The 2018 report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that “without societal transformation and rapid implementation of ambitious greenhouse gas reduction measures, pathways to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C and achieving sustainable development will be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible to achieve.” Failing to limit warming to 1.5 degrees will accelerate the frequency and intensify the severity of climate disasters, and warming above 2 degrees threatens deadly and irreversible disruptions to human societies around the globe. Moreover, the effects of the climate crisis will not be evenly distributed. In New York, we’ve already begun to see how the consequences are being offloaded onto the poor and vulnerable, with the ConEd blackouts and National Grid moratorium disproportionately impacting low-income communities and communities of color.
To achieve carbon reduction goals sufficient to overcome the climate crisis, we need to pursue rapid and aggressive measures to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy, through a just transition for all impacted communities and workers. The need for such measures is especially urgent right here in Astoria. Our district is the leading energy-producing district in the state, producing 25 percent of New York City’s energy, almost all of it from non-renewable sources. The Astoria Generating Station burns over three million gallons of number six fuel oil per year. As of 2018, the New York City Department of Health found higher air pollution levels in Astoria and Long Island City than anywhere else in the borough or the city. Not only will a transition to renewables preserve the health of our planet, it will improve the well-being of our communities here in Queens.
But such a transition is impossible under the logic of capitalism. By their very nature, investor-owned utilities are beholden to the interests of shareholders, not those of the people and the planet. The profit motive incentivizes investor-owned utilities to continue to develop carbon-based energy projects in order to maximize returns, regardless of their long-term climate effects. And not only are these utilities destroying our planet, but they’re forcing New Yorkers to subsidize their greed and nihilism. Just this year, the state authorized a rate hike on ConEd customers, imposing higher energy bills to pay out huge salaries for their executives, huge returns for their shareholders, and more investment in fossil fuel infrastructure that ravages their communities and puts the entire planet at risk.
Energy should be a public resource, not a for-profit commodity. We need to eliminate the profit motive from our energy system and empower the working class to reverse decades of disinvestment in frontline communities that have borne the brunt of environmental degradation and who are most imminently threatened by accelerating climate catastrophe.
Our vision for a just and sustainable energy system is one that is decarbonized (100 percent renewable), decommodified (publicly owned), and democratized (democratically controlled). In Albany, we will:
- Support the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act (A1536-A/S2126-A), requiring the State Comptroller to divest the New York State pension fund from fossil fuel holdings.
- Support A8938/S7232, which requires all state and municipal properties to utilize power that is 100 percent renewable in both generation and transmission two years after its passage, and requires the New York Power Authority to be the sole source of power generation and transmission for all state owned properties by 2025.
- Stop the Williams Pipeline and oppose all new pipelines and fossil fuel infrastructure.
- Fight for implementation of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act’s call for carbon-free electricity by 2040 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
- Support a Green New Deal for NYCHA, with deep energy retrofits to create thousands of unionized jobs and make safe and comfortable housing a human right.
- Support A8937/S7243, which authorizes the New York Power Authority to own generation infrastructure, sell energy directly to customers using any utility’s distribution infrastructure, exercise a right of first offer on any new renewable energy project in the state (and later, to match the purchase price and take over the project from another bidder), and bans all for-profit ESCOs.
- Support A8887/S7273, which creates a Downstate Power Authority with a service area that overlaps with the services areas of ConEd, Central Hudson Gas and Electric, and National Grid Gas Service, and either through purchase or the exercise of eminent domain, takes over these entities and brings them under public control.
- Support other community-owned and community-governed renewable energy projects, like the solar energy project in Sunset Park.
- Support A8887/S7273, which sets up a democratically-elected board of nine trustees elected from the service area to administer the Downstate Power Authority.
- Guarantee progressive, lower rates than those charged by investor-owned utilities and work toward abolishing rates entirely.
- Guarantee prevailing wages for utility workers at certain properties owned or leased by privately-owned utilities until they’re municipalized.