Weekly Update: State of the states

Environmental justice leaders, like our Alex Rodriguez (far right), supported the $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act, 35% of which will be invested in New York’s disadvantaged communities. Gov. Hochul’s proposed cap-and-invest plan would also support those communities.

For the first 35 minutes of her State of the State Address last Tuesday, New York governor Kathy Hochul focused on the policy priorities of public safety, mental health, and housing. To that point, she had mentioned the words “climate change” only once, as often as she spoke the words “Super Bowl.” But then Gov. Hochul pivoted to a topic awaited by the eager ears of the environmental community.  

“We know that the key to long-term sustainability – for our wallets and our planet – comes from weaning ourselves from fossil fuels,” said Hochul. “To set us on that path, I’m proposing a plan to end the sale of new fossil fuel-powered heating equipment by 2030. And I’m calling for all new construction to be zero emission, starting in 2025 for small buildings and 2028 for large buildings. We are taking these actions because climate change remains the greatest threat to our planet.” 

Gov. Hochul went on to talk about the cap-and-invest program, designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Businesses that produce carbon emissions will have to pay the state for an allowance to do so. The money generated will provide for a Climate Action Rebate, which Hochul said “will provide $1 billion in revenues that we’ll allocate to help cover utility bills, transportation costs, and decarbonization efforts.” 

“We’ve already seen the efficacy of cap-and-invest programs with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which has been reducing emissions in New York, Connecticut, and across the northeast for over a decade,” said our climate and energy attorney, Charles Rothenberger. “Proceeds can be reinvested in communities through energy efficiency improvements, clean energy programs, utility assistance to communities and local businesses, and rebates. This provides a flexible mechanism that cuts climate pollution on multiple levels and benefits residents economically.” 

Before wrapping up, Hochul acknowledged her full lineup of 147 proposals, outlined in the 277-page 2023 State of the State Book

“Section V: Safeguarding Our Climate and Environmental Future” (page 119) opens by recapping the state’s big environmental wins in 2022, including passing the $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act, and then takes a more detailed look into cap-and-invest before exploring a range of other environmental proposals:  

  • Holding polluters accountable for cleaning up the “forever chemicals” PFAS (Perfluoroalkyl Substances)  
  • Investing an additional $500 million in critical clean water infrastructure   
  • Building the state’s charging infrastructure to support the move toward zero-emission vehicles 
  • Making buildings more sustainable  
  • Ensuring a just energy transition  
  • Making our parks energy independent  
  • Reducing waste and investing in local recycling   

Miss Connecticut Governor Lamont’s State of the State on January 3? Watch and read it here, and look for the plugs for wind power, energy efficient homes, and better public transit! 

On the docket

Curious what the Legal team is up to? Our online Legal Docket will tell you all you want to know! Check out current actions to stop sewage and nitrogen pollution in our waters, save endangered lands, and restore historic fish runs, and read about our historic legal victories. Legal action has been a pillar of Save the Sound’s effectiveness since our founding. Over the five decades since, we’ve consistently taken polluters to court and won.

Advocating for a strong federal methane rule

Last week the U.S. EPA held public hearings on its proposed Supplemental Proposal for the oil and natural gas industry, which would update, strengthen, and expand its November 2021 proposal. The goal of the proposals is to secure major climate and health benefits for all Americans by reducing emissions of methane and other harmful air pollution from both new and existing sources in the oil and natural gas industry. The new supplemental proposal would achieve more comprehensive emissions reductions from oil and natural gas operations by improving standards in the 2021 proposal and adding proposed requirements for sources not previously covered. However, it does not yet go far enough. 

Our environmental justice specialist, Alex Rodriguez, testified in the hearing, saying, “The proposed rule is a step in the right direction and I encourage the Administration and your agency to continue undergoing strategies that will explicitly reject methane gas as a decarbonization strategy and implement a moratorium on the expansion of gas distribution systems.”  

Join the Breakfast Club

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Start your day with us on Wednesday, January 25 from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. on Zoom for our quarterly Breakfast Club. Save the Sound’s President, Leah Lopez Schmalz, will join us as our guest speaker for this morning hour. Leah will share with us her vision and the five-year strategic plan for Save the Sound, followed by an opportunity for Q&A. This is an exclusive event for Save the Sound donors who give monthly and members who give $250 a year or more. We are so grateful for your ongoing generosity and support! Click here to register. 

Quick Links

  • We’re hiring! Join the Save the Sound team as our new Member Engagement and Events Manager (full-time, starting ASAP) or Peter B. Cooper Legal Fellow (full-time, starting in fall). See details
  • State legislative sessions are underway! See our CT legislative agenda here and our NY legislative agenda here.
  • Residents of Bridgeport, Stratford, and New Haven: Please help identify local needs by taking this Survey on Climate Vulnerability and Environmental Injustice from our partners at Seaside Sounds Club. Last day for survey submissions is Feb. 13.

Upcoming Events

  • Breakfast Club, Jan. 25, 8:30-9:30 a.m., virtual
  • “Seeing Fair Haven through Residents’ Eyes: A Presentation on Capturing the Environmental Realities through Photography,” Jan. 26 (NEW DATE), 5:30-6:30 p.m., New Haven, CT
  • Hutchinson River Watershed Plan steering committee meeting, Jan. 18, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., virtual, email reducerunoff@savethesound.org to register

Find details on these, and all our events, on our Stay Engaged page.

Miss an online event? Not to worry! Recordings of many of our webinars are available free and on-demand in our Virtual Archive.

Photo of the Week

Joanna Oltman Smith sent us this shot of a stormy night in Clinton, CT. Would you like your photo to be featured in an upcoming issue? Send it to us at info@savethesound.org.

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