The New York State Senate and Assembly, too often a model of corruption and dysfunctionality, rose above petty politics last week to pass forward-thinking legislation on climate and energy, setting a precedent for bipartisanship and a sensible cap and trade system.  The State Senate passed the groundbreaking Green Job/Green New York Act, with strong support from Republicans, Democrats, and the Working Families Party, which spearheaded the legislation. The bill — expected to be signed into law this week by Gov. David Patterson — leverages $112m in revenue from the Northeasts’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) into $5 billion of private investment to finance home weatherization, energy efficiency projects, and green jobs creation.

We should all be paying closer attention for three reasons:

1) It is one of the first large-scale pieces of legislation that concreteley demonstrates why green jobs are a win-win-win. Homeowners win by reducing their energy costs. The private sector wins by gaining a safer investment with strong expected returns. And New Yorkers benefit through the creation of 16,000 new jobs and the increased economic activity and tax receipts the program will generate.  It’s a blueprint that can work in other states and regions as well.

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2) It’s also a model for sensible national climate and energy policy. While the version of the American Clean Energy & Securities Act that passed in the House gives away a substantial portion of the pollution allowances to utilities, the RGGI program in the Northeast auctions off the credits creating the $112 million in revenue, which the state is leveraging 50x to create new jobs and save homeowners on their heating and electricity bills. 

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3) Finally, the Green Job/Green New York Act highlights the power of bipartisan efforts to achieve common sense solutions. Republican support is what made the bill possible. Rather than fight any effort for sensible policy like the national Republican leadership, local leaders have proven to be in touch with the concerns of their constituents, helping to pass the bill 52-8 in the Senate and 147-0 in the Assembly. But putting politics aside and the needs of New Yorkers first, they showed the way for national cooperation on this issue.

To learn more about the bill and its passage, check out David Sasson’s piece on