New York, US: Governor Cuomo signs Community Risk and Resiliency Act

Governor of New York State

Law Provides Tools for the State and Local Communities to Prepare for Climate Change

Albany, NY - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed into law the Community Risk and Resiliency Act to strengthen New York State’s preparedness for the effects of climate change and help protect communities against severe weather and sea level rise. The Community Risk and Resiliency Act advances a number of important recommendations of the NYS 2100 Commission, which the Governor convened after Superstorm Sandy to develop more resilient infrastructure systems across the state.

“The new reality of extreme weather has had painful consequences for New Yorkers in virtually every region of our state, but today we’re taking another step forward in our goal of building back better, stronger, and more resilient than ever before,” Governor Cuomo said. “This new law contains a comprehensive package of actions that help strengthen and reimagine our infrastructure with the next storm in mind. I am proud to sign this legislation as we continue to move New York forward to a cleaner and more resilient future.”

The Governor signed the legislation in conjunction with Climate Week 2014 in New York City, which features more than 100 events, including the United Nations Climate Summit, to highlight how governments, businesses, academia and citizens can reduce carbon pollution and prepare for the inevitable changes of a warming world. The Governor also proclaimed the week of September 22 as “Climate Week” and urged international collaboration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to make our nations and communities more resilient to climate hazards.

The Community Risk and Resiliency Act requires State agencies to consider future physical climate risks caused by storm surges, sea level rise or flooding in certain permitting, funding and regulatory decisions (A06558/ S06617-B). The standards would apply to smart growth assessments, siting of wastewater treatment plants and hazardous waste transportation, storage and disposal facilities, design and construction regulations for petroleum and chemical bulk storage facilities and oil and gas drilling permits, and properties listed in the state’s Open Space Plan, as well as other projects.

In addition, the State Department of Environmental Conservation will adopt official projections for sea level rise by January 1, 2016 and update the projections every five years. The Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of State will also prepare model local laws to help communities incorporate measures related to physical climate risks into local laws, as well as provide guidance on the implementation of the Act, including the use of resiliency measures that utilize natural resources and natural processes to reduce risk.

Senator Diane Savino, sponsor of the bill, said, "In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, New Yorkers understand that extreme weather is the new reality. Too many homeowners lost their homes when Sandy arrived at our shores and thousands of residents continue to feel the hardship from the storm's incredible devastation. This legislation will finally require State agencies to take climate risk into account when issuing new permits and funding new projects that impact our daily lives. I applaud Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law and for his unwavering commitment in the rebuilding of our communities."

Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation and sponsor of the bill, said, “This law ensures that New York State is responsible in the use of taxpayer monies. This legislation, which came as a result of hearings after Superstorm Sandy and Hurricanes Irene and Lee, ensures that state funds and permits for projects, such as water and sewage treatment plants, include consideration of the effects that climate change and extreme weather could have on these facilities. Extreme weather events, which used to occur once every hundred years, are now occurring with increased force and frequency. New York State must adapt to the changing climate reality. Given the proximity to water in many New York State communities, this legislation will allow us to rebuild our communities to withstand the effects of climate change. I am delighted that Governor Cuomo has signed the bill into law.”

Department of Environmental Conversation Commissioner Joe Martens said, “Governor Cuomo recognizes the risks of climate change and has worked closely with the State Legislature, State agencies, local communities and other partners to develop smart strategies to minimize potential impacts on residents, businesses and natural resources. This new law builds on these efforts by providing a stronger, pre-emptive defense against potential threats from extreme weather and flooding due to climate change, which will also better protect our environment.”

Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales said, “Governor Cuomo leads the nation with his vision and determination to address climate change adaptation and community resiliency. The Department of State will continue working with our sister agencies by providing planning expertise to help communities throughout the state implement long-term resiliency strategies, particularly in vulnerable coastal areas.”

Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery Executive Director Jamie Rubin said, “With instances of extreme weather becoming all the more common, we must continue to reimagine New York in an innovative and efficient way. Incorporating resiliency into each of our NY Rising programs, the State assists homeowners, small businesses and entire communities to build back better and stronger than before. The new Community Risk and Resiliency Act will further this goal, while demonstrating the State’s continued commitment to protecting at-risk coastal neighborhoods.”

New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jerome M. Hauer said, “The Community Risk and Resiliency Act recognizes that with climate change comes more extreme weather conditions and New York State needs to be prepared to respond to more frequent and extreme weather events. This requires more hands-on training, equipment and response capabilities that will enhance our current operations and make New York the most prepared state in the nation.”

Scientists have confirmed a sea level rise of approximately 13 inches since 1900 along New York’s coast, and have also measured a significant increase in the proportion of total precipitation that arrives in heavy rainfall events. These climate changes, coupled with land-use planning, zoning and investment that allow and sometimes encourage development in at-risk areas, have resulted in more people, businesses and public infrastructure existing in vulnerable areas.

New York and other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states pioneered the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the first market-based program to cap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Under this program, emission allowances are sold at auctions and the proceeds are reinvested in projects that support clean energy technologies, provide greater energy efficiency and help lower consumer energy bills, all while driving further reductions in greenhouse gas pollution.

The Community Risk and Resiliency Act will coordinate science and existing policy to create a safer New York. New York State has already invested millions of dollars in research programs to better understand climate change’s effects on New York. In addition, the NY Rising storm recovery programs include components for climate change resilience and adaptation.

The Nature Conservancy, New York Chief Conservation and External Affairs Officer Stuart F. Gruskin said, "By signing the Community Risk Reduction and Resiliency Act into law, Governor Cuomo has ensured that New York State will take a proactive approach to the challenges of our changing climate. By implementing recommendations made by Governor Cuomo's 2100 Commission, in which The Nature Conservancy participated, the new law will help create a more resilient New York. We appreciate Governor Cuomo's continued leadership on climate resilience issues, and thank the bill sponsors Senator Diane Savino and Assembly Member Robert Sweeney for their leadership on this issue in the Legislature.”

Business Council of New York State President and CEO Heather C. Briccetti said, “Many infrastructure projects consider designs to address physical climate risk such as strategic landscaping or building placement. This Act will require that the Department provide certainty for the State, localities and private investors with the development of guidance that address physical climate risk. The Business Council thanks Governor Cuomo, and legislators Senator Savino and Member of the Assembly Sweeney, for their leadership and advancement, amendments and enactment of this Act because it represents one of many opportunities where the interests of the business community and the environment can be addressed jointly.”

Natural Resources Defense Council, New York Political and Legislative Director for the Urban Program Richard Schrader said, “This important law will provide state and local governments as well as the business community with crucial tools to best address the enormous challenges that climate change is already presenting us. As world leaders gather in New York for climate week, we thank the Governor for signing this vital legislation.”

Audubon New York Executive Director Erin Crotty said, "Audubon New York applauds Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, especially the leadership of Senator Diane Savino and Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, for enacting the Community Risk Reduction and Resiliency Act. Audubon’s recently released scientific report indicates that more than half of North American birds will be threatened by climate change. Audubon’s report is a call to action that we must do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the places that birds need to thrive and survive now and into the future. This law will help us reach these goals by ensuring future climate risk is part of public infrastructure financing and permitting programs and that sea level rise projects are developed. We look forward to working with the Administration to support this important law’s swift implementation.”

New York League of Conservation Voters President Marcia Bystryn said, “The Community Risk and Resiliency Act is a critical piece of New York State's climate resiliency strategy. We applaud the legislature for its passage and Governor Cuomo for signing it into law.”


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