Imagine walking along Jones Beach, dipping your toes into the cool ocean water. Now imagine that ocean six feet higher. Scientists project that by 2100, sea levels along New York’s coastlines and estuaries likely will be 18 to 50 inches higher than they presently are. One New York State-funded research study predicted that sea levels could be as much as 75 inches higher than current levels.¹ Even the lower range of these projections is daunting, as New York’s coastal marine counties are home to more than half of the state’s citizens.² New York State is taking these predictions very seriously and wants them incorporated into decision-making now. On September 22, 2014, New York State’s Community Risk and Resiliency Act (“CRRA”) was signed into law by the Governor. The CRRA is aimed at ensuring that the effects of climate change and extreme-weather events are taken into consideration when state agencies enact facility-siting regulations, grant permits, or provide funding for certain projects.³ The CRRA requires the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (“NYSDEC”) to adopt “science-based” sea-level rise projections by January 1, 2016 and requires these projections to be updated every five years. The sea-level rise projections will be incorporated into certain permit and funding decisions to take into account future physical climate risk due to sea-level rise, storm surge, and flooding. These include: (1) permits for oil and natural gas wells, (2) major projects involving protection of water, sewerage service, liquefied natural gas and liquefied propane facilities, mined land reclamation, freshwater wetlands, tidal wetlands, and coastal erosion hazard areas; and (3) facility-siting programs for hazardous waste transportation, storage and distribution facilities, petroleum bulk storage, and hazardous substance bulk storage. The funding programs include the Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund, the Drinking Water Revolving Fund and those for:
- open space acquisition
- open space project operation and maintenance agreements
- landfill closure assistance
- coastal rehabilitation assistance
- local waterfront revitalization
- agricultural and farmland protection.
The CRRA requires the NYS Department of State, in cooperation with the NYSDEC, to develop model local laws on climate change. These laws will include consideration of future risk due to sea-level rise, storm surge, and flooding.
The CRRA will help ensure that land use decisions being made in New York consider both short-term and long-term risks of projects.
¹Horton, R., D. Bader, C. Rosenzweig, A. DeGaetano, and W. Solecki. 2014. Climate Change in New York State: Updating the 2011 ClimAID Climate Risk Information. New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Albany, New York. See, http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/climaid. Zhang, M., H. Bokuniewicz, W. Lin, S. Jang, and P. Liu, 2014. Climate Risk Report for Nassau and Suffolk, New York State Resilience Institute for Storms and Emergencies (“NYS RISE”), NYS RISE Technical Report TR‐0‐14‐01. See, http://www.nysrise.org.
² Sea Level Rise – Projections and Impacts for New York, available at http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/45202.html.
³New York State Community Risk and Resiliency Act Summary (the “CRRA Summary”), available at http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/administration_pdf/crrasummary.pdf.