The New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (“CLCPA”) established ambitious targets to transform New York’s energy generation and efficiency. The CLCPA was signed into law in 2019 with goals to achieve 100% zero-emission electric generation by 2040 and greenhouse gas emission reduction to 85% below 1990 levels by 2050, among others.  The clean energy investments contemplated by the CLCPA include $35 billion in large-scale renewable and transmission projects, $6.8 billion to reduce building emissions, $1.8 billion for solar and more than $1 billion for clean transportation initiatives. 

A concurrent goal of the CLCPA, is to relieve long-standing environmental justice burdens on disadvantaged communities by mandating a significant portion of investment in CLCPA projects to such communities.

Pursuant to CLCPA §75-0117:

State agencies, authorities and entities, in consultation with the environmental justice working group and the climate action council, shall, to the extent practicable, invest or direct available and relevant programmatic resources in a manner designed to achieve a goal for disadvantaged communities to receive forty percent of overall benefits of spending on clean energy and energy efficiency programs, projects or investments in the areas of housing, workforce development, pollution reduction, low income energy assistance, energy transportation and economic development, provided however, that disadvantaged communities shall receive no less than thirty-five percent of the overall benefits of spending on clean energy and energy efficiency programs, projects or investments and provided  further that this section shall not alter funds already contracted or committed as of the effective date of this section.

The CLCPA charged the Climate Justice Working Group, a 13-member assembly consisting of environmental justice community representatives from New York City, upstate urban communities, rural communities, the NYSDEC, NYSDOH, NYSERDA and NYSDOL (the “Working Group”), with defining criteria to identify disadvantaged communities. 

After a lengthy public comment period, the Working Group approved and adopted the final criteria and identified disadvantaged communities on March 27, 2023.  The criteria consisted of 45 indicators that centered on environmental and climate change burdens and risks, population characteristics and health vulnerabilities. Application of the criteria generated a list that totals over 1,700 communities across the state. 

Of the over 1,700 communities designated, Nassau and Suffolk Counties combine to account for 87 qualified disadvantaged communities.  Adding New York City and Westchester increases the downstate total to 664 communities, or approximately 38 percent, of the designated disadvantaged communities list. Notable communities on Long Island include Brentwood, Central Islip, Brookhaven, Shirley, Riverhead, Calverton, Uniondale, Hempstead and Freeport, among others. 

Considering the unprecedented clean energy funding combined with the 35% investment mandate, a designation by the Working Group as a disadvantaged community carries the potential for significant economic benefit: a genuinely green for green proposition.