NYS Houses Make Some Progress on Transportation but the Legislature Leaves Much to be Desired As Session Comes to a Close

ElectrifyNY Coalition Statement: In the wake of congestion pricing stall by Governor Hochul, NY legislators desperately need to pick up slack to tackle pollution, protect communities, and safeguard workers


Nydia Gutiérrez, ngutierrez@earthjustice.org

Brynn Fuller-Becker, brynn@nyforcleanpower.org

With the New York State legislative session concluded and few tangible advancements made for electrifying the transportation sector, the ElectrifyNY coalition issued the following statement in response:

Green Transit, Green Jobs (S9515/A6414):

We are disappointed that, despite ElectrifyNY’s continued advocacy to meet challenging dynamics in Albany, the Assembly ultimately failed to pass the Green Transit, Green Jobs bill this session. This shortcoming represents yet another missed opportunity by Governor Hochul, the Assembly, and transit agencies to propel New York towards its climate mandates, including the transition to zero-emission buses by 2035 and the cultivation of the developing electric vehicle manufacturing sector with good community-sustaining jobs.

Recognized experts affirm that transit buses are ripe for electrification, presenting an immediate opportunity to alleviate the disproportionate burden of toxic air pollution on disadvantaged communities. Furthermore, transitioning to zero-emission transit stands to invigorate a burgeoning industry while creating and maintaining quality employment opportunities across New York State. It offers millions of transit and paratransit riders access to cutting-edge, clean, and efficient zero-emissions vehicle technology that is crucial for advancing our climate and public health objectives.

By leveraging the collective purchasing power of our transit agencies and adhering to a meticulously planned transition roadmap, as would be outlined by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the Department of Transportation, this bill would not only facilitate meeting climate mandates but also safeguards communities from the detrimental effects of vehicle pollution while creating good job opportunities in the green economy. By failing to pass Green Transit, Green Jobs, New York leadership and transit agencies missed a crucial opportunity to create and retain good community-sustaining jobs in New York. We will continue to inspire our elected leaders to advance salient, common-sense legislation that moves beyond the confines of outdated transportation norms, improves air quality, and helps us reach our climate targets while creating and maintaining good community-sustaining jobs.

Clean Deliveries (S2127C/A1718C):

We applaud the Senate for passing the Clean Deliveries Act to reduce emissions from last-mile and mega e-commerce warehouses. The bill would direct the state to review emissions related to large warehouses and require warehouse operators to choose from various actions to minimize pollution from new and existing facilities. The rise in e-commerce in recent years, particularly during the pandemic, has led to an unregulated proliferation of large e-commerce warehouses and an unaccounted-for number of daily truck trips, leading to increases in air pollution for adjacent communities. These harms are increasingly concentrated near population centers, disproportionately impacting New Yorkers of color – which is why the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus endorsed the Clean Deliveries Act as a priority bill. According to the Environmental Defense Fund report, 1 in 4 New Yorkers (4.9 million residents) now live within half a mile of a leased warehouse 50,000 square feet or larger.

Keeping large corporations, and their polluting activities, in check progressed greatly this session. New York City announced its plans to cut pollution linked to e-commerce warehouses and restrict the creation of new facilities late last month, and the Climate Change Superfund Act (S2129B/A3351B) passed in the final hours of session. We are disappointed to see that the Assembly failed to meet this moment and pass this vital legislation. This failure to act on a pressing matter jeopardizes the health and safety of countless communities across the state. By not taking up this bill, the state will make it much harder to meet our climate law’s emission limits and equity provisions. We urge the Assembly follow the Senate’s lead by prioritizing the Clean Deliveries Act next session.

Electric School Buses:

We support the current electric school bus system and its timeline. However, we have concerns about the passing of bill S9292A/A9238A, which reduces the amortization period of zero-emission school buses from 12 to 8 years. For some, a shorter amortization period more accurately reflects the lifespan of the school buses. If the useful life of a school bus is 8 years, a 12-year amortization period will limit the ability of a school district or bus operator to retire a bus earlier and avoid costly repairs and reliability issues as the battery degrades.

This issue is far too important to handle just under the wire, and this bill needs to weigh the nuances of transitioning to zero-emission school buses. It should not move until policymakers have a greater understanding of school districts’ varying needs and the varying lifespans of electric school buses.

ElectrifyNY is a statewide coalition of advocates for environmental justice, public transportation, social justice, and good jobs fighting for a clean, equitable electric transportation future for New York. ElectrifyNY’s work aims to improve the environment and public health outcomes for the communities most affected by the negative impacts of the transportation sector’s dependency on fossil fuels.

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