Legislation (S.8431-A/A.10001-B) Directs Department of Environmental Conservation To Conduct a Study on the Impacts of Disproportionate Heat Conditions in Urban Areas
Governor Kathy Hochul today signed legislation (S.8431-A/A.10001-B) that will direct the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to study the impacts of disproportionate heat conditions, otherwise known as urban heat islands, in disadvantaged communities.
"Extreme heat threatens the lives and welfare of many New Yorkers each year, but particularly those in disadvantaged communities and communities of color," Governor Hochul said. "As we round out Climate Week, we are taking steps to address extreme heat and combat climate change. This study will put us on a path toward protecting New Yorkers and making the state a healthier, more sustainable place to live for future generations."
Legislation (S.8431-A/A.10001-B) directs the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), in consultation with the environmental justice interagency coordinating council and the climate justice working group, to study the impacts of disproportionate heat conditions in urban areas, particularly in disadvantaged communities. Various cities across the state are susceptible to increased heat due to infrastructure that traps and stores heat throughout the day, which is a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect. The study will identify urban disadvantaged communities with concentrations of heat islands, include recommendations on how to identify, prevent and address adverse health and environmental impacts from urban heat island effects and identify potential funding to address such impacts.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner and Climate Action Council Co-Chair Basil Seggos said, "Climate change is not only affecting our environment, it is already contributing to deadly public health consequences in communities historically overburdened by environmental pollution. DEC looks forward to advancing this critical study with our many local, state, and legislative partners and will continue to work under Governor Hochul’s leadership to help address extreme heat and keep New Yorkers safe."
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority President and CEO and Climate Action Council Co-Chair Doreen M. Harris said, "Governor Hochul is committed to the fight against climate change and understands that for years underserved communities have been on the frontline and have borne the worst impacts of extreme heat and the harmful pollution contributing to urban centers all across the state. Once completed, this study will further support New York's efforts to achieving environmental justice and directing benefits for families to improve public health and support a better quality of life, through the use of informed solutions such as sustainable and affordable cooling that will lead to a safer, cleaner planet."
State Senator Kevin Parker said, "Global warming has sent inner-city urban communities out of the frying pan and into the fire. These mostly African-American and Latino communities bare the disproportionate brunt of the heat effects of climate change. These heat-island effects were highlighted in NYC this summer with two week long heat weaves. This new law will provide NYS the data it needs to understand these impacts and develop both strategies and modalities to mitigate them. Thank you Governor Hochul for standing up for environmental justice."
Assemblymember Brian Cunningham said, "The study on the urban heat island effect that will be conducted as a result of this bill stands to enhance the lives of disadvantaged communities. By identifying where heat islands are concentrated and issuing recommendations for how to minimize adverse health and environmental impacts, I am confident that this research will make a dramatic impact. We thank the environmental justice interagency coordinating council and the climate justice working group in advance for their research."
Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, said, "The NYC Environmental Justice Alliance would like to thank lead sponsors Senator Parker and AM Cunningham, as well as Assembly Speaker Heastie and Senate Majority Andrea Stewart-Cousins for their climate leadership in helping this bill to pass to Governor Hochul's desk. We also thank Governor Hochul for her dedication in addressing and mitigating extreme climate impacts such as extreme heat. The study this bill mandates will help to better explain the disproportionate urban heat island effects and related extreme heat consequences that disadvantaged communities are facing. By ensuring that this study is executed in consultation with environmental justice groups and the Climate Justice Working Group, they have ensured that those most impacted, the subject of this study, are heavily involved in the process, thus allowing them to act as leaders in the process and dictate what they believe is most important and useful to their communities."
Sonal Jessel, Director of Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice said, "Not only is extreme heat the deadliest impact of climate change, it kills Black/African American people twice as often as other racial and ethnic groups in New York City. We thank Governor Hochul for her leadership on addressing this critical environmental justice issue, and we look forward to providing the Department of Environmental Conservation any assistance we can."
Peter Iwanowicz, Executive Director of Environmental Advocates NY said, "A clear way that the climate crisis has been impacting New York is through extreme heat. This is especially true in areas where a legacy of racist policies like redlining continues to disproportionally affect the people living there, stranding them on a 'heat Island.' We applaud Governor Hochul for signing this important legislation that will both gather key information about these heat islands and come up with a plan to right the wrongs of the past."
President of the New York League of Conservation Voters Julie Tighe said, "The heat island effect puts people living in disadvantaged communities in danger and hits the pocketbook of those who can least afford it. The New York League of Conservation Voters commends Governor Hochul for signing this bill into law, which is a key step in righting the wrongs of past-and ongoing-environmental injustices. The Heat Island Bill will ensure that the facts are gathered, and from there, solutions can be put in place for a greener, more equitable urban landscape."
The Nature Conservancy's New York Director of Cities Emily Nobel Maxwell said "The Nature Conservancy commends Governor Hochul, Senator Parker, and Assemblyman Cunningham for recognizing the fatal risks of extreme heat in disadvantaged neighborhoods and committing resources to better understand the effects on Black and Brown communities. Communities of color and lower-income communities tend to have fewer trees and green spaces, which provide shade and reduce air and sidewalk temperatures. A lack of community greenery can increase the risks and harms of heatwaves. We appreciate New York State’s efforts to increase green spaces and look forward to continuing to work with the State and communities most at risk to further this critical work.”
New York State is already taking steps administratively to address extreme heat in urban communities, including with the formation of the Extreme Heat Action Plan, an effort jointly lead by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Interim recommendations for the Extreme Heat Action Plan were released on July 23, 2022. The plan specifically focuses on communities disproportionately impacted by environmental pollution and climate change and identifies gaps in the State's existing approach to mitigating extreme heat impacts on areas of employment, recreation, and disadvantaged communities.