Banning fracking in 2014 made Governor Andrew Cuomo a hero to many climate activists. But where has he been lately?
The fact is, Cuomo has done little to advance a clean energy agenda since then. Sure, he got plenty of good press for speaking out against Donald Trump’s decision to bail out on the Paris climate agreement. But talking a good game is easy; where is the action?
That was what New Yorkers wanted to know on June 26, where activists gathered in front of the Plaza Hotel--the site of a Cuomo fundraiser-- to demand more from the governor on climate and clean energy. The message was clear: It is time to get serious about New York’s path to 100% renewable energy.
Since the fracking ban, much of the Cuomo policy record has been discouraging. He pushed through a controversial, multi-billion dollar bailout of failing nuclear plants upstate. He’s announced a plan to power buildings in Albany with a new fracked gas power plant. And he supported a new gas-fired plant in Cricket Valley that broke ground just last week. For a leader who banned fracking, Cuomo sure doesn’t appear to have a problem with fracked gas. He still supports gas pipelines, and recently stated that gas is a “bridge” to get the state to its renewable energy goals. But more fracking is not a bridge to renewables-- it’s a dangerous, polluting detour.
With a White House eager to grant every wish of the fossil fuel industry, states like New York and California can lead the way on clean power. That means leaders like Cuomo should be making new, stronger commitments to reducing emissions on a faster timeline, and to putting resources into real solutions. Making a rhetorical commitment to stand by the Paris agreement is better than Trump, but that doesn’t make it real policy agenda.
At their annual meeting, the US Conference of Mayors offered a compelling contrast. The group represents mayors from cities around the country from both major parties, and they were eager to fill the policy gap on climate change created by the Trump administration. The mayors unanimously adopted a resolution supporting a goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. This rapid transition to renewable energy will improve air and water quality and protect the health of our families, particularly in the most vulnerable already impacted by fossil fuel pollution. This goal takes a harder stance than the Paris agreement, and aims to show how local governments can demonstrate real leadership.
Governor Cuomo should unveil a plan that matches the vision endorsed by these mayors. Protests like the action at the Plaza can show the governor that we will hold him accountable for his decisions. If he wants to build a clean energy future, he must reject all new fossil fuel projects in the state. His administration has stopped some fracking pipelines and other infrastructure, but he’s allowed others to move forward, including the Dominion New Market Project and the AIM Pipeline, which runs dangerously close to the Indian Point nuclear facility.
That record isn’t good enough. The fracking ban happened because the grassroots demanded it; that’s why Food & Water Watch and other groups throughout the state will hold Governor Cuomo accountable, and we will not stop until he commits to 100 percent renewable energy in New York state. The fight continues.
Elia Sherman is a Food & Water Watch summer intern.