Governor Andrew Cuomo calls the shots in New York state politics. But getting a chance to actually speak to the governor directly is pretty rare, unless you happen to be a power broker or a big donor.
Last week, I got my chance.
While Cuomo fancies himself a climate champion, New York has made almost no progress on clean energy during his tenure. And the governor has overseen a massive buildout of fracked gas infrastructure. That means gas pipelines and power plants weaving through our state, bringing air pollution and climate destruction along with them.
Consequently, there’s a strong force of activists who are laser-focused on pushing Cuomo to reject dirty energy projects and move off fossil fuels altogether. I’m lucky enough to be a part of that movement. We’ve been showing up at Cuomo’s public events and fundraisers, in the hopes of getting his attention and demonstrating that climate activists are committed, relentless, and not going anywhere. Picketing outside an event is always fun, but we rarely get an opportunity to speak to the Governor directly.
Last week, however, the stars aligned. We got word that Cuomo was having a fundraiser in midtown Manhattan. This fundraiser was unlike any other Cuomo event I’ve ever seen—namely, it didn’t cost thousands of dollars to attend! It was billed as a Craft Beverage Tasting, welcoming “beer and wine enthusiasts” for only a $50 entry fee.
Fifty bucks seemed like a small price to pay for an opportunity to get a clear answer on where Cuomo really stands on fracking infrastructure.
I squirmed my way to the front of the crowd, and stood directly in front of Cuomo while he gave his remarks on New York’s impressive beer and wine industry. I made sure to nod and clap, hoping he’d notice my enthusiasm and allow me to speak to him one-on-one after his remarks.
After he wrapped up his speech, I positioned myself for a handshake. I had been warned that my exchange with Cuomo would only be as long as our handshake, so I was ready to keep shaking his hand until I got the answer I wanted.
When it was my turn, my colleague Sam Bernhardt was ready to capture the moment:
Getting Cuomo to say that he would not build any more fossil fuel power plants was big news. And hearing him acknowledge that fracked gas power plants like CPV (Orange County) and Cricket Valley (Dutchess County) are inconsistent with his own climate goals gives us enormous leverage to demand that he shut those down.
Cuomo also claimed that he did not approve any of the fracked gas power plants being built now. This is not true. His administration approved permits for both of those massive power plants, and his own New York State Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is shelling out millions of dollars to fund small-scale fracked gas power plants like the one proposed for the Sheridan Hollow neighborhood in downtown Albany.
If Cuomo means what he said, it means pulling the plug on the massive fracked gas plants scheduled to go online, and scrapping plans for the dozens of fracked gas powered plants supported by his administration.
We can’t take Cuomo—or any politician, for that matter—at his word, but here’s why this video is so important: If Cuomo means what he said, it means pulling the plug on the massive fracked gas plants scheduled to go online, and scrapping plans for the dozens of fracked gas powered plants supported by his administration. This would be a significant reversal in New York State’s energy policy.
The pressure on Cuomo to reject fracking infrastructure projects has been steadily building. Just a few weeks ago, over 1,500 people went to Albany to demand that he “walk the talk on climate.” Plus, we’ve been generating hundreds of calls every week to his office to demand he reject all fracking infrastructure.
This movement pressuring Cuomo to live up to his own rhetoric is strong. And we’re only getting stronger.