WXXI AM News

Climate activists push Cuomo for higher goals to cut vehicle emissions

Dec 10, 2019

David Alicea of the Sierra Club loads a box of signed petitions into his car at EV Charge Solutions in Rush on Tuesday morning. Alicea is delivering the petitions to Governor Cuomo's office in Albany.
Credit Beth Adams/WXXI News

Climate advocates are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to strengthen New York's long-term commitment to clean transportation.

They're delivering petitions to Albany this week, signed by more than 7,000 residents across the state who say they want New York to reduce vehicle emissions by 55 percent by 2035.

"We've done the analysis, and it’s an achievable goal; we can do it, and it will set New York as a leader in the sector," said David Alicea of the Sierra Club just before he loaded two boxes of signed petitions in his electric car.

Some of the forms made their way from Buffalo to Rochester earlier in the week via Amtrak. Other activists are expected to arrive at the state capitol by Thursday using low-carbon transportation to deliver petitions from Long Island, New York City, the Lower Hudson, and Plattsburgh.

One way they say state government can ensure less vehicle pollution is to make it easier for consumers to choose electric vehicles by increasing the amount of rebates for those purchases and installing more charging stations to ease people's concerns about long-range driving.

A spokesperson for the governor said New York already has the lowest per-capita transportation emissions of any state, and initiatives and programs are already underway to install 10,000 charging stations by the end of 2021, including at bus stations in Rochester and other upstate cities, and add 800,000 zero-emissions vehicles to the road by 2025.  

But Alicea claimed the state is not on track to meet some of those goals.

"Right now, we have 40,000 electric vehicles on the road," he said. "We really need to go much further and faster if we're going to meet the climate targets that were passed this legislative session."

Another area of focus for climate advocates is cleaner transportation for schools. Barbara Grosh of the Rochester chapter of Mothers Out Front said the time is ripe to replace diesel school buses with electric ones.

"School children breathe five to 15 times more toxic pollution than adults because of the time they spend every day sitting on diesel school buses," she said.

While the upfront costs for electric buses can be daunting for cash-strapped school districts, Grosh said the long-term operation costs of the vehicles are much lower than diesel buses.

Many members of her group, said Grosh, have trouble sleeping at night because they worry about the kind of Earth they will be leaving their children.

"Our state is a national leader in declaring goals," she added. "However, we don't want goals, we want action."