NY League of Conservation Voters - Howie Hawkins

NY League of Conservation Voters - Howie Hawkins

Howie answers questions on a broad range of issues from single-use plastic bags to climate change.


1. Please share your accomplishments or experiences that indicate your commitment to advancing a pro-environment agenda. These experiences may be professional or personal.

I've been an avid environmentalist since an elementary school teacher got me into Sierra Club and Boy Scout camping trips to the Sierras. In my teens I followed the California Tomorrow critique of sprawl development, linked up with Ecology Action West, and followed David Brower out of the Sierra Club and into Friends of the Earth. I organized the first Earth Day events in 1970 at my high school, including a primer on environmental problems that the school reproduced for all the students that rooted pollution, resource depletion, and economic inequality (environmental injustice) in an economic system predicated on blind, relentless growth, an analysis that I think still stands the test of time.

In 1969 and 1970, I bought at the drug store and read a series of about 10 Ballantine paperbacks published with the Sierra Club and then Friends of the Earth on environmental issues. I remember one of them especially, Perils of the Peaceful Atom, which refuted the pro-nuclear propaganda I had been fed by My Weekly Reader in grade school.

I went to Dartmouth College in 1971 where I created a special major in Social Ecology focused on the social and economic roots of environmental problems with two my advisors being Dana and Dennis Meadows, who had just finished The Limits to Growth. I became active in the anti-nuclear/safe energy movement and was a co-founder of the Clamshell Alliance.

After college, I co-founded a workers cooperative that specialized in energy audits and efficiency retrofits and solar and wind installations. I was active in advocating for public power as a democratic framework for people to better resist nuclear power plants, resist trash incinerators, and build renewable sources of energy. I also worked with Richard Grossman's Environmentalists for Full Employment in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

In 1984, I was invited to represent the Clamshell Alliance at a meeting in St. Paul to found a Green Party in the United States. I have remained active in the Green Party since. Also in the 1980s I worked with Tony Mazzochi and others in the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers to promote what we then called a Superfund for Workers and today is called Just Transition.

My 2005 Green mayoral campaign in Syracuse spawned a public power movement and appropriation by city council of funding for a feasibility study, though the mayor was able to scuttle it.

I have remained active in anti-nuclear work. In 2009, I went on speaking tour against the new nuclear power plants proposed for Georgia and South Carolina organized by southern veterans of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), northern veterans of which in the San Francisco Bay Area had been my mentors in organizing in my high school years.

I am now in my fourth statewide campaign calling for 100% clean energy by 2030 - for U.S. Senator in 2006 and for NY Governor in 2010, 2014, and 2018. In 2006, we formulated the demand based on what the climate science indicated industrial states like New York must do to avert runaway global warming and climate catastrophe. By 2010, we had the Jacobson et al. study that it was technically and economically feasible to reach 100% clean energy by 2030 on a global scale. By the 2014 campaign, we had a study of New York specifically by Jacobson et al. confirming that New York could do it.

In 2008 (for Congress) and 2010, I campaigned for a ban on fracking wells and fracked-gas pipelines, power plants, and other infrastructure at a time when much of the environmental movement regarded fracked-gas as the alternative to coal that was "the bridge to the renewable future," or, at best, called for a moratorium while it was studied. Our call for a fracking ban got a lot of support in the 2010 campaign and immediately after it many more environmental groups replaced their "bridge" and moratorium perspectives with the demand for a ban.

We believe the 5% of the vote out gubernatorial ticket received in 2014 played a major role in Gov. Cuomo affirming his health departments recommendation for a ban of fracking. We believe Cuomo moved our way on a number of issues - $15 minimum wage, tuition-free public college, millionaire's tax, and more - because he wants to compete for the progressive votes we received.

Now we are focused on a ban on all new fossil-fuel infrastructure and a state energy plan for 100% clean energy by 2030. This campaign we have a bill introduced in the state legislature that gives focus and reality to these demands, New York Off Fossil Fuels (NY OFF, A5105A/S5908A).

In addition to public education, organizing activists, testifying at public hearings, speaking at rallies, lobbying legislators, and running for office, I have engaged in civil disobedience for environmental issues many times since the Clamshell occupations of Seabrook in the 1970s. Last year I was arrested for blocking with fellow military veterans the entrance Crestwood gas storage facility at Seneca Lake. Last month, I was arrested with 54 other for a sit-in outside Governor Cuomo's office in the capitol building demanding a ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure, 1005 clean energy, and making polluters pay for their damages.


Each year, NYLCV works closely with New York's leading environmental, public health, conservation, energy, environmental justice, and transportation organizations to identify the state's most pressing priorities on fighting climate change, conserving land and water, and protecting public health. These issues drive NYLCV's advocacy work throughout the legislative session and also influences the bills we select for NYLCV's State Environmental Scorecard as well as the candidates we choose to endorse.

Please indicate your level of commitment to, and if applicable your recent personal and professional activity, with respect to all the policy priorities of our partners per the following issues:

(To ensure your responses address the issues NYLCV and its partners are most concerned about, please review NYLCV's 2018 New York State Policy Agenda when formulating your responses. )

Top Priorities

2. Food Waste (p. 1)

Food Recovery and Recycling Act: Enact this bill to provide surplus food to food banks for hungry people, convert organic waste into compost, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by diverting organic material from landfills.

3. Congestion Pricing and Funding Mass Transit (p. 1)

The MTA alone needs almost $100 billion over the next 15 years to upgrade the system. More investment is needed to extend MTA coverage to many outer borough neighborhoods as well as improve public transportation in upstate cities and towns. The funding should be raised from many sources:

Congestion Pricing in Manhattan with fees dedicated to mass transit.

For-Hire Vehicle Trip Surcharges on taxis, Lyft, Uber, etc.

Progressive Carbon Tax that uses part of the revenues to protect low- and middle-income households and part for investments in public transportation and clean energy.

New York City Land Value Tax: Recapture for the city treasury the unearned increase in land values and rents due to social investments, particularly in public transportation.

Stock Transfer Tax: Stop rebating 100% of $14-$16 billion in annual revenues to stock traders.

Tax the Rich: More progressive income taxation. The share of income going to the top 1% in New York State has grown from 12% in 1980 to 30% in 2104. In New York City, it has grown from 12% to 39%.

A state Public Bank to make lower-cost loans for transportation infrastructure than bonding through Wall Street.

4. Reduce Single-Use Bags (p. 1)

Immediately ban single-use plastic bag.

Charge a fee on paper bags.

Phase out all single-use plastics over 5 years.

5. Protect Children from Toxic Chemicals (p. 1)

Require landlords to remove lead and receive a lead-safe certificate before renting.

Expand the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative lead abatement programs for homeowners as well as landlords.

Restore revenue sharing to cover unfunded state mandates on local governments and free up funds for local services, notably in this regard, frequent code inspections to enforce lead-free renting and other housing safety laws.

Enact the bill (A7950A/S6034A) to require the state to develop a list of chemicals that may be hazardous to children and require manufacturers to disclose whether they use these chemicals in their children's products.

6. Ensure Adequate Funding for the Environment (p. 2)

Full state funding for DEC, MTA capital needs, Clean Water Infrastructure Act, and the new rail tunnel between NY and NH.

Restore staffing levels DEC to the peak staffing it had before the Pataki administration.

Stop contracting out DEC operations to private, for-profit firms. Outsourcing reduces accountability and quality, thus raising costs for the state, the environment, and public health.

Address Causes and Effects of Climate Change

7. Clean Energy for All (p. 3)

Public power to lower utility rates and effectively plan a rapid transition to 100% clean renewables.

Rapidly phase out fossil-fuel power plants, starting with a halt to the restart of the Sheridan Hollow power plant with fracked-gas in Albany and the Competitive Power Ventures plant in Middletown, which would add 10% to New York State's greenhouse gas emissions.

Enact the New York Off Fossil Fuels Act (NY OFF, A5105A/S5908A) and enforce its provisions that protect communities, particularly communities of color and lower income communities, disproportionately affected by air and water quality pollution from fossil-fuel burning and that protect workers and communities adversely affected by dirty power plant closures with income support, job training, and state revenues to make up for lost local property taxes.

8. Meet Renewable Energy Goals (p. 3)

Raise the renewable energy goal to 100% by 2030. Climate science indicates the state's current renewable energy goals are far too little, too late.

Enact the New York Off Fossil Fuels Act (NY OFF, A5105A/S5908A) for 100% clean energy by 2030, a ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure, a phase out of nuclear power, zero emissions for all new vehicles by 2025, net zero emissions for new buildings by 2020, and Just Transition and Environmental Justice policies to help impacted workers and communities.

9. Transportation Infrastructure and Efficiency (p. 3)

Free or Reduced Commuter Subway and Bus Fares to encourage the use of mass transit.

Electrify Transportation: Build an electrified rail and road transportation system across the state that includes recharging stations for electric vehicles, convenient and affordable intra-urban mass transit, inter-urban rail for intermediate distances, and high-speed rail for long distances.

10. Resiliency (p. 4)

Require Climate Impact Assessments as part of all state agency planning and major construction projects.

Fund green infrastructure improvements to rain runoff, sewer, and wastewater treatment systems.

Protect coastal wetlands and erosion areas from development.

11. Sustainable Development (p. 4)

Discourage sprawl development and encourage compact development through urban growth boundaries, split-rate land value taxation, and inclusionary zoning to encourage mixed-use, mixed-income communities.

Enact legislation requiring the Comptroller's Office to develop and maintain better economic indicators such as the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare developed by Herman Daly. The current growth-biased Keynesian national accounting system based on GDP as the principal indicator of welfare counts bads like health care costs from pollution-induced disease and environmental clean up of toxics as goods that increase the GDP. It is not reliable as a standard for evaluating and planning economic development.

Protect the Health of New Yorkers and Their Communities

12. Toxics (p. 5)

Require manufacturers to provide information regarding the chemicals contained in consumer Enact the New York Off Fossil Fuels Act (NY OFF, A5105A/S5908A) for 100% clean energy by 2030, which requires zero emissions for all new vehicles by 2025 and bans new and phases out ld fossil-fuel burning for heating, cooling, power, and transportation.

Replace fossil-fuel power plants for heating and cooling buildings by retrofiting all existing buildings for net zero greenhouse gas emissions, with the NY Power Authority and/or a state bank financing ground-source (geothermal) and air-source heat pumps for heating and cooling, with no upfront costs to building owners and costs recovered over time though savings from lower energy costs.

13. Air Quality (p. 5)

Enact the New York Off Fossil Fuels Act (NY OFF, A5105A/S5908A) for 100% clean energy by 2030, which requires zero emissions for all new vehicles by 2025 and bans new and phases out ld fossil-fuel burning for heating, cooling, power, and transportation.

Replace fossil-fuel power plants for heating and cooling buildings by retrofiting all existing buildings for net zero greenhouse gas emissions, with the NY Power Authority and/or a state bank financing ground-source (geothermal) and air-source heat pumps for heating and cooling, with no upfront costs to building owners and costs recovered over time though savings from lower energy costs.

14. Food Quality and Security (p. 5)

Public School Food Education: Mandate and fund a food, agriculture, and nutrition curriculum for K-12 public school students, including a home economics curriculum that includes the knowledge and skills to purchase and prepare fresh foods and access to some form of agriculture: a school or community garden, or urban or rural farm.

New York Healthy Food and Health Communities Fund: Increase funding to support the development of healthy food markets and cooperatives in underserved communities.

Farm to Table Program: Establish a program to enable farmers to sell fresh foods directly to childcare facilities and senior meal programs.

Soda Tax: Enact a sugary beverage tax, with revenues used to fund nutrition, food, health and agriculture programs.

Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program: Increase funding to fund and support food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency shelters in New York State.

Increase Nutrition Funding: Increase supplemental funding for the various federal child nutrition programs, including Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children

15. Conserve Natural Resources (p. 6)

Water: Continue state investments in clean water infrastructure and fund programs to address algal blooms by reducing nutrient runoff and drinking water filtration where needed.

Forests: Stop clearcutting in Adirondack Park and ban all-terrain vehicles from State Parks.

Fund programs to address invasive species.

State financial incentives to protect and encourage municipal parks and conservation of habitat and farmland, including the New York State Farmland Protection Fund.

Organic Agriculture Transition Plan: Develop a plan to encourage and help farmers transition to organic farming, including research, training, subsidies and incentives to support farmers' transition to organic agriculture while natural systems of soil fertility and pest control are being restored. Organic agriculture should be promoted to protect the environment and the health of food producers and consumers, and to fight climate change by sequestering carbon in revitalized soil ecosystems.

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