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 is a citywide coalition that unites environmental justice, faith, labor, and economic and social justice groups around a just transition agenda for sustainability in New York City.

NYC-EJA developed the ten-point Climate Works for All agenda in collaboration with ALIGN, NYC Central Labor Council, the BlueGreen Alliance, and National AFL-CIO. Enacting these proposals will create good quality jobs and career paths for New Yorkers who are exposed to the greatest hazards of climate change and economic inequality. In December 2014, the Climate Works for All partners convened a meeting of labor, environmental justice, and community groups to review the platform and build power for the campaign. The coalition has worked to ensure that the City’s revision of the Energy Code and the development of renewable energy projects provide emissions reductions, community benefits, and good quality jobs.

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.

As we collectively work toward reaching our new State and Citywide climate goals, we must take this opportunity to build a renewable, regenerative, and restorative post-carceral Rikers Island. We are working with allies to advocate for a re-envisioning of Rikers Island to become a hub of large-scale renewable energy and energy storage technology that can move us toward shutting down fossil fuel peaker power plants that have been polluting environmental justice communities for decades. Rikers can also be home to a modern wastewater treatment plant, as well as other sustainable infrastructure that can process large quantities of organic waste diverted from landfill and incinerators to help combat climate change and further the City’s Zero Waste goals. Renewable Rikers can demonstrate how to actualize a Just Transition in New York City. To learn more visit our website and read the Renewable Rikers factsheet.

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Accomplishments

  • 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)