Climate activists have criticized the state for not doing enough to meet the goals of the ambitious 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in the years since it became law. And according to a new report, fossil fuel companies have been working hard to keep it that way.
The report shared exclusively with City & State by the good government nonprofit Public Accountability Initiative details the efforts that various parts of the fossil fuel industry have undertaken in recent history in an attempt to undermine the state’s climate goals. That includes companies that are involved with the Climate Action Council, tasked with creating the roadmap for the state to achieve its environmental goals. National Fuel and Independent Power Producers of New York, both of which have a company executive sitting on the council, are among a handful of fossil fuel companies and lobbying groups that have spent a combined $17 million on lobbying and campaign donations to oppose climate action since 2016. The report noted that those same organizations that have fought against environmental action have testified before the Climate Action Council to attest their support of the state’s green energy goals. “It is no secret that New York State has the potential to make historic strides around climate action in the coming months and years,” the report reads. “However… the fossil fuel industry and its corporate networks have been mobilizing to delay, water down, and otherwise frustrate the implementation of the CLCPA and other key climate legislation.”
Much of the lobbying has come at the hands of the group New Yorkers for Affordable Energy, which purports to support climate action, but whose tax filings show its purpose is to “expand natural gas service,” per the report. Executives from the fossil fuel companies National Fuel and Danskammer Energy founded the group, and it counts the American Petroleum Institute, which has a history of opposing green energy, as part of its steering committee.
The report also notes the presence of fossil fuel executives on the Climate Action Council. Environmental advocates have pointed to this fact in the past, and previous reporting has detailed the efforts those companies have undertaken to promote natural gas expansion and deter the state from implementing green energy initiatives.
A Department of Environmental Conservation spokesperson has defended the executives’ involvement, saying that all voices needed to be at the table. The report from the Initiative, known for its LittleSis database of influence, declares that “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 most far-reaching climate legislation ever passed.”
The Climate Action Council released its draft scoping plan late last year, and must approve a final plan by Jan. 1, 2023.