NEW YORK -- Dealing with climate change and protecting New York City from future superstorms featured high on the list of priorities during Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address yesterday in Albany.
Cuomo, a Democrat, said he would work to make coastal areas and New York Harbor more resilient to climate change and storm surges thought to be intensified by the warming planet and rising seas. He also promised quick action to protect New York City's subway system against flooding during future storms and tidal surges, describing inflatable bladders to block subway entrances.
He said flood-proof subways and bus depots would become a priority, with "vertical roll-down doors, vent closures, inflatable bladders and upsized fixed pumps (with backup power sources) ... all options to harden New York's subway system." Although New York officials have weighed flood protection measures for years, their plans weren't implemented, and Superstorm Sandy flooded and blacked out parts of the city's subway and rail commuter systems in late October.
Cuomo talked at length of improving the state's renewable energy capacity and lowering its carbon emissions. Citing the devastation brought by Sandy, Cuomo pledged to lower the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative's carbon emissions cap. He also promised a $1 billion "Green Bank" to match private dollars with public on energy technology development.
The governor said redundancies must be built into the region's fuel delivery network to avoid the long lines for gasoline and supply bottlenecks that hit the region after the storm. Cuomo said gas stations from here on out should have on-site backup power to protect New Yorkers from fuel disruptions.
A suggestion of harbor flood barriers
On carbon emissions, Cuomo urged the nine states participating in RGGI -- a regional CO2 cap-and-trade program for electric power plants -- to lower the current cap of 165 million tons of CO2. Cuomo noted that the target is well above the current emissions level of 91 million tons.
On New York Harbor, Cuomo said a long-term strategy should be developed to combine natural barriers with man-made obstacles to limit high tides and surges when a severe storm hits. He mentioned floodgates in his remarks but stopped short of backing specific proposals for the harbor, many of which would likely cost tens of billions of dollars to construct.
As he has before, Cuomo took a hard-line stance on so-called climate skeptics, saying they were living in a state all their own -- "a state of denial."
"Climate change is real," he said, referring to Superstorm Sandy last year and Hurricane Irene the year before. "It is denial to say that each of these situations is once in a lifetime."
Beyond that, Cuomo said he would abolish the Long Island Power Authority and hoped to privatize power generation and delivery on Long Island. Cuomo and others were downright hostile to LIPA in the wake of the storm last year as the power remained off through much of the island, and Cuomo said he would bring in another entity under stricter Public Service Commission regulation.