Good morning. It’s Friday. Today we’ll look at several low-profile yet important climate laws that Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law this week. And we’ll hear about a sense of déjà vu as monkeypox spreads in the city, along with confusion over how to get the so-far scarce vaccine.
New York has the nation’s most ambitious legally enshrined climate goals, but its Democratic leaders are under growing increasing pressure from a highly engaged segment of the party to move faster to make them reality.
You’ll be sure to hear more in the coming weeks about calls for a special session to vote to to allow the state’s power authority to build publicly owned renewable energy projects — a measure that advocates say had the votes to pass but was never brought to the Assembly floor.
Climate activists are pushing Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign a two-year moratorium on certain energy-hungry fossil-fuel burning cryptocurrency mining facilities. They’re also frustrated that a bill to curb installation of gas hookups in newly constructed buildings across the state failed to pass this year.
But some nitty-gritty climate bills, so nitty-gritty that they got little coverage, did make it into law. And while they don’t sound as juicy, they are essential building blocks, experts say, for reaching the state’s goals: essentially, by 2050, to stop the entire New York economy from emitting the planet-warming gases driving the climate crisis.
Here’s what those laws do:
Allow the state to set new energy-efficiency standards for buildings, appliances and machinery.
Without the Codes and Standards Act, agencies could not fully enforce the overarching climate law.
The new law allows them to make rules that govern the greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and the activities inside them, something that was never part of such codes before.
Allow utilities to get into a new business: thermal heating and cooling.
This one is important because it gives gas utilities something to do as the use of gas is phased out — hopefully, advocates say, lessening their intense lobbying efforts against other bills and actions that would limit its use.
It allows pilot development of utility-scale projects to heat and cool buildings by pumping air, much as heat pumps do, but on a scale that could work for whole blocks or large building complexes. Geothermal pumps and other systems can heat and cool without burning fossil fuels, but need large investments to test and build.
Require prevailing wage for more renewable-energy projects.
Gov. Hochul also signed a bill to require the use of union workers in more jobs like installing solar panels and building renewable energy infrastructure.
Like the thermal utility bill, this legislation, advocates say, helps expand the political coalition in support of climate action by bringing more of the state’s powerful unions on board.
Ms. Hochul, at the signing on Wednesday, said New York would stand firm on climate, as on abortion rights and gun regulation, in spite of recent Supreme Court decisions like the one eviscerating the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate power-plant emissions.
“Do what you want, we’ll do everything we can to protect our lives, our families, our bodies and our planet’s future,” she said.
Expect a chance of showers and thunderstorms starting in the late afternoon. Temperatures will peak during the day in the mid-80s before cooling down to the low 70s in the evening.
In effect until tomorrow through Monday (Eid al-Adha).
An unfamiliar virus spreads through the city. Communities are frightened. It takes time to find the best methods of prevention. Some groups are stigmatized. Treatment varies for the rich and the poor.
This is a scenario New York City knows well. There was, of course, the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, when the city bore the brunt of the first wave to crest in the United States, an echo of a deadly plague of flu a century earlier. There was also, burned into many New Yorkers’ memories, the AIDS crisis, which ravaged the city’s gay community in the 1980s and 1990s — raging for years before scientists found lifesaving treatments.
Now, reminders of those plagues abound as thousands of New Yorkers scramble to get vaccines for monkeypox, a disease manifesting its first major U.S. outbreak in the city, with 141 recorded cases, and spreading mainly among men who have sex with men.
Though it can be painful, monkeypox is not typically deadly, a risk not comparable to AIDS, which was almost always fatal in the 1980s when it first hit, or to Covid-19, which has killed more than 1 million Americans.
But that, my colleague Sharon Otterman reports, is not entirely reassuring to the city’s gay men. Many are finding that the public health response seems back-footed and disorganized, and fear that the fact that the virus is spreading via sex between men could provoke AIDS-era homophobia.
What to Know About the Monkeypox Virus
What is monkeypox? Monkeypox is a virus endemic in parts of Central and West Africa. It is similar to smallpox, but less severe. It was discovered in 1958, after outbreaks occurred in monkeys kept for research, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s not fair. I feel like we’ve gone back to H.I.V. stigma,” said Irving Ruiz, who lives in Queens. He said he was lining up for a vaccine because he had recently seen someone with a severe case of monkeypox, with rashes up and down his arms and legs.
Even more frustrating for vaccine seekers, the rollout so far has echoed the early days of the Covid-19 vaccine, when finding an appointment could feel like winning a radio contest. The city decided to assign appointments for the first doses of the highly sought-after monkeypox vaccine via an online system, using Twitter — a relatively boutique social-media app — as the main way to notify people. On Wednesday, 2,500 appointments went within minutes.
“By following the Department of Health’s instructions, we had zero chance of getting the vaccine,” said Nicholas Diamond, who spent hours refreshing the city’s website in search of a shot. “I am really concerned that the city, state and federal government have learned nothing from the Covid response.”
Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the city health commissioner, apologized for the glitches and said they were being worked out as the effort expands.
“Equity is an incredibly hard thing to preserve in an environment of scarce supply,” he said.