Local activists rally in Albany in support climate change bill

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)– The New York State Senate is considering an aggressive climate change bill that would require a transition to renewable energy. Local activists, who went to Albany last week to rally in support of the law, told News 4 action is long overdue.

“It’s not political, it’s people,” said Lucy Velez, who went to Albany.

She supports the Climate and Community Protection Act because she said it will improve the quality of life for people living on the Lower West Side.

“We have a high rate of asthma and bronchitis, now with the Baby Boomers, COPD,” said Velez. “I lived in the Lower West Side and I lived near the Peace Bridge a while back and there were a lot of carbon emissions back then.”

She joined more than 100 Western New Yorkers in Albany, including people from PUSH Buffalo. PUSH is one of more than 70 organizations statewide that support the bill.

“Climate change has its impacts and it adversely affects front line communities, communities of color, disproportionately and these effects are currently being felt across the state,” said Rahwa Ghirmatzion, deputy director of PUSH.

The law would create a disadvantage communities working group, with members of communities of color and low-income neighborhoods, to identify areas most burdened over time by pollution. It would also put solar panels, heat pumps and wind turbines in public low-income housing.

“We see in Western New York a really high instances of asthma, lung infections, upper respiratory lung infections,” said Ghirmatzion. “We also of course, because of our toxic legacy and having an old housing stock, we see a huge lead issue throughout Erie County.”

They hope the weatherization initiatives in the bill will help reduce those problems.

The proposed law would also require the state to calculate what greenhouse emission levels were statewide in 1990. The state would then have to reduce those emission levels  by half over the next 14 years. By 2050, that level would be zero.

Meanwhile, the state would transition to renewable energy systems.

“That also means there will be some really good jobs, training opportunities,” said Ghirmatzion.

Assemblyman Ray Walter said he supports using alternative energy but voted against the bill because the emission limits seemed to be arbitrary.

“It would put an incredible burden onto our businesses, our manufacturers, our farmers,” he said. “It would make it very difficult for them to do business, it would drive up the cost of energy and there’s no real plan to get to those lower emission standards without massive increases in energy costs.”

Walter said he would like to see wind and solar power being used in conjunction with nuclear and natural gas.

The bill passed through the Assembly and is now in the Senate for a vote.

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