Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Chair of the New York Assembly Codes Committee, and State Senator Liz Krueger, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, recently reintroduced a Climate Change Superfund Act (S.9417). If passed and signed into law, fossil fuel companies responsible for pollution impacting on New York State and its residents will be charged $30 billion over a ten year period to pay for climate change adaptation. The bill could potentially raise a total of $75 billion for climate action over a 25-year period. The law, which would be the first in the United States, uses the polluter-pays model established under federal and state superfund laws. It is similar to New York's Hazardous Waste Site Remediation Program and the state’s Oil Spill Cleanup Fund.
New York State has already suffered billions of dollars in damages from super storms, heat waves, flooding, toxic algal blooms, and extreme weather as a result of climate change. Environmentalists anticipate that damages caused by climate change could cost $10 billion a year in future decades. Because disadvantaged urban and rural communities have been disproportionately impacted, at least 35% of revenue collected under the act would be invested in those communities.
The Climate Change Superfund Act will force fossil fuel companies that made windfall profits during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to pay for the damage they created to the environment.
ExxonMobil made a record almost $20 billion profit between July and September, which was 10% higher than the company’s previous profit record set the preceding quarter. Company records can be used to determine the amount of greenhouse gas their products emitted into the atmosphere. Because the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is roughly equivalent across the Earth, a company that is responsible for a percentage of atmospheric pollution anywhere would be responsible for the same percentage in New York State.
Dozens of cities, counties and states are already suing fossil fuel companies over climate change. The companies knew for decades that emissions from their products contributed to global warming. In October, New Jersey accused Exxon Mobil, Shell Oil, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips and the American Petroleum Institute trade group of violating the state’s Consumer Fraud Act. The fossil fuel companies are trying to get their cases transferred from state to federal courts hoping national regulations about drilling and air pollution would invalidate the legal claims against them.
According to Senator Krueger, "We must begin to make the investments necessary not only to mitigate future climate change, but to adapt to and defend ourselves from the damage that's already been done. The cost of inaction is inconceivable - in money, in lives, and in countless other ways. Nonetheless, there will be a large price-tag to the work we have to do, and it's only fair that the companies who made the mess should pay for cleaning it up. "
In endorsing the bill, Jamaal Bowman, who represents the Bronx and Westchester in Congress, argued “The climate crisis is a global emergency that is taking a devastating toll locally, and we know who bears responsibility: the fossil fuel industry whose business model directly results in catastrophic levels of greenhouse gas emissions that threaten the habitability of our planet. We see this as more frequent and extreme weather events destroy lives and livelihoods, such as Hurricane Ida. We see it with chronic flooding that strains our water infrastructure and extreme heat that exacerbates energy poverty and endangers our community members. It’s long overdue for the fossil fuel companies to pay for the damage they’ve caused our communities, particularly to Black and brown communities.”
Representatives from environmental groups NYPIRG, Environmental Advocates NY, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Natural Resources Defense Council, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and 350 MASS have all praised the proposed legislation.
According to Blair Horner, Executive Director of NYPIRG, "The burning of oil and gas has stuck New York -- and the world -- with billions of dollars of costs to adapt to the worsening climate. Now, those same companies are raking in enormous profits, while New Yorkers are getting stuck again -- with skyrocketing energy costs. This innovative legislation will force the oil and gas industries to pick up at least some of the state's financial tab triggered by global warming and will do so in a manner that protects consumers.” NYPIRG is pressuring Governor Kathy Hochul to support the bill