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Environmental advocates commend and challenge Cuomo's climate initiative budget

Jessica Ottney Mahar is with the Nature Conservancy in New York.
Dawn Schlaks
Jessica Ottney Mahar is with the Nature Conservancy in New York.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his first priority in his New York state budget announcement on Tuesday: climate action.

The $33 billion plan includes comprehensive nature conservation, a more significant transition to renewable energy, and a major shift to carbon-free transportation.

“We start with the most aggressive climate change program in the country,” Cuomo said in his address. “Because my friends, the clock is ticking and it's ticking faster and faster."

Jessica Ottney Mahar with the Nature Conservancy says that she’s most excited for the impact that the $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act could have. 

“So that wildlife habitat is restored and clean water is available for communities and so that our communities are more prepared for the impacts of extreme weather,” she says.

Cuomo’s plans include shifting public transit in upstate New York toward electric buses. His budget plan would require that five of the largest transit authorities in upstate New York transition a quarter of their fleets to run on electricity by 2025.

Susan Hughes-Smith with the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition says she’s in favor of the governor’s goals. However, she stresses that carbon-free transportation needs to consider the way people use public transit in upstate New York in order for those changes to work.

“If we want to lower our transportation emissions, we have to address getting people out of their personal vehicles or ensuring that the personal vehicles that are left become electrified more rapidly,” she says.

Cuomo says that he will push ahead with a $33 billion state initiative toward green energy, nature conservation, and electric transportation.

According to the governor’s office, 70% of the state’s electricity is on course to be from renewable sources by 2030, with zero greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector by 2040.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.
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