Attorney General Promises to Make Polluters Pay for Their Actions

The goal of this event was to spread awareness that major polluting companies need to pay for the damage they have caused in creating what Gabriel Silva of NY Renews calls “an existential crisis for all of humanity.” Photo courtesy of Kathy Willens|AP.

New York Attorney General Letitia James spoke at a Make Polluters Pay virtual event to discuss holding major polluting companies accountable for the damage they caused the environment.

The event was hosted by New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), the New York Youth Climate Leaders and NY Renews, which are all climate activist groups looking to influence legislation change.

“We’re in the midst of a global climate crisis that demands rapid and strong action,” said NYPIRG Environmental Policy Director Elizabeth Moran. “Additionally, we are in the face of a global pandemic. And these two things are deeply interconnected and demand our attention.”

There has been a history of major climate change-inducing companies like Exxon Mobil Corp hiding their knowledge of climate change and their role in causing it for decades.

In 2018, James filed a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil for New York State “alleging that they violated the rights of their shareholders when they did not tell their investors about the impact of global warming.”

While New York State did not win that lawsuit against Exxon Mobil, James says it’s up to her and other attorney generals to continue to take legal action and hold polluters accountable.

“It’s important that we combat climate change and that we amplify the message that we are committed to climate change, despite the leadership of this nation,” James said.

According to James, the funds collected from these lawsuits will go towards demonstrations to educate the public about the effects of climate change.

The event also featured expert panelists including Gabriel Silva from Citizen Action of New York and NY Renews and Liam Smith from the New York Youth Climate Leaders, who spoke on the Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA), which would “make polluters pay for the harm they’ve caused our communities, and invest funds to transition our state to a just, renewable economy.”

The CCIA, which is currently in committee in the New York State Senate, would require polluters to pay $35 per ton of planet-warming or asthma-inducing pollution they produced, which amounts to about $7 billion per year.

“It is my firm belief that these CEOs, these corporations have blood on their hands already,” Silva said. “Because climate change is not a threat, climate change is here. It’s a clear and present danger. And we hold murderers accountable. So the least that we’re asking is that they pay for the damage that they’ve caused.”

These funds would then be put back into the community in four categories: green jobs and infrastructure, grants for community-led energy planning, direct assistance to low income families “to reduce the burden of energy costs,” and cash and job training to expand economic development programs.

According to NY Renew, the CCIA would create over 150,000 green jobs in its first decade.

NY Renews and the New York Youth Climate Leaders also discussed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which will help reverse the damage done by these polluting corporations.

The CLCPA states that “New York must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 85%, and be completely carbon-neutral, by 2050.”

In order to accomplish these goals, New York created a Climate Action Council made of 22 representatives that will make and implement their plan. From 2020 to 2022, this council is working with advisory groups to make decarbonization plans and by 2030 the final plan is due and will begin being implemented.

Visit here to join NY Renews and their fight for climate justice.

About Rachel Muller 47 Articles
Rachel Muller is a fourth-year journalism major with an international relations minor. This is her fourth semester on The Oracle and she was previously an assistant copy editor for news. She prefers writing news articles and articles about her travels.