Recap: Roundtable on Reducing Transportation Sector Emissions

Together with Columbia University’s Sabin Center For Climate Change Law, we recently held the third virtual forum in our series on implementing the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. This roundtable focused on reducing emissions from the transportation sector, which is the state’s largest contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A recording of the forum is available here.


The forum featured discussions about two policies in particular: the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) and a Clean Fuels Standard (CFS). The forum was moderated by Nick Sifuentes, Executive Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. It featured several expert speakers from the transportation and climate sectors: James Bradbury, Bruce Ho, Ben Mandel, Porie Saikia-Eapen, Kerene Tayloe, and Floyd Vergara.

James Bradbury is the Mitigation Program Director at the Georgetown Climate Center. During the roundtable, he spoke about how the Transportation and Climate Initiative would commit 12 Northeastern states to reduce emissions from regional transportation. The TCI proposes to cut down on the over 40% of carbon emissions that transportation is responsible for regionally through creating a multijurisdictional cap on carbon emissions. It proposes a 20-25% cut in carbon emissions from 2022-2032. It would also modestly raise prices at the pump and use the proceeds to fund research in and incentivize clean energy. The final memorandum of understanding for the TCI is on track to be released by the end of the year, with the policy set to go into effect in 2021. The TCI and its regional approach can get more done than if the states were to only act alone.

Bradbury also discussed the current federal political landscape. While he said that Congress is currently very unpredictable with funding, he stated that the Biden/Harris Administration will pursue climate-friendly initiatives such as setting federal vehicle emissions standards and restoring tax credits for electric vehicles. Because of uncertainty on the federal level, Bradbury contends that state and local leadership is critical to creating long-term climate programs. He said that a combination of bottom-up leadership from communities and state-level funding will be important.

Bruce Ho, Senior Advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, mentioned the need for an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to tackle the transportation sector’s pollution problem. He lauded the TCI’s enforceable declining cap on transportation emissions and $1.4 billion in annual funding it would create, citing its potential to save lives and prevent over 1,000 childhood asthma cases in New York every year. He mentioned the need to use TCI funds to support equitable solutions like mass transit. He also stated that it would be unacceptable if the TCI exacerbates existing disparities, and that the program will need to provide certainties and guarantees for health benefits for communities of color. Finally, Ho emphasized that no single policy is a silver bullet, and that it is essential for a clean fuels standard to work hand in hand with the TCI.

Ben Mandel, Northeast Regional Director for CALSTART, reiterated that while the TCI is imperative, we also need an all-hands-on-deck approach. A clean fuels standard would establish a declining standard for the carbon from fuels used in the state. It would create revenue to reinvest in the public transportation system and the development of low carbon fuels. He said that clean fuel standard bills have bipartisan support in the State Assembly and Senate. Mandle suggested using incentives to reduce payback periods for investing in an electric fleet in order to get more clean-fuel vehicles on the road. To handle areas without access to mass transit, he suggested enhancing first and last mile connections such as e-bikes and e-scooters, reducing the need for single-person car trips.

Porie Saikia-Eapen, Director of Environmental Sustainability and Compliance at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, discussed the agency’s long term goals for fleet electrification, including plans to convert the entire 6000-strong bus fleet to run on electricity by 2040. This process has already begun through the purchase of 15 electric buses and plans to order 500 more in the 2024 capital plan. She mentioned that the MTA has 2000 miles of track, covers 5000 square miles of territory, and moved an average of 9,000,000 people per day prior to the pandemic. The agency keeps 17,000,000 tons of GHG emissions out of the air annually by reducing the number of cars on the road, she said. It is currently looking to make a 10-year agreement with energy developers to install solar panels on bus depot roofs to send power to the grid. A similar program already exists with panels on the roof of the Stillwood Avenue subway terminal that power the station. Saikia-Eapen also mentioned that the agency exceeded its 2010-2020 goal of reducing energy consumption of spaces greater than 20,000 square feet by 20%. Additionally, the MTA is currently researching biodiesel as a possible fuel source. Finally, the agency is committed to reporting emissions on an annual basis to the climate registry and to meeting the science-based targets of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Kerena Tayloe is the Director of Federal Legislative Affairs at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. During the roundtable, she expressed some of the concerns about TCI, including that many of these policies were created without input from environmental justice communities. Tayloe also criticized the Trump Administration’s rollbacks of CAFE standards. She opposes market-based approaches to reducing emissions, which she feels are ineffectual. She supports the adoption of electric buses, and mentioned that an increase in the price of gas would only increase the burden on already-burdened people.

Floyd Vergara is the leader of the West Coast Office for the National Biodiesel Board. He discussed the clean fuels standard, which he said decarbonizes the transportation fuel pool, improves air quality, reduces dependency on fossil-fuels, incentivizes investment in new industries, and creates jobs. The CFS incentivizes alternative fuels such as biodiesel, which has created an estimated 38,000 jobs. Vergara said that the CFS in California has not had an adverse impact on prices at the pump. He says we often focus on the magnitude of emission reductions but ignore how long it would take to achieve these goals. Biodiesel can be implemented right now since it is compatible with existing engines and would significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from trucks. Electrification makes sense for light-duty vehicles, but for heavy-duty vehicles, biofuels will play an important role, said Vergara.

We will continue to plan more in our forum series on implementing the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

Recap: Congressional Forum for Long Island Candidates

On October 15th, 2020, the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF), Citizens Campaign for the Environment, and Students for Climate Action (S4CA) held a candidate forum for New York Congressional Districts 1 and 2, which cover a large part of Suffolk County and the southeastern portion of Nassau County. The forum took place on Zoom ahead of the general election on November 3rd. NYLCVEF regularly holds candidate forums to provide voters with the opportunity to hear directly from candidates about their stance on important environmental issues. 

The forum featured pre-recorded interviews with Congressional District 1 candidates Lee Zeldin (incumbent) and Nancy Goroff. Also featured were pre-recorded interviews with candidates Jackie Gordon and Andrew Garbarino, running for the Congressional District 2 seat soon to be vacated by longtime congressman Peter King. The forum was moderated by Adrienne Esposito, the Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, and featured panelists Julie Tighe, President of NYLCVEF; Melissa Parrott, Executive Director of S4CA; Harrison Bench, Deputy Director of S4CA; Christine Giurcanu, a member of S4CA; and Gordiane Raacke, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island. 


NY Congressional District 1

Lee Zelden is the incumbent Congressman for NY’s 1st Congressional District, an attorney, and an officer in the United States Army Reserve. During the forum, he advocated for the government to work with the private sector, and mentioned the Carbon Capture Improvement Act, a bill incentivizing corporations to invest in carbon capture and storage equipment, which he co-sponsored. Regarding solar energy, Zeldin acknowledged legislation that he co-sponsored to extend the Solar Investment Tax Credit by five years. Congressman Zeldin acknowledged the importance of water quality testing and transparency of the results, and recognized the need to make incremental progress on the long-term issue of water quality across the country. He advocated for the EPA to set a limit on the level of contaminants in local water supply, mentioned the need for investment in sewer infrastructure to decrease river contamination, and emphasized the need to complete the Forge River Watershed Sewer project. In his closing statement, he emphasized the need for bipartisanship on climate legislation and lauded bipartisan climate action over the past year.

Dr. Nancy Goroff is the chair of the chemistry department at Stony Brook University and has a PhD in Organic Chemistry from UCLA. During the forum, she mentioned the need for climate action as a top priority for her and a major motivation for her entry into the race. She advocated for completely carbon neutral energy production by 2035, and total carbon neutrality as soon as possible after that. She emphasized the need to invest in clean energy infrastructure and research. Dr. Goroff also spoke about her desire to make her office a resource on climate change for every member of Congress, and to challenge climate-denying members. Dr. Goroff mentioned the need for clean energy infrastructure in the next stimulus package, including offshore wind farms for Long Island. She is in favor of increasing solar energy infrastructure however she can, including extending the solar tax credit and working with local governments to ease ordinances that place restrictions on solar power. Dr. Goroff emphasized the need for the EPA to monitor water contamination, and for both the EPA and the Department of Defense to remediate water contamination. In her closing statement, she mentioned the need to re-enter the Paris Climate Accord.

NY Congressional District 2

Jackie Gordon is a U.S. combat veteran who has worked as an educator, a community leader, and a public servant. During the forum, she acknowledged the reality of the climate crisis, recalling the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, and spoke about the need to re-enter the Paris Climate Accord. She said she would prioritize renewable energy in Congress, and mentioned the need to ensure that renewable energy companies get their products to market. She also recognized the need to secure funding for renewable energy corporations to help them conduct research. Gordon supports extending the solar tax incentive, and envisions partnerships between educational institutions and the solar industry. Gordon said she would prioritize the Bethpage plume, and bring local, state, and federal environmental agencies together to figure out what went wrong. She also mentioned the need to identify who was harmed, and to introduce a bill in Congress to clean up the site and penalize polluters. In her closing statement, she mentioned our collective responsibility to take care of the planet, emphasizing her special responsibility as a leader to do so.

Andrew Garbarino currently serves as a NY State Assemblyman for Assembly District 7. During the forum, he mentioned his personal connection to the environment, having grown up on the South Shore and learning to sail and swim in the Great South Bay. He cited his experience serving on the Environmental Conservation Committee as an assemblyman. Garbarino also acknowledged the importance of protecting the South Shore, mentioning its role as an economic driver for the area. He supports a bill which would provide a carbon recapture tax credit as well as the “Trillion Trees” bill. He emphasized that environmental conservation should be a bipartisan issue. Additionally, he supports the solar industry and extension of the solar tax credit, citing personal stories of its effectiveness. He opposes offshore drilling, and wants to replace coal and oil power with renewables and natural gas. Garbarino also cited his votes for bills banning aquifer contaminants, and advocated for a comprehensive infrastructure bill from Congress to address Suffolk County’s lack of modern sewage infrastructure. In his closing statement, he reiterated his earlier remarks about his personal experience growing up near the Great South Bay and that the climate should be a bipartisan issue.

Harry Burger is a mechanical engineer and the Green Party candidate for NY’s 2nd Congressional District. In his opening remarks, Burger mentioned current natural disasters that are being spurred on by climate change: fires in the west and hurricanes in the east. Burger supports the Green New Deal, and advocates for zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Burger expressed that we need to end new oil drilling, fracking, and fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Burger expressed the need to invest aggressively in renewables and look to lower energy alternatives (e.g. high speed rail as opposed to airlines), which he says will stimulate the economy. With regards to the Bethpage plume, Burger mentioned how if Grumman and the Navy properly disposed of their waste in the 1970s, there would be no contamination in the first place, and that it would have been cheaper for them in the long run. He also stated the huge economic ($558 million) and environmental costs of the plume. To help remediate the situation and avert future disasters, Burger wants to hold Grumman responsible for the full cost of the cleanup. The more immediate concern to Burger, however, is getting the federal government to stop polluting before it reaches places like the Great South Bay. Finally, he emphasized how climate issues are interconnected, and that a disruption in one area of the environment can have a cascading effect on everything else. Harry Burger’s video testimonial can be viewed here

Thanks to our partners for helping to make this event a success: Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Students for Climate Action (S4CA), and Renewable Energy Long Island. 

We encourage you to vote in the upcoming election on November 3rd, and to pledge to vote early to help ensure that your vote is counted in a timely manner!

Recap: NY Senate District 55 Forum

On September 29th, 2020, the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF) held a candidate forum for New York Senate District 55, which covers parts of Monroe and Ontario Counties, to replace State Senator Rich Funke. The forum took place on Zoom ahead of the general election on November 3rd. NYLCVEF regularly holds candidate forums to provide voters with the opportunity to hear directly from candidates about their stance on important sustainability issues. The Senate D55 forum featured candidates Christopher Missick and Samra Brouk. The forum was moderated by Jeremy Moule, staff writer at Rochester’s CITY newspaper.


Christopher Missick is an Iraq War veteran who works as a lawyer, farmer, and winemaker. During the forum, he emphasized that his livelihood is dependent on the environment and cited his use of sustainable farming practices as well as his experience working with regulations as a lawyer. He would support bills to increase funding for wind and solar energy, along with the battery technology needed to store it. He also spoke of the need to protect water quality in the area and move away from fossil fuels, acknowledging renewables as the long term answer to our energy needs. Missick supports nuclear energy as long as it is being produced safely.

When asked what the government can do to cut emissions from the agriculture sector, he suggested planting trees on old farmland and creating incentives to diversify crop selection to improve soil health. Missick believes it is necessary to focus on educating the public about environmental issues. To address climate inequity, he suggested adding community cooling centers and the creation of empowerment zones to help rebuild economically distressed areas. Missick supports providing tax incentives and education on a classroom level to drive composting and food scrap collection. 

Samra Brouk is a former Peace Corps volunteer who currently builds nonprofits and startups. During the forum, she emphasized the importance of taking bold action on climate change and climate justice, stressing the need to improve the quality of life in underprivileged areas in conjunction with climate legislation. Brouk mentioned the importance of working with grassroots organizations and advocated for more public-private partnerships. Brouk recently visited Lake Ontario, where she observed and learned about the local effects of climate change. She cited her experience volunteering in Guatemala and working with local governments to create Climate Smart Communities (CSCs). If elected, she would advocate for increased climate resilience infrastructure and legislation that would make it easier for communities to become CSCs. Brouk would additionally support legislation to incentivize companies to create more green jobs in D55 and recruit graduates from science- and technology-focused university programs in the area.

Brouk also emphasized the need to enforce, tighten, and incentivize building codes. She believes that investing in anaerobic digesters and increasing training and education for farmers will help the agricultural sector combat climate change. To drive composting and food scrap collection, Brouk hopes to pass state level legislation and add local infrastructure. She also plans to move away from fossil fuels through government involvement, invest in clean energy, and increase education. She supports nuclear energy in conjunction with renewables. 

Both candidates support fully funding the EPF and building climate-conscious infrastructure. Missick and Brouk emphasized working with local communities on solar farms and expressed their support for wind power. They each support increased public transportation and bike capacity as alternatives to automobiles. Each candidate supported advancing a bond act and recognized the importance of fighting invasive species.

Thanks to our partners for helping to make this event a success: Citizens’ Climate Lobby Rochester and Rochester People’s Climate Coalition. Remember to cast your ballot for the general election on November 3rd via absentee ballot or at your polling place.

Recap: NY Senate District 1 Forum

On September 16th, 2020, the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF) held a candidate forum for New York Senate District 1 (SD1), which covers the east end of Suffolk County. This race will decide who will replace longtime State Senator and environmental champion Kenneth LaValle, who is retiring. The forum took place on Zoom ahead of the election on November 3rd. NYLCVEF regularly holds candidate forums to provide voters with the opportunity to hear directly from candidates about their stance on important sustainability issues. The SD1 forum featured Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo and Laura Ahearn. The forum was moderated by Denise Civiletti, who is the Founder, Owner, and Co-Publisher of the Riverhead Local website. 


Anthony Palumbo is a NY State Assemblyman for Assembly District 2. During the forum, he shared his work on the Community Preservation Fund in the State Assembly to improve water quality, address nitrogen pollution, and increase climate resiliency. He suggested passing legislation to encourage businesses, municipalities, and school districts to go renewable, and an additional bill to improve drinking water. Palumbo supports legislation subsidizing septic systems, as well as using offshore wind as an energy source. Palumbo would support legislation banning neonicotinoid-coated seeds, and has pledged to keep the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) fully funded.

Palumbo highlighted his previous success lobbying the MTA to increase train service and emphasized the importance of “last mile” transportation alternatives like electric bicycles. He expressed his desire to continue serving on the Environmental Conservation Committee in the Senate, which he has been part of for seven years. He also hopes to clean up the former Calverton Navy/Grumman Superfund site in Bethpage using state funds, and to secure federal funding for the project if possible. Additionally, he supports wage standards for state-subsidized renewable energy projects. Palumbo stressed the need to teach recycling in schools, and advocated for the pooling of resources across municipalities to allow more people to recycle a greater variety of plastics. In his concluding statement, he emphasized the importance of environmental issues to SD1, owing it to local reliance on a sole-source aquifer for water.

Laura Ahearn is a Licensed Attorney and Social Worker in New York State. During the forum, Ahearn stressed the need for a wide range of legislation, including increased taxes on polluters and fossil fuel providers, as well as anaerobic digestion laws. She supports a bill to protect pollinators by banning neonicotinoid-coated seeds. She is also in favor of combating nitrogen pollution through government-funded land acquisition to protect vulnerable areas (such as the aquifer and estuaries), increased wastewater treatment, and a subsidy and/or tax incentive for local homeowners. Ahearn expressed the need to increase renewable energy production and pledged to keep and increase funding for the EPF.

To reduce car pollution, Ahearn supports introducing incentives for EVs, joining a regional transportation and climate initiative, and electrifying the transit system. She expressed a desire to serve on the Environmental Conservation committee, and pledged to fund septic systems and combat nitrogen pollution. If elected, she would use her post to get the Calverton site cleaned up, emphasizing the population’s need for clean drinking water. After securing 1,000 vulnerable acres of the site, she intends to discuss repurposing the remaining space with the community. Ahearn backs wage standards for renewable energy projects, and would like to combat plastic pollution by introducing a state-wide waste management system, expanding the list of recyclable plastics, creating circular markets for plastics, and instituting restrictions on the sale of toxic materials. In her concluding statement, Ahearn emphasized the need to have strong advocates like herself fight climate deniers. 

Thanks to our partners for helping to make this event a success: Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Climate Jobs NY, Climate Reality Project NY, Group for the East End, and Long Island Farm Bureau. Remember to cast your ballot on November 3rd or take the pledge to vote early this election

Recap: Offshore Wind Transmission Panel

On August 6th, 2020, the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund held a virtual forum on the role of energy transmission in New York’s plans to expand offshore wind power. The event was co-hosted with Anbaric Development Partners and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School and sponsored by Con Edison. This forum was the first in NYLCVEF’s series focused on the implementation of New York’s Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The law requires New York to generate 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2035. In response to its first round of solicitations, the state has already awarded projects that will total 1,700 megawatts. Announced just days before the forum, the state released a second solicitation for a record-setting 2,500 megawatts of additional offshore wind capacity.

To get all of this power to land and to the people who need it, New York must upgrade significant portions of its energy infrastructure. The goal of the forum was to look at some of the key questions surrounding offshore transmission, including cost and environmental impacts.

The first part of the forum featured a presentation from The Brattle Group covering the findings from their study on different approaches to offshore energy transmission. The second part of the event featured a panel of experts to discuss their views on the report’s findings.

The report from The Brattle Group, which was commissioned by Anbaric, made the case that New York actually needs to generate more than its target of 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy to reach its overall carbon emissions reductions goals. They estimate that in order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040, we need to generate between 14,000 and 24,000 megawatts of offshore wind capacity.

The Brattle Group’s presentation focused on two different approaches to offshore wind transmission: the radial approach and the planned approach. In a radial approach, each wind farm would use separate cables to connect their energy to the grid. A planned approach would involve connecting multiple wind farms to the same or to fewer cables. 

Cost, risk, and environmental and community impacts are all factors that experts and policy makers must consider when determining which approach to take. The Brattle Group’s report examined these factors. and as a result of their research, recommends a planned approach. According to the report, a planned approach is estimated to save $500 million in expenses compared to the radial approach. That is a conservative estimate, as competition for bids between corporations was not taken into account. Their view is that planned transmission makes better use of points of interconnection (POI) on transmission lines, essentially resulting in more efficiency. Using fewer cables by maximizing POI lowers the environmental impact and allows generated energy to be directed toward larger substations.

The report also found that there are issues with curtailment. While the goals to increase energy production are admirable, the existing energy grid is not able to handle such a large amount of power at this time and infrastructure upgrades are necessary.

The next part of the event focused on the panel Q&A. Moderator Joe Martens, Director of New York’s Offshore Wind Alliance, asked experts to discuss funding for energy upgrades. Who will be paying for this? The Brattle Group explained that New Yorkers would likely pay for these costs, but the amount and method of payment would differ between the two approaches. A planned grid would allow New York to recover the cost of transmission over a longer period, while a radial approach would cost less in the short term but would bring less benefit.

Panelists discussed Europe’s approach to offshore wind transmission. Europe is more advanced in their offshore wind development than the U.S. The Brattle Group discussed how many projects in Europe began with radial approaches but eventually moved toward a planned grid. The UK, Belgian, and German governments now use planned systems

Joe Martens then asked, “Where does the Department of Public Service stand on the two system choices?” Tammy Mitchell, Chief of Bulk Electric Systems at DPS, responded that given the ambitious energy goals in New York, there is a real need for a coordinated planning process related to transmission. Significant infrastructure is needed to connect these new energy sources to the grid, and DPS has commissioned a power grid study to identify where upgrades are needed.

Kirsty Townsend, Director and Head of Special Projects at Ørsted, an offshore wind company, added that for the Northeast, a shared system is necessary. Geographical and electric constraints have created concern about rushing into the build process and not learning from mistakes made in Europe. We should plan ahead and be ready for future offshore wind development with an upgraded system.

This forum made it clear that offshore wind development in New York State faces challenges in getting the energy generated offshore to land, on the grid, and to consumers. We likely need an all-of-the-above approach to ensure that the State implements a cost-effective and safe transmission plan.

NYCLVEF would like to thank our speakers, moderator, and sponsor for participating in this interesting conversation. You can watch a recording of the panel here. Stay tuned for more forums in our series on CLCPA implementation. 

Recap: New York State Assembly District 125 Environmental Candidate Forum

On May 28th, 2020, the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF) held a candidate forum for New York Assembly District 125, which covers Tompkins County and parts of Cortland County, to replace longtime Assemblymember Barbara Lifton, who is retiring. The forum took place on Zoom ahead of New York’s primary election on June 23rd. NYLCVEF regularly holds candidate forums to provide voters with the opportunity to hear directly from candidates about their stance on important sustainability issues. The Assembly D125 forum featured Sujata Gibson, Beau Harbin, Lisa Hoeschele, Anna Kelles, Jason Leifer, Jordan Lesser, and Seph Murtagh. The forum was moderated by Tom Pudney, Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice.


Sujata Gibson is an activist and local attorney. During the forum, she emphasized the need to focus on food security and hire local workers for green jobs in the region. Gibson supports developing eco-villages that are rural and provide public housing. She believes that the way to combat harmful algal blooms is to help farmers transition to more sustainable farming practices and reduce polluted runoff. Other priorities include building weatherization, clean transportation, and educating the youth about environmental stewardship and growing food.

Beau Harbin is a legislator for District 2 in Cortland County. During the forum, he raised concerns about farmers having the support they need to implement conservation practices, and called for innovative solutions to address water quality issues. Harbin would like to see upgrades to water infrastructure that utilize the power of the region’s river systems. He expressed the need to change the perception of the Green New Deal in rural communities and to pass the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act. Harbin has been working with small manufacturers and businesses in the region to make batteries for renewable energy storage.

Lisa Hoeschele is the Executive Director and CEO of Family & Children’s Counseling Services of Central New York. During the forum, she highlighted that telecommuting and telehealth is something to consider to reduce transportation pollution. Hoeschele is concerned about cheap oil distracting from environmental priorities. She supports a carbon tax and investing the funds into green technology and sustainable development. She supports partnering with community colleges to develop avenues for young people to join the green workforce.

Anna Kelles is a legislator for District 2 in Tompkins County. During the forum, she called for reducing emissions from the transportation and building sectors. She supports providing tax credits and incentives for EVs, upgrading infrastructure for electrification, and generating more renewable energy. She also expressed support for bringing green jobs to disadvantaged communities. She emphasized the importance of helping small farmers transition to sustainable farming practices. Kelles would also like to see upstate high-speed rail, a low carbon fuel standard, and an upgrade to water infrastructure.

Jason Leifer is Dryden Town Supervisor and an attorney. During the forum, he voiced support for using BOCES to train young people in HVAC, weatherization, and rehabilitation of older homes. Leifer would like to see more restoration to stream banks and riparian buffers to improve water quality. In addition, he supports the use of digester systems on farmers that turn waste into renewable gas. He would also like to see more rail trails that encourage biking, improved broadband access so people can telecommute and use telehealth, and more electric vehicle charging stations.

Jordan Lesser currently serves as legal counsel for the New York State Assembly. During the forum, he spoke in support of revamping transportation by increasing rail service, creating bikeable communities, and adopting electric school buses with Volkswagen Settlement funds. Lesser supports a soil health program to reduce nutrients and contaminants from entering water bodies, and lowering the threshold for emissions from power plants. Lastly, he would like to see revenue from a carbon fee invested into disadvantaged communities.

Seph Murtagh currently represents the 2nd Ward on the Ithaca Common Council. During the forum, he called for a streamlined green workforce development track and to prioritize funding for sustainable projects and programs. To meet the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act mandates, Murtagh shared the need to transition heating systems to more sustainable systems. He would like to see more funding for farmers to help them transition to sustainable farming practices and investment in water systems.

Thanks to our partners for helping to make this event a success: Energy21, Sustainable Tompkins, Heat Smart Tompkins, Climate Reality Project NY, League of Women Voters Cortland County, Mothers out Front Tompkins County, and Sierra Club. Remember to cast your ballot for the New York primaries on June 23rd via absentee ballot or at your polling place!

Recap: Congressional District 17 Candidate Forum on Sustainability 

On April 23rd, 2020, the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF) held a candidate forum for Congressional District 17 in the lower Hudson Valley, whose longtime representative and environmental champion, Nita Lowey is retiring. The forum took place before New York’s primary election on June 23rd. NYLCVEF holds candidate forums to provide voters with the opportunity to hear directly from candidates about their stance on important sustainability issues. Our D17 forum focused on issues in Westchester and Rockland County and featured the following candidates: Assemblyman David Buchwald, State Senator David Carlucci, Asha Castleberry-Hernandez, Evelyn Farkas, Alison Fine, Mondaire Jones, County Legislator Catherine Parker, and Adam Schleifer. 


David Buchwald is a NY State Assemblyman for Assembly District 93. During the forum, he emphasized his interest in setting a national fuel efficiency standard that would be similar to California’s. Buchwald is a supporter of community choice aggregation and would like to see it adopted nationwide. He raised concerns about the gas pipeline running through the grounds of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, and supports the decommissioning of the facility. With regard to the health of the Hudson River, Buchwald shared his years of advocacy to prevent oil barges from populating the river.

David Carlucci is a NY State Senator representing Senate District 38. During the forum, he raised concerns about the diversion of funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and supported incentives for businesses to invest in renewable energy. Carlucci would like to see a nationwide residential renewable energy tax credit to ensure that homeowners can switch to geothermal, solar, and wind energy sources. He expressed disappointment with how the EPA has handled the cleanup of PCBs in the Hudson River, noting its status as the largest Superfund site in the nation. Carlucci has been working with Riverkeeper to continually test the river’s water quality with the intent to open a beach in Ossining on the river’s shore.

Asha Castleberry-Hernandez is a national security expert, combat veteran, and professor. During the forum, she highlighted that the LWCF should be fully funded, as it improves quality of living, especially for vulnerable communities. She is concerned about water quality degradation and would like to see improved EPA water quality standards. She supports the shutdown of Indian Point, noting that it is a national security threat in addition to an environmental one. 

Evelyn Farkas is an American national security advisor who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia from 2012-2015. During the forum, she called for removing subsidies for the fossil fuel industry and instead incentivizing clean energy. She also expressed support for offshore wind and wants to see our nation move to an energy grid that allows for the electrification of vehicles. Farkas said she believes that climate change is a health, labor, environmental, and national security issue. Additionally, she does not support biofuels and believes that Congress needs to do more to hold the EPA accountable.

Alison Fine is a former faculty member of the Union of Reform Judaism, current member of the UJA-Westchester Regional Advisory Council, and founder of Innovation Network, Inc. During the forum, she voiced support for the LWCF because enjoying parks is a fundamental part of American life. Fine would like to see the EPA pivot to become a Department of Ecological Stewardship that focuses on the next generation of green technology, potentially boosting entrepreneurship throughout the economy. Fine supports closing Indian Point, and would like to see leadership in Congress that listens and asks for input from the public, especially post-pandemic. 

Mondaire Jones is an attorney, nonprofit leader, and activist. During the forum, he spoke in support of the Green New Deal and a federal mandate to decarbonize our economy, as he believes a carbon tax is too modest and regressive. Additionally, he said that the Green New Deal will help create jobs post-pandemic. Jones could not stay for the entirety of the forum, but stated that he’d like to see more investment in transportation infrastructure and a transition to renewable resources.

Catherine Parker serves on Westchester County’s Board of Legislators as representative for the 7th district. During the forum, she called for eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and incentivizing renewable energy. She also highlighted the need to prioritize renewable energy in public housing developments. Parker described the link between the COVID-19 pandemic and social justice, and how the effects of climate change—similar to that of the pandemic—disproportionately affect disadvantaged communities. To that point, she spoke of her work to eliminate #4 and #6 heating oils during her first term on the Board of Legislators. Additionally, Parker would like to see fracking banned nationwide. 

Adam Schleifer is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and NYS consumer-protection regulator. During the forum, he shared his support for a carbon tax that would help fund the LWCF. He also supports renewable energy and efforts to incentivize the private sector to develop new technologies. Schleifer believes that science should drive policies. He shared he is open to biofuels as an alternative to jet fuel, would like to see a national infrastructure plan to drive jobs and education nationwide, and supports the shutdown of Indian Point.

Special thanks to our moderator, Danielle Muoio from NY Politico and to our nonprofit partners, Hudson Riverkeeper, Croton100, Scenic Hudson, and The Climate Reality Project for their help in making this event a success. Don’t forget to vote on June 23rd! Find your polling place here

Recap: Congressional District 15 Candidate Forum on Sustainability

On April 21st, 2020, the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF) held a candidate forum for Congressional District 15’s primary election, which will take place on June 23rd to replace longtime environmental champion Rep. Serrano who is retiring. The forum was held virtually via Zoom and streamed on Facebook Live. NYLCVEF’s candidate forums provide for voters to hear directly from seven of the candidates about where they stand on important sustainability issues. Our D15 forum focused on issues in the South Bronx and featured the following candidates: Assemblyman Michael Blake, Samelys López, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Chivona Newsome, Julio Pabón, City Council Member Ydanis Rodríguez, and City Council Member Ritchie Torres.


In general, candidates spoke about the needs of the district, and how the communities there are experiencing disproportionate rates of COVID-19 infection. In addition, community members experience high rates of asthma and poor air quality, and need more access to green spaces and reliable public transit. 

Michael Blake serves as a New York Assemblyman for the 79th District in the Bronx. During the forum, Blake discussed his priorities for addressing poverty in the district and securing equitable funding and access to public transit. When it came to issues such as cleaning up the Bronx River, increasing access to open spaces, and funding from the federal government, he tied these topics to the opportunity to create green jobs for constituents. Blake also seeks to increase ADA accessibility for public buses and address exposure to harmful chemicals, such as lead. 

Samelys López is an activist and co-founder of the nonprofit Bronx Progressives. During the forum, she focused on improving air quality in the district. López emphasized the importance of community-based planning, youth education and engagement, and grassroots organizing on environmental issues. She would like to see more coordination between the federal and state government to ensure proper funding for public transportation. She suggested building a cross-Bronx subway line to help people travel from east to west. When it comes to parks, López would like to see permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. She emphasized the importance of collaborating with community members to determine what other priorities should be in the district. 

Melissa Mark-Viverito is former speaker of the New York City Council from 2014-2017. Prior to that, from 2006-2017, she was a City Council Member for the 8th district. During the forum, Mark-Viverito raised the importance of retrofitting public housing buildings to improve energy efficiency, and reinvesting money from congestion pricing back into the community and for transit infrastructure. She continually emphasized the importance of community-led initiatives and elevating community voices, and advocated for educating the youth about how government works and how to determine policy priorities. Mark-Viverito also mentioned the New York State Bond Act as a way to protect green spaces, and wants to see federal incentives that create cooperatives and green jobs. 

Chivona Newsome is an activist and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Greater New York. During the forum, she called for better land use and creative solutions for farming to increase access to healthy produce in the district. When it comes to helping the MTA, Newsome said that the people need to be bailed out first. She highlighted the disproportionately higher rates of asthma, HIV, and other illnesses in the South Bronx, and that she would like to see electric buses and more bike lanes to help improve air quality. Newsome also emphasized the importance of investing in the youth and teaching them how to organize around climate change.

Julio Pabón is a community organizer and businessman from the Bronx. Throughout the forum, he emphasized the link between poverty and pollution, and that many solutions to address one can help the other. Pabón would like to see an audit of the MTA to ensure money is being spent properly. Pabón emphasized that air pollution is high in the district due to the major roads that run through it. He wants to see more trees in the area and safeguard existing green spaces. Lastly, Pabón would like to see environmental issues included in school curriculums. 

Ydanis Rodríguez is a New York City Councilmember for the 10th District and chair of the Transportation Committee. During the forum, Rodríguez highlighted that District 15 in the Bronx is the poorest Congressional District in the country, and emphasized that there should be more funding from the federal government to improve quality of life there. He stated that public transit should be free, the Bronx River should be cleaned up, and that climate change education should be included in school curriculums. Additionally, Rodríguez noted the disparity between funding for parks in marginalized neighborhoods versus major parks in Manhattan, calling for equal attention to all neighborhood parks across the city, especially in the South Bronx. 

Ritchie Torres is a New York City Councilmember for the 15th District. During the forum, Torres elevated the need to reduce emissions and invest in renewable energy. He emphasized the need to create new, green jobs. In particular, he highlighted green infrastructure projects as a way to create jobs and improve the health of the Bronx River. Torres spoke about the need to address lead issues in public housing, as there is no safe level of exposure to lead. Lastly, he would like to see the Cross Bronx Expressway decommissioned and buses electrified to improve air quality in the district. 

Special thanks to our moderator Ese Olumhense, a Bronx reporter for The City and to our nonprofit partners, New Yorkers for Parks, Natural Areas Conservancy NYC, and The Climate Reality Project for their help in making this event a success.

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