New York Governor Signs Climate Change Resiliency Legislation Into Law

And the New York climate change news keeps rolling in…. Today, in conjunction with Climate Week 2014 in New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into state law the Community Risk and Resiliency Act.

In today’s press release, the Governor described the Act as “a comprehensive package of actions that help strengthen and reimagine our infrastructure with the next storm in mind.” The legislation implements some of the recommendations made by Governor Cuomo’s NYS 2100 Commission, established following Superstorm Sandy. The Governor also proclaimed the week of Sept. 22-28, 2014 “Climate Week,” finding among other things that

“New York State will not allow the national paralysis over climate change to stop us from pursuing the necessary path for the future.”

You can read the executive proclamation here.

The Community Risk and Resiliency Act (A06558/ S06617-B)  requires New York State agencies to consider future physical climate risks caused by storm surges, sea level rise or flooding in certain permitting, funding and regulatory decisions. 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. The Act also requires the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to adopt sea level rise projections by January 1, 2016, and update the projections every five years.

But, of particular note to local officials and land use scholars and practitioners, the Act also:

  • Requires the NY DEC and NY Department of State to prepare model local laws to help communities incorporate measures related to physical climate risks into local laws, and provide guidance on the implementation of the Act, including the use of resiliency measures that utilize natural resources and natural processes to reduce risk.
  • Provides funding, subject to appropriation, to municipalities for local waterfront revitalization planning projects that mitigate future climate risks. Projects may include preparation of new local laws, plans, and studies, and construction projects.
  • Provides funding on a competitive basis, subject to appropriation, to municipalities or not-for-profits toward the cost of coastal rehabilitation projects that consider future climate risks.
  • Allows the Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to enter into maintenance and operation agreements for open space land conservation projects in urban areas or metropolitan park projects with municipalities, not-for-profits, and unincorporated associations, if the project demonstrates consideration of climate-change risks.

According to today’s press release,

“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.”

The legislation was approved in both houses by wide margins, and had support from a diverse group of stakeholders including: The Nature Conservancy in New York, The New York League of Conservation Voters, The Business Council of New York State, the General Contractors Association, The Reinsurance Association of America, The American Institute of Architects New York State, The Municipal Arts Society of New York, Audubon New York, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Advocates of New York, and The Adirondack Council.

Click here to read the full text of the Community Risk and Resiliency Act. Click here for the bill history and sponsors.

Posted by Professor Sarah J. Adams-Schoen, Director of Touro Law’s Land Use & Sustainable Development Law Institute. You can follow the Institute’s blog here, and contact Professor Adams-Schoen by email or phone (sadams-schoen@tourolaw.edu, (631)761-7137).

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