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Author: The BCW

Op-Ed: Superfund Bill Not So Super for NY Businesses

By John Ravitz, Executive Vice President & COO, Business Council of Westchester

The following guest article appeared in the May 12th issue of Mid-Hudson News

Climate change is real, and New York should continue to invest in energy efficiency, renewable electric power, and other greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies. These actions can have direct benefits and produce immediate cost-savings. But we also need a clear understanding of the limitations of state action, and the impact that state-level actions will have on businesses and consumers.

One of the Business Council of Westchester’s (BCW) top priorities is to address Westchester County’s changing energy landscape. No business sector will be unaffected if fossil fuels are prematurely banned. There is a wave of legislation that is sweeping across the East Coast which targets fossil fuel companies with the intention of holding them financially accountable for damages caused by historical emissions. While the proponents of these bills champion them as a necessary step in addressing climate impacts, this so-called “climate superfund” legislation is not only counterproductive, but it is also unfair and unnecessary.

These bills seek to attribute specific climate disasters to the largest fossil fuel companies, demanding billions of dollars in restitution for damages allegedly caused by their products. 

However, this approach is flawed on multiple fronts.

First, the bills target only the largest fossil fuel firms, attempting to pin the entire burden of climate-change on them — this selective focus ignores the complex web of contributors including various industries and individual consumers. 

Furthermore, the proposed legislation operates retroactively. This not only hinders the industry’s ability to adapt but also imposes an undue financial burden on companies. This is akin to imposing a tax on a business or a citizen for prior actions that were lawful when they occurred; an approach that is not only unfair but potentially unconstitutional. 

Proponents of these bills argue that attributing climate events to specific companies is now possible due to advancements in attribution science.  Attributing damages to historical emissions oversimplifies the complex interplay of natural and human-induced factors contributing to climate change. Indeed, climate impacts are often the result of a multitude of factors, making it impossible to isolate the responsibility of a single industry, let alone the responsibility of a single company.

Many in the business community oppose this legislation and view it as an attempt to impose a retroactive tax that could have serious economic repercussions. Courts, they argue, are likely to find such legislation unconstitutional. Business groups are concerned with the potential impact on consumer costs. 

This legislation is misguided and represents an unfair attempt to address the complex issue of climate change. Rather than singling out specific industries for past actions, a more constructive approach would involve collaborative efforts to develop proactive solutions. The BCW strongly urges Governor Hochul and the State legislature to have honest conversations with all stakeholders statewide on how we can achieve the goals to ensure New York has a strong reliable energy plan in place.

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