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NY climate law can help improve water quality & protect drinking water sources

New York State’s climate law is just starting to take effect, and you can help determine how it plays out, how the goals are met, and how our waters and our communities are treated in the process.

UPDATE: Read Riverkeeper’s public comments on the Draft Scoping Plan, submitted July 1, 2022.

The landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) sets forth the ambitious but necessary goal of achieving zero-emissions electricity by 2040 in New York. The plan to reach this goal is being developed, with the release of the Draft Scoping Plan at the end of 2021. This Draft Scoping Plan outlines the various strategies and methods for carrying out the CLCPA mandates, with special considerations given to climate justice, job creation, cost reductions, public health benefits, and minimizing emission leakage. Right now, all New Yorkers have the opportunity to provide input on this critical Scoping Plan to ensure that we have a road map to a truly sustainable future.

Riverkeeper is calling on the State to use this opportunity to improve water quality and protect our water resources, while moving forward on our energy goals. Our main objectives include:

Consider water co-benefits in developing land use plans

The scoping plan identifies various land use strategies to sequester carbon. Riverkeeper asks that in developing these land use plans, water co-benefits should be considered and incorporated into the strategy. Co-benefits arise when actions to achieve one objective also provide benefits to another. This allows New York to tackle multiple issues providing a multiplied benefit to communities. For example, Riverkeeper proposes prioritizing afforestation / reforestation in key areas for watershed protection and restoration. With this, New York can protect our drinking water sources and restore impaired waters while sequestering carbon with new forested areas. In addition, source waters and their watersheds should be prioritized as conservation areas for the same reason.

Limit the use of hydropower within New York’s plan for reducing greenhouse gases

Hydropower has often been mistakenly thought of as a sustainable “clean” electric generation option, but it’s just not true. While the draft scoping plan does not focus on hydropower specifically, Riverkeeper calls for the plan to explicitly minimize the use of new hydropower. New hydropower dams introduce unnecessary carbon dioxide emissions, as flooded plants and other organic materials decay in the creation of new dams, especially those with large, shallow reservoirs. These dams also impede the natural flow and ecology of our waterways, harming water quality and aquatic life in those areas.

No new electric cables in the Hudson River

While Riverkeeper recognizes that transmission lines are necessary to the CLCPA goals, no transmission lines need to run in the Hudson River. Using the Hudson as a conduit for electric cables threatens to stir up PCB laden sediments and pose risks to fish, aquatic life, drinking water supplies and negative impacts to the maritime shipping industry. These lines should be kept on land using existing right-of-ways or bridge crossings. The impact of imported energy should be assessed as a whole, considering all impacts at the energy source, transmission lines, and the receiving communities.

Ensure sensible energy storage

An essential part of the shift to sustainable energy is the need for energy storage. With today’s technology, pumped storage is considered the most viable large-scale solution for energy storage. But pumped storage requires large bodies of water from which water may be transferred. Riverkeeper wants to ensure that no new pumped storage is proposed for existing green spaces, which often comes with similar negative impacts as those of dams. Instead, siting of pumped storage should be considered for remediated industrial sites and former power plant locations.

The New York State Energy Research & Development (NYSERDA)’s Climate Action Council Draft Scoping Plan is open for public comments until July 1. Join Riverkeeper today in voicing your opinions by visiting

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