New York Governor Kathy Hochul has announced actions State agencies and authorities will advance to help address the impacts of extreme heat on disadvantaged communities and other New Yorkers vulnerable to the effects of increasingly high temperatures driven by climate change.
The actions stem from the Governor’s 2022 State of the State directive to develop an extreme heat action plan to coordinate interagency investments and efforts to help mitigate community climate impacts and prioritize assistance to disadvantaged communities on the front lines of heat vulnerability.
The interim recommendations released on July 23 represent the first phase of a more comprehensive Extreme Heat Action Plan that will identify State-led actions that address the structural drivers of extreme heat and its disproportionate impact on New York’s most vulnerable communities.
“Extreme heat threatens the lives and livelihood of many New Yorkers each year, but particularly those in disadvantaged communities and communities of color,” Governor Hochul said. “Severe storms and extreme heat will only increase with climate change, and it is critical that New York develops coordinated and effective plans to address heat exposure. The recommendations announced today help build on actions already underway to protect our most vulnerable and disproportionately affected residents this summer, and for years to come.”
Earlier this year, Governor Hochul directed the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to develop an Extreme Heat Action Plan in response to the frequency and intensity of extreme heat events caused by climate change. DEC and NYSERDA convened the Extreme Heat Action Plan Work Group (EHAPWG), consisting of more than 20 State agencies working together on immediate steps across all of State government that will begin addressing extreme heat inequities in disadvantaged communities.
The new interim recommendations include actions for rapid implementation to address acute needs while the working group continues to develop longer-term coordinated efforts that focus on mitigating extreme heat and the systemic societal inequities that exacerbate its effects. The interim recommendations received input from key stakeholders, including representatives of disadvantaged communities and heat-vulnerable population groups. The plan specifically focuses on communities disproportionately impacted by environmental pollution and climate change and identifies gaps in the State’s existing approach to mitigating extreme heat impacts on areas of employment, recreation, and disadvantaged communities.
The interim recommendations include actions to prepare communities for a heat emergency and address acute extreme heat-related impacts and needs this summer. The recommendations identify six opportunity areas for action: planning, coordination, public cooling spaces, heat health warning systems and protocols, community partnerships, and housing and cooling. Immediate actions being implemented and planned during the development of the EHAP include:
- Expanding the availability of cooling centers and shelters by identifying potential partners to provide their facilities as cooling centers, promoting their use, and extending access to State Parks, swimming areas, recreational lands, and other State facilities that provide relief from extreme heat;
- Developing uniform utility hot weather provisions to help improve communication with consumers and prevent disconnections during hot weather events;
- Improving access to existing energy efficiency and weatherization programs and expanding the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) available to eligible low- and moderate-income New Yorkers for projects to heat and cool their homes;
- Exploring the State’s long-term ability to mitigate energy cost-burden impacts associated with cooling and electrification to give further consideration to the health implications of energy burden on low-income households;
- Developing an Extreme Heat Adaptation Plan with a focus on disadvantaged communities and increasing the capacity of environmental justice organizations and other community groups to collaborate, and find local solutions to provide services that help mitigate extreme heat impacts;
- Improving alert systems for extreme heat and/or humidity and ensure the use of clear, consistent, and accurate language;
- Convening a heat emergency coordination team and developing an extreme heat-specific hazard annex to the State’s comprehensive emergency management plan by June 1, 2023; and
- Providing a comprehensive assessment of existing resources and capacities to help ensure effective implementation of recommended short- and long-term actions.
Doreen M. Harris, President and CEO, NYSERDA said, “Sustainable and affordable access to both indoor and outdoor cooling options is a pressing need for many vulnerable New Yorkers, especially with the excessively hot temperatures we are seeing across the state now. This collaborative interagency effort is an important step to alleviating energy and health burdens caused by these heat waves and the recommendations put forth today are just the beginning of a final comprehensive action plan that will deliver widespread resiliency and protection from more frequent extreme weather events as a result of climate change.”