On September 7, 2018, Governor Andrew Cuomo cruised over the Hudson River -- in a garishly gas inefficient 1932 Packard convertible once owned by Franklin Roosevelt -- to ceremoniously open the Mario Cuomo Bridge six days before the Democratic primary. Meanwhile, at Cuomo’s NYC office, a growing number of police officers with zip tie handcuffs around their waists surrounded a group of New Yorkers who had shut down Third Avenue to call out his inaction on the climate crisis.
They held a banner that read Cuomo: Rise to the Climate Crisis
Many of the pedestrians looking on and taking photos might have heard Cuomo say just days earlier at the only Gubernatorial debate that he is protecting New Yorkers from climate change, but the folks blockading the street were there to say that when it comes to climate action, Cuomo is not walking the talk.
Their demands of Cuomo:
(1) a just transition to 100% renewable energy now
(2) stopping all fossil fuel infrastructure, including fracked gas pipelines and power plant projects
(3) making corporate polluters pay.
The demands reflect specific areas where they say there are major discrepancies between what Cuomo says and what his administration does.
For example, Cuomo claims he will stand up to climate change denial based policies coming from the Trump Administration in Washington. But here in New York the Governor has approved multiple fracked gas infrastructure projects that will have immense climate impacts, while at the same time his Public Service Commission’s policy for valuing renewable energy is stifling solar development in the state so much that already over 800 million dollars worth of solar investment has been lost in New York.
And just hours after the climate arrests occurred, a bombshell report was released revealing that Cuomo’s campaign manager, Maggie Moran, was a lobbyist for Williams, an Oklahoma based company that is currently seeking a permit from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to build a fracked pipeline through New York Harbor off the coast of Staten Island, Coney Island and the Rockaways.
“Governor Cuomo has the power to deny a key permit that would stop this project. But he does not yet seem to realize the urgency of the climate crisis,” said Gronim. “We don’t have time to put off transforming our energy systems. We need to move fully to renewable, sustainable, affordable energy sources now.
But due to Cuomo’s new VDER (Value of Distributed Energy Resources) policy, that was pushed by corporate utilities, many communities and municipalities see solar projects that have been in the works for years delayed or canceled.
And while community solar is struggling, Governor Cuomo has approved billions of dollars of fracked gas infrastructure projects ensuring that more of New York’s heat and power will be coming from dirty fossil fuels.
“We are out of time for middling solutions and meek politicians. We are done asking nicely,” said Wood. “We demand that Governor Cuomo and others stop allowing corporations to use our atmosphere as a dumping ground, and we demand that they do this now.”
One of the most controversial projects Governor Cuomo approved is the CPV fracked gas power plant in Orange County, which is set to go online any day now. The plant will run on gas transported by Millennium pipeline from the fracking fields of Pennsylvania to the massive plant outside of Middletown, New York to power New York City.
Not only will the CPV plant blanket the local community with fracked gas pollution, it also will make it impossible for New York to meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.
Methane, the main component of fracked gas, is even more powerful at trapping heat in our atmosphere than carbon, so potent that if just 3% leaks, it’s worse for the climate than burning coal. Scientists estimate that the leakage rate from the fracking fields in Pennsylvania, along the pipeline route, to the CPV fracked gas power plant is between 5-12%.
The Orange County community has been calling on Governor Cuomo to stop the CPV plant for years, but so far the Governor has ignored them and sometimes in public even claimed to not know much about the fracked gas plant despite the fact that his former top aide, Joseph Percoco, will be sentenced on September 20th for taking bribes from CPV.
One of the first campaign stops Cynthia Nixon made after announcing she would run against Cuomo for Governor was to a picket at the site of the CPV fracked gas power plant. Community members have been picketing at the site every Saturday for years since construction first began.
Nixon also visited with community members fighting to stop fracked gas power plants in the Sheridan Hollow community of Albany and along the shores of Cayuga Lake. She met with mothers in Peekskill who are worried about their children going to school within the blast zone of the AIM fracked gas pipeline, which Governor Cuomo approved.
Zephyr Teachout, who ran for Attorney General, also made visits to Ithaca and Peekskill to talk with community members being impacted by fracked gas infrastructure. At a playground in Peekskill that’s within the blast radius of the pipeline, residents told Teachout that New York State has done nothing to protect them.
Many of those residents watched their greatest fears come true when a brand new fracked gas pipeline exploded in Pennsylvania on November 10th just days before the primary election and then again as communities outside of Boston burst into flames when an over pressurized gas distribution line caused multiple explosion on November 14th the day after the election.
As long as fracked gas infrastructure continues to poison communities and the climate, these New Yorkers have no choice but to continue to push Governor Cuomo to do better.