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At a public hearing, the state climate change plan was praised and rejected by the public | Local News

At a public hearing, the state climate change plan was praised and rejected by the public | Local News

The drafters of a new “scoping plan” that will guide how New York State reduces carbon emissions over the next three decades heard Wednesday from area environmental groups who urged them to act quickly, and from labor, utility companies and business groups who warned them against proceeding too fast.

While Ellen Banks of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter said it was “time to move on” from combustibles that contribute to an “increasingly dire” climate crisis, Joe Benedict of the Western New York Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Contractors argued that some sweeping changes proposed under the scoping plan would cost residents thousands of dollars to transition their homes away from natural gas heating and cooking.

WNY residents will soon see big changes in how they heat their homes and run their appliances. A new state energy plan is being discussed that would gradually eliminate natural gas from homes and buildings in favor of more reliance on electricity.

While Rahwa Ghirmatzion of PUSH Buffalo pleaded for governmental leaders to have the political will to abandon “false solutions” to addressing climate change and instead focus on advancing renewables such as solar, geothermal and wind energy, Grant Loomis of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership said removing natural gas from the state’s portfolio would create grid “reliability concerns.”

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“The energy natural gas provides would have to be replaced by electricity, which would add considerable demand onto a power grid that is already strained,” Loomis said.

And so it went for more than three hours Wednesday afternoon inside the auditorium of the main branch of the Buffalo & Erie County Library, with speaker after speaker, nearly 100 in all, arguing for and against elements of the state Climate Action Council’s draft scoping plan. The 341-page document, released in December, was prompted by a 2019 law that pledged to reduce New York’s greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050.

What does the plan mean specifically for WNY? When will it go into effect? What is the cost of it? Here are nine questions that you might have about it. The 300-page documentBased on a Buffalo News review, and interviews with five national and local policy experts.

Council members are collecting public input on the plan. It proposes dramatic changes to the way New Yorkers heat their homes and cook their meals, as well as how they commute to work. The Council will present a final plan for Gov. Kathy Hochul and state legislators will present a final plan by the end of this year.

The hearing in Buffalo was the sixth of January. Council members were in Binghamton Albany and Syracuse earlier this month. There are two more public comment sessions scheduled for May in Brooklyn and Tupper Lake. Written comments are also accepted until June 10.

Representatives of labor organizations and utility companies criticized the plan because it was lacking details on how these massive changes would be paid for.

Randy Rucinski of Utility Consultation Group said that decarbonization could be better achieved by keeping “all energy options on the table,” rather than moving the state toward electrification only, as the plan suggests.

However, environmentalists claim that the state should not waste any time in electrifying all homes, commercial buildings, and vehicles with renewable energy and powering its electrical plants.

“We have new ways. The technology is available. It’s proven and it is highly cost effective,” said Banks, who urged the state to ban new gas transmission pipelines and gas infrastructure in new buildings. “The cost of change is billions less than the cost of business as usual.”

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