Just Transitions & Energy

Our nation’s dependency on fossil fuels and unchecked energy consumption continues to have important environmental justice implications, including the siting of power plants and other energy infrastructure. NYC-EJA has collaborated with several partners to ensure that energy planning and economic development in NYC are conducted equitably, and that low-income and communities of color do not continue to bear an overwhelming burden.

NY Renews is an unprecedented statewide cross-sector alliance of over 200 community-based organizations, environmental justice groups, labor unions, faith groups, business leaders, and other advocates from across the state working together to demand healthy communities, good jobs, 100% clean renewable energy, environmental justice, and worker protection. Co-founded by NYC-EJA, NY Renews is the driving force behind the most progressive and ambitious climate action law in the nation, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, passed in 2019.

The Act creates a Just Transition energy policy by including strong protections for communities on the front lines of climate and environmental crisis, and providing important tools to ensure racial and economic equity in the application of emission reduction policies. For more information or to get involved, visit the NY Renews website.

Climate Works for All (CW4A) is a broad city-wide coalition of labor, environmental justice, community, and faith groups united to ensure that efforts to address climate change in NYC also create good, career-track jobs and prioritize low-income, climate-vulnerable communities. CW4A campaigns demand a Just Transition and aim to move us towards an equitable economy, a resilient, livable, and healthy climate, and aim to prioritize justice for low-income Black and Brown communities across New York City. In 2019, CW4A achieved a landmark victory with the passing of the NYC Climate Mobilization Act, an energy efficiency mandate aimed at reducing emissions from the city’s largest buildings. In 2020, CW4A released a report titled ‘An Equitable Recovery for NYC: Creating 100,000 Climate Jobs for Frontline Communities of Color’ which outlines 7 different infrastructure project areas that can put 100,000 workers back to work in good, union, climate jobs, while investing in New York’s BIPOC communities. Additionally, CW4A celebrated the passage of Intro 1947, which expands coverage of our landmark Dirty Buildings Law (LL97) to include a portion of rent-regulated housing, in a way that protects tenants from bearing rent increase burdens.

For more information about campaigns, visit the Climate Works for All website.

REVitalize is a collaboration between NYC-EJA, PUSH Buffalo, The POINT CDC, and UPROSE, to address the opportunities and challenges associated with community energy planning and community-owned solar. As part of this process, REVitalize seeks to create a replicable planning model where local grassroots organizations carry out baseline research to identify their community’s energy needs, articulate goals and objectives to address them, and identify resources for implementation. NYC-EJA provides technical assistance to the three community-based organizations in developing their plans. NYC-EJA and REVitalize partners facilitate dialogues with public officials and agencies to target and dismantle state regulatory barriers to community co-owned renewable energy projects, as well as articulate policy and programmatic recommendations to inform future government-community partnerships and support community-based energy planning.

In September 2019, NYC-EJA co-organized and facilitated a stakeholder discussion with NYSERDA about plans to address Environmental Justice communities and LMI households within the 6 Gigawatt (GW) of new solar deployment by 2025 goal set by the CLCPA. The stakeholder meeting provided REVitalize partners, NYC-EJA members, and other community allies a unique opportunity to help guide NYSERDA as they shape the future of the $600+ million NY-Sun solar development program.

When energy demand in New York City spikes above normal levels, highly polluting power plants known as “peakers” fire up in the South Bronx, Sunset Park, and other environmental justice communities, spewing harmful emissions (i.e., NOx, SOx, PM2.5) into neighborhoods overburdened by pollution – communities that are also emerging as among the most hard-hit by the deadly respiratory virus COVID-19. The PEAK coalition—UPROSE, THE POINT CDC, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC-EJA), New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), and Clean Energy Group (CEG)— came together to end the long-standing pollution burden from power plants on the city’s most climate-vulnerable people. This coalition will be the first comprehensive effort in the U.S. to reduce the negative and racially disproportionate health impacts of a city’s peaker plants by fighting to replace them with renewable energy and storage solutions. Our collaboration brings technical, legal, public health, and planning expertise to support organizing and advocacy led by communities harmed by peaker plant emissions. Together with communities, we are advocating for a system of localized renewable energy generation and battery storage to replace peaker plants, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, lower energy bills and make the electricity system more resilient in the face of increased storms and climate impacts. Visit our PEAK Coalition website and read our 2020 report “Dirty Energy, Big Money” here.

The Renewable Rikers vision emerged from conversations about the post-carceral future of the island, led by survivors of Rikers who advocated for its closure, in partnership with environmental justice leaders. Renewable Rikers is led by criminal justice, environmental justice, and environmental advocates. In 2021, the Renewable Rikers coalition pushed the NYC Council to pass the Renewable Rikers Act, which transfers jurisdiction of Rikers Island from the Department of Correction (DOC) to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), as well as mandates two feasibility studies on the island’s potential to generate and store renewable energy and host a wastewater treatment plant. Under the Act, DOC will be prohibited from operating jails on the island after August 31, 2027. As we collectively work toward achieving the goals of the CLCPA, we must take this opportunity to build a Renewable Rikers that will be a hub for large-scale renewable energy and sustainability.

Renewable Rikers can demonstrate how to actualize a Just Transition in New York City. Renewable Rikers envisions a world where communities long victimized by both the carceral state and environmental racism can finally see a measure of true justice on the horizon.

To learn more, visit the Renewable Rikers website and read the factsheet.

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Accomplishments

  • PEAK celebrates the withdrawal of the Article 10 process by Eastern Generation LLC on the Gowanus Repowering Project, which will replace old and harmful peaker plants in Sunset Park with new sets of fossil fuel generators to continue polluting the community. This news comes as PEAK Coalition and allies pressured to deny NRG’s Astoria plant repowering by New York State DEC, citing CLCPA mandates. Eastern Generation’s decision to build battery storage capacity is consistent with PEAK’s goal to retire all New York peaker plants with renewable generation and storage. Read the press release here.

  • In October 2021, NYSDEC rejected the Title V air permit for Astoria Gas Turbine Power, LLC, effectively halting Astoria Replacement Project. This decision removes the threat of pollution that would result in public health impacts to environmental justice communities. The decision by DEC cites the project’s non-compliance with the requirements of the CLCPA, the first ruling of its kind citing the 2019 legislation. The PEAK Coalition and allies joined the over 6,600 public comments calling for DEC’s rejection of the permit. Shout out to our allies in the NY Renews coalition for ushering in a new era with the CLCPA!

  • In October 2020, PEAK announced its groundbreaking agreement with the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to work towards replacing the state authority’s existing NYC  peaker plants with renewable energy and battery storage. The partnership will collaborate to “evaluate the potential to replace NYPA’s existing peaker units, augment and otherwise install renewable and battery storage systems at NYPA’s New York City sites and surrounding communities.”

  • In response to the COVID-19 economic and public health crisis of 2020, Climate Works for All is building broad coalition support for a climate, jobs and justice stimulus plan to put frontline communities of color back to work. Read our 2020 report: An Equitable Recovery: Creating 100,000 Climate Jobs for Frontline Communities of Color.

  • In May 2020, PEAK released its first publication titled Dirty Energy, Big Money which brought to light that over the last decade, an estimated $4.5 billion of ratepayer money—in the form of what are called “capacity payments”—have gone to the owners of the city’s polluting peaker plants, simply to keep peakers online in case they may be needed.

  • NYC-EJA staff and allies were appointed to various advisory committees for the CLCPA, including the Power Generation, Transportation, Land Use and Local Government, Waste, and Energy-Intensive and Trade-Exposed Industries Advisory Panels.

  • Implementation of the CLCPA will be overseen by the Climate Action Council, and the definition of disadvantaged communities will be determined by the Climate Justice Working Group, to which our Executive Director has been appointed.

  • NY Renews had a landmark victory in 2019 with the passage of the NYS Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (originally CCPA), which sets NY on a path to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, requiring 85% emissions reductions economy-wide. This historic law also centers racial and economic justice by requiring that 35-40% of State spending on clean energy and energy efficiency benefit disadvantaged communities.

  • In 2019, thanks to grassroots efforts by Climate Works for All, NYC passed the Climate Mobilization Act, a suite of progressive climate policies that included the Dirty Buildings Law, Local Law 97 – which requires that NYC’s largest and most polluting buildings reduce their energy usage drastically, creating good, green jobs in the process.

  • In response to NYC-EJA’s and other allies advocacy efforts, Power NY mandates (for the first time) the development of environmental impact analyses and mitigation that prevents any net increases to an environmental justice community’s total local air pollution levels before a power plant siting can be approved.

  • In 1995, NYC-EJA launched the City’s first green jobs training program, then known as the Minority Workers Training Program. NYC-EJA is a co-founder of the New York City Apollo Alliance and is a partner in their living wage green jobs campaign in NYC; at the State level, NYC-EJA works with the Center for Working Families on NYS green jobs strategies.

City & State: Energy & Environment Power 100 (12/20/2020)
The Auto Channel: Hydrogen Hype in the Air (12/14/2020)
Grist: NYC removes peaker blinders(10/16/2020)
The New Republic: Turn Rikers Island Into a Solar Farm (06/19/2020)
City and State NY: Energy & Environment Power 50; 6-50 (12/22/2019)
Gotham Gazette: Offshore Wind, Offshore Justice (03/13/2018)
New York State Pressroom: Governor Cuomo Announces Major Climate and Jobs Initiative (06/02/2017)
El Diaro NY: Proteger Nuestro Medioambiente (05/31/2016)
Capitol Confidential: Praise For Power NY(08/04/2011)