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Climate activists rally for local officials to make polluters pay


Activists and community leaders rallied in front of State Senator Todd Kaminsky’s office on April 7 to encourage the senator to support the recently introduced New York Climate and Community Investment Act, or Senate Bill 4264A.

The bill being pushed by New York progressives aims to create jobs through the expansion of clean and renewable energy.

The dozen or so activists in attendance chanted “Pass the CCIA, make polluters pay,” and shared their reasons for coming out to call attention to the bill.

Environmental Scientist Jerry Rivers, of Roosevelt, recalled losing five friends to flooding after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. “Everything was flooded, and people were displaced, and the power went out for seven days,” he said.

Climate refugees became a reality again in 2020 when wildfires in Canada, Brazil, California and Australia displaced many. “I am worried about my children and my grandchildren,” Rivers said. “They’re not going to have a healthy planet to live on.”

“We’re just filling up the Earth with plastic,” activist Joseph Varone, of West Hempstead, said. “Recycling is not the answer. Reducing the use of plastic and holding companies responsible for the garbage they make is the answer.”

Varone suggested that on a smaller scale, people can use alternatives to plastics by using Brita filters and Soda Streams to cut down on their use of plastic bottles.

Charles Nieves, the eco-socialist working group co-chair at the Nassau County Democratic Socialists of America, said that the CCIA is necessary to fund the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act that was sponsored by Kaminsky and passed in 2019.

The CLCPA outlined goals to use 70 percent renewable energy by 2030, committing to 100 percent zero-emission electricity by 2040 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent by 2050, among other pledges.

“We need the polluters to step up and pay for the damages that they have caused to Long Island and the state,” Nieves said.

The CCIA would institute a fee on greenhouse gas emissions and co-pollutants that would be paid by companies importing fossil fuels into the state. The fee would be $55 per ton of greenhouse gas emissions, which would increase every year. NY Renews, a coalition of over 200 environmental community groups, estimates that the CCIA would raise about $15 billion annually for the first ten years.

Other similar climate rallies occurred at the offices of U.S. Representatives Thomas Suozzi and Kathleen Rice, and Assemblyman Steve Englebright as part of Climate Jobs and Justice Week, which concluded with a town hall featuring U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer on April 9.

Kaminsky co-chaired a state hearing on April 13 to discuss and receive input from stakeholders on the proposed bill. At press time he said he does not have a stance on the potential legislation.