New legislation approved this week by the state legislature is paving the way for a zero-emissions future on New York roadways. Introduced by state Sen. Pete Harckham and Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Senate Bill S2758 and Assembly Bill A4302 will require all in-state sales of new passenger cars and trucks be zero emission by 2035.
The legislation now heads to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for approval.
Similar sales of off-road vehicles and power equipment will also be expected to be zero emissions by 2035.
The ambitious legislation, which will amend state environmental law, targets the year 2045 for all fleets of trucks and buses becoming zero emissions.
“Requiring vehicles to be entirely free of carbon and other toxic emissions is the best way to ramp up our fight against climate change,” said Mr. Harckham, a member of the Senate Committee on Environmental Conservation, from the floor of the Senate. “We need to take decisive action right now.”
Assemblyman Chris Burdick, a cosponsor of bill A4302, addressed the legislation’s approval in his weekly newsletter. “I am proud to be part of a legislative body that understands the importance of our environment and climate change, and is taking bold steps so that New York State can do its part. When it comes to the future of our planet, every one of us has a role to play,” Mr. Burdick wrote.
The new legislation builds on the landmark New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act passed in 2019. New York’s CLCPA contains climate targets that are among the most stringent nationally, calling for a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions statewide by 2030 and an 85% reduction by 2050. Transitioning away from vehicles powered by internal combustion engines and toward electric vehicles in order to reduce emissions from personal motor vehicles are considered major steps in pursuit of these ambitious goals.
Personal transportation accounts for roughly 20% of America’s greenhouse gas emissions and the transportation sector represents the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in New York state, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation. Within Westchester County alone, there are 650,000 registered vehicles.
The state has implemented several programs to ease the transition to electric vehicle technology and make it accessible for residents. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Drive Clean NY program offers electric car buyers a “drive clean rebate” of up to $2,000 for new car purchases or leases. Through the Charge NY electric vehicle charging infrastructure program, 3,000 publicly accessible chargers were installed by 2018, and the program is on pace to meet the new goal of 10,000 chargers by the end of 2021. The DEC’s Zero-Emission Vehicle Clean Vehicle and Infrastructure Rebate Program also provides incentives to municipalities of up to $5,000 for the purchase or lease of electric vehicles and up to $250,000 for the installation of charging infrastructure.
Several local municipalities have taken advantage of these programs and embraced electric vehicle technology in recent years. Last week Pound Ridge celebrated the end of Earth Week with two newly operational electric vehicle charging station ports on Westchester Avenue, opposite North Star Restaurant in Scotts Corners. Efforts to bring an electric vehicle charging hub to Pound Ridge have been in the works since fall 2019. The Pound Ridge Energy Action Committee helped the town board pursue a NYSERDA Charge Ready $8,000 grant opportunity to fund the station. The Pound Ridge Partnership also kicked in a $3,500 matching donation to further defray costs.
With the installation of the ChargePoint station, Pound Ridge joins the neighboring communities of Bedford, Bedford Hills and Katonah, as well as New Canaan, Ridgefield, and Wilton, Connecticut, in creating an area network of electric vehicle charging stations.
The Energy Action Committee in Pound Ridge, as well as the Conservation Board, have also been raising awareness about the ill effects of diesel school bus fumes. Co-chair Gayle Reichler consulted with the Bedford Central School District’s busing company, Towne Bus Corp., and was informed by a spokesperson that the bus company has helped other school districts transition to electric vehicles and would be willing to pursue the matter with BCSD. The idea has also been discussed at several BCSD Board of Education meetings.
The Town of Bedford has also embraced electric vehicles in recent years. In 2019, the New York League of Conservation Voters and Sustainable Westchester presented a Gold Certificate recognizing the Town of Bedford and Mr. Burdick, who was supervisor at the time, for their efforts in greening its municipal fleet of vehicles in keeping with the league’s Zero Emission Vehicle Pledge. In 2017, NYLCV and Sustainable Westchester developed the ZEV Pledge to engage local governments in Westchester on the environmental and cost benefits of electric vehicles, along with the opportunity to electrify their local fleets and set an example for other municipalities. Bedford committed to the ZEV Gold Pledge, the highest level, to electrify at least 10% of its light-duty local fleet by 2020, a goal it has met.
In March, the Bedford Planning Board approved a waiver of site plan approval from Firestein Management Inc. for the installation of Tesla charging stations at the Katonah Shopping Center. “The motivation for doing this is really to help not only the tenants in the shopping center but I think it would be helpful to tenants throughout the village,” said David Firestein, who himself is a Tesla owner.
Electric vehicles are also gaining traction in Lewisboro, where town officials are currently exploring options for electric vehicle chargers. During a town board meeting earlier this year, councilor Tony Goncalves said he was in contact with the company Blink Charging and had site visits with the company at various town properties, including the Cyrus Russell Community House, Lewisboro Town Park, the commuter lot on Spring Street and Onatru Farm Park. He said he is also putting the company in contact with the owners of Lewisboro’s three shopping centers.
According to meeting minutes, Mr. Goncalves said the provided proposal from Blink Charging would be zero cost to the town due to combined rebates from both NYSERDA, and New York State Electric and Gas. A draft proposal from the supplier is expected soon for the board’s review.