New York state agencies are required to consider the future likelihood of extreme weather in their decisions on public works projects, industrial and commercial permits and regulations, according to a new law signed Monday.
For New York, those calculations include rising sea levels, more flooding and more severe storms.
“The new reality of extreme weather has had painful consequences for New Yorkers in virtually every region of our state,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “This new law contains a comprehensive package of actions that help strengthen and reimagine our infrastructure with the next storm in mind.”
It requires agencies to consider the future risk of storm surges, rising seas and flooding when issuing permits and making funding or regulatory decisions. Standards would apply to siting sewage treatment plants and hazardous waste disposal, designs for chemical and petroleum storage, issuing permits for oil and gas drilling and protecting open space.
Conservation officials are required to adopt regulations by 2016 for establishing science-based projections for rising sea levels. Updates are required at least every five years after that.
According to the governor’s office, scientists have confirmed a sea level rise of about 13 inches since 1900 along New York’s coast, while also measuring significant increases in total precipitation during heavy rains. Those climate changes, coupled with increasing development, have resulted in more people, businesses and infrastructure in vulnerable areas.
Legislative sponsors cited National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data showing March was the 349th consecutive month with above-average temperatures. They also pointed to a National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee report showing the Northeast has seen a 74 percent precipitation increase in heavy rains since 1958.
They said the financial toll of Superstorm Sandy on New York is estimated at $42 billion at least. The Atlantic storm in the fall of 2012 damaged or destroyed thousands of homes in New York City, Long Island and other suburbs.
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