Letter from Gary R. Schoonmaker
Is there really a legitimate constitutional basis for New York State’s Climate Action Plan? There are many ways to address this question: First, is climate change really an existential threat to New York State; and even if it is, does the state have the constitutional authority to take such draconian measures as are being proposed?
While I personally do not believe that climate change is anything more than the natural order of the earth (remember your elementary school studies, where we were told that New York State was covered by thousands of feet of ice just 10,000 years ago?), I will leave that subject to others to debate. I don’t believe that it is in the governments’ authority to dictate the proposals being promoted in the Climate Action Plan. It is part of our national fabric that freedom is a primary right of citizens. Everybody claims it personally and collectively, and yet the CAP is a direct assault on our personal freedom to choose and make our own decisions.
Can anyone disagree with that? The Preamble to New York State’s Constitution states: “We the people of the State of New York, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings, DO ESTABLISH THIS CONSTITUTION.”
The CAP unilaterally prohibits people from choosing what cars to drive, what heat to have in their homes and how to cook their food, for a start. How is that securing the blessings of freedom for the people of the State of New York? They are effectively destroying businesses that now sell natural gas, propane, gas appliances, firewood, and all associated businesses like auto repair—the list is endless!
When we transitioned in the past (think horses to autos, or kerosene to electricity, etc.), people chose the change themselves. If you thought the change would be good for you, you invested your resources to make the change. If you had to buy a car, or wire your house, you paid for it because you chose to do so. If you wanted to forgo the “modernization” you could do so also. Even today, we are still free to choose to light our houses with candles or kerosene, or ride horses instead of driving a car.
Under the state’s CAP, we lose the ability to make those choices for ourselves (although perhaps we could still ride a horse, but who knows for sure?). So, who pays for the businesses that go out of business? As a result of past changes, businesses either adjusted or went out of business because their customers made personal decisions to not buy their products. But under CAP, businesses are being put out of business by an action of the state.
Both the New York State and United States constitutions prohibit the taking of private property for public use without just compensation. Can anyone really argue that closing down businesses (private property) for the CAP (a public use) doesn’t qualify for just compensation? The CAP does not plan for that, but it should! I am not a constitutional attorney, but it seems pretty clear that the state constitution does not grant the government the right to unilaterally void the freedoms of our citizens. On the contrary, the constitution explicitly states that it was created to secure the blessings of freedom for the people of the State of New York. The Climate Action Plan does exactly the opposite!
Gary R. Schoonmaker