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LI demonstrators urge Gov. Cuomo to toughen stand on climate change

Demonstrators rally on the Long Beach boardwalk as

Demonstrators rally on the Long Beach boardwalk as part of a global day of action on climate change on Saturday. Credit: Linda Rosier

Demonstrators on the Long Beach boardwalk on Saturday urged Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to work more aggressively to combat climate change.

“Despite claiming to be a climate leader, Gov. Cuomo has continued to push New York into a fossil fuel future,” said Smitha Varghese, a Queens College student who leads the student board of directors for the New York Public Interest Research Group, which works on environmental and other issues.

The rally was one of a number of "Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice" actions held worldwide on Saturday to highlight climate-change issues.

In Long Beach, about 100 demonstrators chanted “No more coal, no more oil, keep the carbon in the soil” as they called for Cuomo to support transitioning the state toward using only renewable energy sources such as solar and wind by 2050. Cuomo's opponent in Thursday's Democratic gubernatorial primary, Cynthia Nixon, supports the 2050 goal. Cuomo backs generating half the state’s electricity with renewables by 2030.

Paul Auerbach, volunteer leader in the Brooklyn office of the environmental group Food & Water Watch, praised Cuomo for banning the drilling technique known as fracking, blocking the proposed Port Ambrose liquid natural gas terminal 19 miles off Jones Beach and promising that New York would adhere to the Paris environmental accord that the Trump administration withdrew from in June 2017.

But he said Cuomo must go further, including rejecting the proposed Williams Companies natural-gas pipeline from New Jersey to the Rockaways in Queens.

Although the state Department of Environmental Conservation denied an application for the pipeline in April, in part because of an incomplete environmental review, Williams can reapply.

“We’re asking Gov. Cuomo to become a hero, a climate leader instead of a follower,” Auerbach said.

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said of the Williams pipeline Saturday that “protecting New Yorkers and our environment are this administration’s top priorities, which is why decisions on individual projects are made at the agency level by career public servants who conduct a rigorous review of the facts and the science."

The governor’s website says that Cuomo “has taken decisive action to lead the fight against climate change and protect our environment for generations to come. New York State has banned fracking and is committed to phasing out antiquated, polluting coal plants . . . Governor Cuomo has committed to continue driving New York's environmental leadership and act decisively to oppose any federal action that seeks to roll back progress.”

Demonstrators said transitioning to cleaner energy would benefit both the economy and the environment.

Lucas Sánchez, Long Island director of New York Communities for Change, said those “green jobs” could help low- and moderate-income communities that were especially hard-hit by climate change and by weather linked to it. He cited superstorm Sandy, which some experts say may have been more severe because of changes in the Earth’s climate.

“It’s low-income folks who are still suffering from Sandy, who have been displaced and unable to recover,” he said.  

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