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Town officials worry: Who will pay for climate change? Big oil companies or local taxpayers?

  • / Updated:
  • Farah Siddiqi 

Some state and local lawmakers are on a long list calling on New York Gov. Kathy Hochul to require big oil companies to help offset the costs of damages caused by climate change.

More than 60 New York elected officials have signed a letter emphasizing the need to keep up with climate extremes through local projects to protect coastlines, restore wetlands, elevate or buy out threatened homes, improve water and sewer systems, retrofit public buildings and more.

Dominic Frongillo, co-founder and executive director of Elected Officials to Protect America and a former council member and deputy supervisor in Caroline, said the major question is who will pay for the projects?

“In Caroline, New York, we were hit by two 100-year storms in five years, causing millions of dollars in public infrastructure damage,” Frongillo recounted. “Our taxpayers can’t support that. We need the Climate Change Superfund Act to protect our communities and protect our taxpayers from the damages caused by ‘Big Oil.'”

A study from the State Comptroller estimated from 2018 to 2028, more than half of New York’s municipal spending outside of New York City was, or will be, related to the climate emergency.

The Climate Change Superfund Act passed the state Senate earlier this year and is supported by more than 240 environmental, faith, civic and labor groups.

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

In the decade from 2011 to 2021, New York was hit by 16 major climate-related disasters, for which FEMA allocated more than $17 billion in assistance.

Cate Rogers, a council member for the Town of East Hampton, said when funds to help communities hit by extreme weather run out, additional support will have to come from local and state governments, which she claims is unfair.

“The funding burden must fall directly on the polluting big oil companies that are responsible for the climate emergency, not our taxpayers,” Rogers argued. “We cannot stand by and let ‘Big Oil’ continue to post record profits while we clean up their mess.”

East Hampton just secured a $600,000 state grant for a plan to consider moving downtown Montauk if it becomes necessary. Rogers noted regardless of which government entity pays for the necessary expenses, it is still coming from taxpayers rather than the polluters.