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May 29, 2009

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION ENDORSES STATE LEGISLATION THAT WOULD CUT GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS BY THE YEAR 2050

Legislation Follows Recommendations of State Bar's Task Force Report on Global Warming 

The New York State Bar Association today strongly endorsed pending state legislation that would significantly strengthen New York's ability to confront global climate change.  The bills are all consistent with the goals and recommendations of a recent State Bar report titled Taking Action In New York On Climate Change: Report of the New York State Bar Association Task Force on Global Warming.  The report lays out 22 realistic, timely and cost-effective steps to reduce greenhouse gases in areas including buildings and energy; land use; vehicles and transportation; and others.  The report was approved by the State Bar's House of Delegates in April 2009.

In measures (S.4315/A.7572) that mirror the Task Force emissions reduction target recommendation, Senator Antoine Thompson (D-Buffalo) and Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), chairs of the Senate and Assembly Environmental Conservation committees, recommend that New York set a target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.  According to the Task Force report, the key to gauging whether New York's efforts in reducing its emissions are effective is to set a "statewide comprehensive climate change strategy that has a specific, measureable and binding reduction target."  Additionally, a binding greenhouse gas reduction target will focus initiatives on achieving reductions in emissions, rather than on other laudable but different goals such as increasing renewable energy usage or making buildings more energy efficient.

Bills (S.2764/A.6321) also sponsored by committee chairs Thompson and Sweeney, would provide the statutory authority for New York's continued participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) program. Another bill (S.5641/A.7017) sponsored by Senator Thompson and Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), would create a Climate Change Solutions Fund to deposit the funds raised under the RGGI program.  The RGGI is the first mandatory, market-based effort in the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"Adoption of this legislation would strengthen New York's position as one of the nation's leaders in the fight against climate change and would set an important example that Congress and the President should follow.  I am pleased that Senator Thompson and Assemblymen Sweeney and Gianaris have listened to calls by the State Bar and others for New York to adopt a more comprehensive global warming strategy, with aggressive but realistic carbon-reduction targets and by codifying the state's participation in the RGGI," said Bernice K. Leber (Arent Fox LLP), president of the State Bar.

Leber established the Global Warming Task Force in June 2008.  Chaired by Michael B. Gerrard, Esq., professor and director of the Center on Climate Change Law at the Columbia University School of Law, the Task Force included experts from the fields of climate change, law, academia, business and good government advocacy.

For a full copy of the New York State Bar Association Task Force on Global Warming's report, go to http://www.nysba.org/globalwarmingtaskforcereport.

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The 76,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation.  Founded in 1876, the Association's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.