session of the New York state legislature is well underway at this point, and a flurry of important climate and clean energy bills have been introduced in the General Assembly and State Senate. Following the recent release of the state plan approved by the Climate Action Council, as required by the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), lawmakers are seeking ways to buttress its recommendations.
Given the potential of the various proposals to accelerate an equitable energy transition, it’s not surprising they have stirred up opposition and anxieties. In particular, the fossil fuel industry has mounted an aggressive lobbying campaign to undermine these far-reaching efforts and hamper the ability of the state to meet its climate targets.
A recent report issued by the nonprofit Public Accountability Initiative lays out in great detail the attempts of the industry to obstruct climate action in New York. It points out that millions of dollars have been spent by the industry and its supporters “to delay, water down and otherwise frustrate the implementation of the CLCPA and other key climate legislation.”
“Legislators, communities and other stakeholders invested in a cleaner, greener, decarbonized future for New York must stay vigilant around efforts by the fossil fuel industry to muzzle and erode” the state’s climate actions, the report warns.
Not only are the oil and gas industry representatives engaging in aggressive inside lobbying of legislators in Albany, they are working hand in hand with gas utilities to disseminate misinformation among the general public, muddying the waters and generating unwarranted fears. Deploying online ads and robocalls, they are raising the prospect of “power outages and cost increases.” “We need all energy options to keep the lights on and heat flowing,” they misleadingly claim.
The fossil fuel companies have been mobilizing their customers to contact state lawmakers and express their opposition to building electrification. What’s especially galling is that New York State hands out about $1.5 billion each year in tax subsidies to these companies, which are then turning around and spending a significant portion of the dollars to fund their misinformation and lobbying machine.
There is hope, however, that this time the industry will not be as effective as it has been in the past at stopping crucial climate action. Rich Schrader, New York State policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, notes that the oil and gas groups engaged in these tactics last year and have now lost the element of surprise. In addition, the advantages of new technologies such as cold-weather heat pumps have come into sharper focus.
“The politics have changed, information has changed, and the [federal] incentives are much clearer now,” he observes. “All that weighs against their propaganda.”