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For Release: Monday, March 27, 2023

New York State Climate Justice Working Group Finalizes Disadvantaged Communities Criteria to Advance Climate Justice

Criteria Developed with Robust Public Input After 11 Public Hearings and More Than 3,000 Comments

Criteria Supports Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Requirements to Guide Benefits of State's Climate Investments

New York State today announced the Climate Justice Working Group's (CJWG) finalization of the criteria for identifying disadvantaged communities. Following today's CJWG vote, the criteria is enacted and will guide the equitable implementation of New York's ambitious Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) provisions that prioritize disadvantaged communities by requiring reductions in air pollution and climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions and targeting clean energy and energy efficiency investments.

State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner and Climate Action Council Co-Chair Basil Seggos said, "Advancing climate justice is central to New York's climate actions and our ongoing efforts to transition all New Yorkers to a cleaner, greener future. I thank the Climate Justice Working Group for their hard work as part of this robust and transparent process to advance this criteria and help ensure no less than 35 percent with the goal of 40 percent of the Climate Act's benefits are directed to disadvantaged communities. Today marks a significant milestone in New York's ongoing work to achieve climate justice and DEC looks forward to continuing to work with communities and stakeholders across the state to combat climate change and build healthier communities strengthened by our green economy."

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) President and CEO and Climate Action Council Co-Chair Doreen M. Harris said, "The final adoption of this criteria solidifies New York State's commitment to climate justice for those underserved communities most impacted by air pollution and harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Through its hard work and dedication, the Climate Justice Working Group's clearly defined guidance will help us realize the equitable distribution of benefits from clean energy investments as together, we combat climate change."

The Climate Act requires New York State to invest or direct resources to ensure that disadvantaged communities receive at least 35 percent, with the goal of 40 percent, of overall benefits of spending on clean energy and energy efficiency programs - one of several ways the Climate Act prioritizes climate justice. The Climate Act also requires State agencies and entities to prioritize greenhouse gas emissions co-pollutant reductions and ensure State decision-making does not disproportionately burden disadvantaged communities.

New York State's disadvantaged communities criteria served as a model for the Biden Administration's Justice40 initiative with alignment between the state and federal government with historic commitments to both address climate change and recognize the need for environmental justice in plans, proposals, and investments as part of our climate agenda, not just in New York but across the country.

The CJWG, established in the Climate Act, is comprised of 13 representatives from organizations working in frontline environmental justice communities across New York State and supported by a team of State agency and technical experts. For more than two years, the CJWG worked to identify disadvantaged communities by evaluating, and ultimately voting on 45 indicators, including: environmental burdens and climate change risks; sociodemographic factors such as age, race, and income; and health vulnerabilities. Using a methodology that worked at the census tract level, the CJWG combined and ranked all indicators into an overall score.

In addition to the geographic component, the criteria includes low-income households located anywhere in New York State for the purpose of investing or directing clean energy and energy efficiency programs, projects, and investments. These individual households report annual total income at or below 60 percent of the State median income, or households otherwise eligible for low-income programs.

The State's CJWG released the draft criteria for public comment in March 2022. Robust public input and engagement on the draft criteria included 11 public hearings across the state, with more than 3,000 written comments submitted and reviewed prior to finalization. The criteria and methods for identifying disadvantaged communities will be reviewed annually by the CJWG to ensure the State is accurately targeting emissions reductions and investments.

CJWG Member and UPROSE Executive Director Elizabeth Yeampierre said, "The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report stunned us when they stated we have seven years to do right by people and the planet. Fortunately, in New York, the historic CLCPA has provided us with the opportunity to do so. The CJWG was honored with the opportunity to develop criteria to guide the State in investments that will protect communities that have endured a legacy of environmental injustice. As part of this working group, we worked diligently and relentlessly to ensure that our aunties, our children, and those most vulnerable to recurrent extreme weather events were prioritized."

CJWG Member and Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC-EJA) Eddie Bautista said, "Identifying communities that are disadvantaged is a critical step in advancing the climate justice agenda outlined in the CLCPA. We undertook an intensive process to develop these criteria, which included reviewing public input and significant consideration and assessment of how communities are currently impacted by environmental burdens and health, income, and other social disparities. It is important to note that the criteria will be reviewed annually, allowing the working group to consider evolving knowledge on the extent to which frontline communities across the state are overburdened. I want to express my appreciation to my fellow working group members for their dedication to the process and helping us get to this point."

CJWG Member and Director of Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice Sonal Jessel said, "We are excited to release a final disadvantaged communities criteria to New Yorkers. As we address the climate crisis in New York State, it is vital that we ensure a minimum of 35-40% of the benefits of climate interventions go to these communities as laid out in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) because the state must ensure that we deliver long overdue investments in communities most burdened by climate and environmental injustices. Now we look forward to ensuring the DAC map is used across all agencies and programs."

CJWG Member and Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) Clean Energy Program Director Jill Henck said, "On behalf of ANCA and New York's North Country, I'm grateful for the opportunity to bring my rural region's voice to this process. I look forward to continuing these important conversations with North Country communities, state leaders, and members of the Climate Justice Working Group in order to best serve the needs of underserved and disadvantaged communities across the North Country and New York State."

CJWG Member and State Department of Labor Representative Elizabeth Furth said, "Today's announcement is a major step toward ensuring disadvantaged communities throughout New York State can truly realize the many benefits stemming from our transition to a green economy. We now have a tangible way to address climate injustices of the past and ensure we do not repeat them. This was a long but fruitful process and I am grateful for the many researchers, advocates, and members of the public who took the time to provide input on this critical issue."

A list of disadvantaged communities, along with preliminary maps (leaves DEC website), can be found on the Climate Act website. A recording of the meeting and meeting materials will also be made available as soon as possible following the meeting. A fact sheet on the final criteria will be translated and, along with an interactive map and final report, will be made available online as soon as practicable.

The Climate Act requires State agencies and entities to prioritize and maximize reduction of greenhouse gases and co-pollutants in disadvantaged communities. The Climate Action Council approved and adopted the Scoping Plan in December 2022 to outline recommended policies and actions to help meet the directives of the Climate Act. For more information about the Scoping Plan (leaves DEC website), visit the Climate Act website.

New York State's Nation-Leading Climate Plan

New York State's nation-leading climate agenda calls for an orderly and just transition that creates family-sustaining jobs, continues fostering a green economy across all sectors and ensures that at least 35 percent, with a goal of 40 percent, of the benefits of clean energy and energy efficiency investments are directed to disadvantaged communities. Guided by some of the nation's most aggressive climate and clean energy initiatives, New York is on a path to achieving a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and economywide carbon neutrality by mid-century. A cornerstone of this transition is New York's unprecedented clean energy investments, including more than $35 billion in 120 large-scale renewable and transmission projects across the state, $6.8 billion to reduce building emissions, $1.8 billion to scale up solar, more than $1 billion for clean transportation initiatives, and over $1.8 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. These and other investments are supporting more than 165,000 jobs in New York's clean energy sector in 2021 and a 2,100 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, New York also adopted zero-emission vehicle regulations, including requiring all new passenger cars and trucks sold in the State be zero emission by 2035. Partnerships are continuing to advance New York's climate action with nearly 400 registered and 100 certified Climate Smart Communities, nearly 500 Clean Energy Communities, and the State's largest community air monitoring initiative in 10 disadvantaged communities across the state to help target air pollution and combat climate change.

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