I sat down with (well, emailed) Marcia Bystryn, NYLCV's Executive Director, and asked a few questions:
1. What is the NYLCV working on?Stay up to date at the NYLCV blog.
We're gearing up to put out our legislative and executive agendas. They contain a series of environmental priorities that when combined will offer New York State a solid and comprehensive climate change and smart growth action agenda. They range from increasing mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and stronger energy efficiency standards to smart-led transportation growth.
In New York City, we've already laid out a sustainability agenda to compel the Bloomberg administration to begin to implement its 2030 plan today. There are some obvious action steps the mayor can take in 2007 to get that ball rolling, and we plan to push for action this year. In March, we'll be releasing our 2006 Scorecard for the New York City Council to hold members accountable for their environmental promises. The council has a big role to play in making sure that New York is a national leader on global warming and other issues.
We're also very active at the local level to encourage elected leaders to take action on climate change. In the absence of federal action on global warming, there's been some real innovation happening at the local level across New York. We spearheaded a countywide global warming task force in Westchester, and we intend to lobby other local elected officials to take on similar efforts in their counties, cities, and towns.
2. How will global warming effect New York state?
Because New York sits on the coast, the implications are huge. As sea levels rise, coastal areas will face increased flooding and major beach erosion. Heat waves of increasing intensity and prolonged periods are expected. Hotter summers mean more smog in metropolitan areas, which exacerbates asthma and other diseases. Certain bird species that depend on New York's coasts could be affected, and maple forests and wildlife will be threatened by rising temperatures.
3. What is New York doing now to address global warming?
New York State is part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which takes a significant step towards cutting heat-trapping emissions from power plants. But it's not enough, and we need the regulations to enforce it and to expand it to include other sources, not just power plants. California, under the leadership of Gov. Schwarzenneger has been the leader in the pack on this issue, and we expect nothing less from our new executive Gov. Spitzer. It's great that Gov. Spitzer has budgeted dollars to enhance the capacity of the Office of Climate Change at DEC, but we need strong, ambitious fixes through executive orders that begin to mandate emissions reductions from every sector of the economy so that New York can be a national leader on this issue.
4. What opportunities do you see to take action on global warming here in New York?
There are many opportunities, and RGGI provides a great starting point. With a strong and immediate commitment from Gov. Spitzer, we could begin to see real movement around RGGI. There has also been a strong push from environmental groups and editorial boards to encourage Gov. Spitzer to lead New York in the direction that Gov. Schwarzenegger is taking California and to issue executive orders that address global warming. Also, smart growth, which favors pedestrian- and transit-oriented development over sprawl, is shaping up to be a huge priority for the Spitzer administration. This type of smart-led development is also an effective greenhouse gas reduction strategy.
The localities also have a huge role to play. In Babylon in Long Island, for example, the government just passed one of the most forward-thinking green building standards in the nation. We're looking to other localities in Long Island, Westchester, and the Capital District to take on similar climate change and smart growth initiatives.
5. What election work does NYLCV do?
We are an environmental political action committee, and we endorse candidates at every level of state and local government in New York State. We also have an Education Fund that educates the public, candidates, and elected officials on the environmental issues that pertain to their areas.
6. When will you start looking at the 2007 elections?
As a matter of fact, we're looking right now.
7. What elections do you have your eye on?
There's a lot happening at the local level. The Yonkers mayoral race could be a big one, and environmental issues around smart growth and transportation are heating up there. We also have our eye on a few local races on Long Island and in the Capital District. We'll keep you posted.
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