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New York must take two steps to end the reign of fossil fuels


It’s 2022 and New York City has banned gasoline. With the move, all new buildings in the nation’s largest city must be built without fossil fuels in just a few years, keeping people healthy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to the global warming. The ban is a monumental victory, setting the city on a path to cleaning up its biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions: buildings. But more than that, the ban is a game-changer in the broader fight to ditch fossil fuels.

If we can get rid of gasoline in the biggest city in the country, we can do it anywhere. Indeed, we must.

Now is the time to end the age of fossil fuels in the Empire State. Riding on critical victories, from banning gas in New York to halting fracking gas plants in Newburgh, Astoria and Gowanus, the energized grassroots climate movement is poised to push Governor Kathy Hochul and leaders legislative to be directed on climate this year. Here’s what to do.

First, a statewide gas ban. We have seen community after community take this necessary and achievable step to ban the burning of fossil fuels in new buildings. After last month’s historic win in New York, it’s time to take this effort to the next level by enacting it statewide. Congresswoman Emily Gallagher, D-Brooklyn, and Senator Brian Kavanagh, D-Manhattan, have active legislation (S6843A/A8431) to do just that. Legislative leaders and Hochul must prioritize its immediate passage as the biggest thing the legislature can do to reduce emissions in our homes and other buildings.

The gas ban will reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, as required by state law, and improve indoor air quality. Switching to geothermal and electric heat pumps will have immediate benefits for all New Yorkers and pay huge dividends in reducing emissions for decades to come.

Next, a moratorium on crypto-mining. Beyond reducing demand for fossil fuels, we also need to stop the burning of frac gas at power plants across the state. While Hochul has shown real leadership in shutting down fractured gas-fired power plants, retired gas and coal-fired power plants are coming back online to power cryptocurrency mining operations, like the Greenidge plant in the Finger Lakes.

Burning fractured gas to power crypto-mining is a disaster for our climate. Cryptocurrency mining using the “proof of work” authentication method consumes a lot of energy and mining operations are growing at a breakneck pace. If New York fails to end this practice, repowering fractured gas plants to run these operations has the potential to destroy the hard-earned progress we’ve made to shut down our oldest and oldest fossil-fuel power plants. dirtiest. We cannot let this happen.

Hochul can and should take immediate action to shut down the Greenidge facility, but Greenidge may just be the tip of the iceberg. We have already seen crypto mining operators target similar facilities in North Tonawanda and Watkins Glen. An analysis by Sierra Club and Earthjustice shows that there are nearly 30 similar facilities that could be revived to mine cryptocurrency. We need legislative leadership to anticipate this problem before it is too late.

Congresswoman Anna Kelles, D-Ithaca, introduced a moratorium on this type of mining activity in the state. The Senate passed the bill last year, but it did not budge in the Assembly. We need an early pass in both rooms this year.

New York is quickly creating an environment inhospitable to fossil fuel projects threatening our climate — but 2022 will be a critical year for the legislature. We simply cannot go another year without action from Albany on climate change. It’s time to step up and act on the scale of the challenge, starting with statewide bans on gas and crypto-mining.

Alex Beauchamp of New York is Food & Water Watch’s Northeast Regional Director.