Recently, I wrote a letter to the governor, signed by 70 Assembly members and senators, calling for an end to ratepayer or state bailouts of coal power plants in New York. I wrote this letter because our nation’s scientists are telling us that it is past time to transition away from fossil fuels and plan for a sustainable future.
Understandably, many are concerned about what the closure of the Cayuga power plant would mean for our community, particularly in terms of loss of jobs and tax revenue for Lansing schools and local governments.
These are important, legitimate concerns. The Cayuga power plant has been an important local business, and has supported generations of workers and their families. It’s no small thing to lose your job. Nor is it a small thing for a school district or a town budget to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars; critical services could go on the chopping block, services that we all care about.
These are concerns I share, which is why I’ve called for state funding to assist communities, schools and workers that are in the process of making this transition.
Happily, I can report that language was included in our end-of-session agreement acknowledging the need for such support to communities, as well as an allocation of $19 million for a current situation on Long Island. This new language is in effect until 2025, and I will be fighting in each and every budget cycle to make sure that state money will be available for municipalities and schools in my district that are affected by coal plant retirements.
I will also be fighting to ease the burden on workers who face direct consequences from plant closure. NYSERDA’s Energy, Education and Workforce Development programs can aid in finding employment opportunities for energy sector workers who may be displaced with the shuttering of an existing facility. The state’s Green Jobs, Green New York initiative can offer training for renewable-energy jobs, which will capture an ever-greater share of the energy sector workforce as the state continues to increase its reliance on solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.
We are coming to the end of the age of fossil fuels; it makes no sense to support ratepayer and state bailouts of coal-fired power plants. When the generals are leaving their Pentagon offices to speak around the country about the great danger of continued inaction on climate change — and when the pope is urging major world powers to address this crisis — it is clearly time to act.
New Yorkers have led the way on so many critical issues in the past, and we should lead the way on this environmental issue as well, creating good jobs that can’t be outsourced. We are 19 million people, we have enormous wealth if we choose to harness it, and we should once again take up the mantle of leadership and move us into a hopeful and sustainable future.
Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca, represents Tompkins and Cortland counties in the New York Assembly.