New York lawmakers are proposing ways of getting companies responsible for pollution and climate change to pay up.
The proposals range from efforts to have oil and gas firms pay the state to offset the cost of climate change to New York. At the same time, lawmakers have proposed making it easier to sue companies deemed responsible for pollution.
Advocates also want new requirements for companies to expand their use of recyclable material in the coming decade.
But the Business Council has questioned the effect these measures, as well as a push to significantly expand recycling, would have for companies and whether they can be implemented.
Under one measure, the oil and gas industry could be on the hook for billions of dollars each year under legislation being weighed by the New York state Legislature. The money would help the state offset the effects of climate change.
“They’ll get a bill in the mail from the New York State Department of Tax and Finance and we’ll use that offset the cost of climate change,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
The measure is modeled after the Superfund program and require companies to pay $3 billion a year over 25 years.
“These problems are occurring now,” Horner said. “Taxpayers are paying for them. The question is who should be paying for the damages. We think it should be the oil companies.”
State Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who is sponsoring the measure with Sen. Liz Krueger, said the measure if approved would not lead to added costs for consumers.
“No new taxes would result from this and it won’t raise prices at the pump,” he said.
Suing over climate change
The measure is just one of several proposals that could make up companies foot the bill for the effects of climate. Brooklyn state Sen. Zellnor Myrie has proposed allowing individual New Yorkers to claim damages due to climate change and file lawsuits.
The proposal is modeled after a controversial Texas abortion law. For New York, Myrie wants anyone considered affected by climate change — farmers upstate or people living in urban areas that have had air pollution lead to asthma — to be able to sue.
“There are I think a number of opportunities for New Yorkers to say enough is enough,” Myrie said. “You knew the damage you would cause, you lied about it for decades and now it’s time that you paid.”
And then there’s the effort to reduce solid waste in New York. Environmental organizations and advocates, including Judith Enck of Beyond Plastics, is calling for a measure that would have companies cut their packaging by 50% in the next decade and have 90% of their packaging be made out of recycled materials within 12 years.
“We can do everything we can as individuals, we can try to avoid plastic, we can recycle metal, glass, paper,” said Judith Enck, the president of Beyond Plastic. “But we are drowning in solid waste.”
Business organizations have a number of concerns with these measures, including the cost and feasibility for companies to transition to more recycable materials.
Ken Pokalsky of the Business Council pointed to recycling provisions already in place, such as curbside recycling and assistance for municpalities.
As for the proposal to have energy companies pay for climate change, Pokalsky pointed to every consumer holding some responsibility.
“We’ve all had a role in discharging carbon into the environment,” he said. “We’ve all benefitted from discharging carbon into the environment.”
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