Upstate New York in the fall
Amid the COVID-19 crisis, efforts to reform renewable energy siting and transmission planning will support a clean energy economic stimulus and job creation for New Yorkers
By Ramona du Houx
April 1, 2020 – A broad coalition of environmental, clean energy industry, real estate and labor groups applaud Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie on the inclusion of the renewable energy siting and transmission reform in the State Budget. The improved siting process for renewable energy projects will help New York to achieve 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030, as required by NY’s 2019 climate law, and maintain New York’s strong environmental and public participation standards.
Amid the COVID-19 health crisis, this renewable energy and transmission siting legislation is a critical tool for economic recovery after the pandemic subsides, as there are more than 60 wind and solar projects that can begin construction after environmental review and permitting. Currently, it takes 5-10 years for projects to get to construction. This legislation was needed because environmental protection and climate action go hand in glove with growing a strong economy. New renewable projects will help meet the State’s clean energy and climate goals, improve air quality and public health, drive economic activity, and create family-sustaining jobs for New Yorkers.
In early March, the coalition sent a letter to Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders urging them to include the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth & Community Benefit Act in this year’s budget. The final agreement establishes an Office of Renewable Energy Permitting at the NYS Department of State; lays out a sensible, stepwise permitting process; and directs the new Office to establish standard operating conditions for wind and solar projects. The bill also:
- Creates a new NYSERDA program to identify sites that can be made “build-ready” for renewable development;
- Creates an Endangered Species Mitigation Bank Fund to support conservation projects;
- Directs the State to complete a study of the grid and open proceedings at the PSC on capital investments in the grid;
- Authorizes NYPA to pursue transmission projects that are deemed high priority; and
- Adds deadlines to the permitting process for transmission, which will include onshore transmission needed for offshore wind development.
Local governments will have access to intervenor funds, and both they and the public will have the opportunity to participate in the process, and all projects must obey local laws unless deemed ‘unreasonably burdensome,’ which is the current standard under the Article 10 siting process.
“As local elected officials are working closely with the state and federal government to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, officials are also eager to partner with the state to create jobs for thousands of New Yorkers and reach the climate goals outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. We are looking forward to continued collaboration to develop a streamlined approval process for renewable energy projects, especially on abandoned commercial sites and brownfields, while respecting the home rule and land use decision-making authority of local communities. New York is a leader in climate action, and by working together, we can protect our environment for future generations,” said Greg Young, Supervisor, Fulton County Board of Supervisors and co-chair of Elected Officials to Protect New York.
The legislation reflects the existing gap in New York’s ability to meet its clean energy goals and puts forward a commonsense plan to fix it. The legislation also paves the way for offshore wind.
“The inclusion of renewable energy and transmission siting reforms in the State budget is another giant step in New York’s nation-leading efforts to address climate change, improve air quality and public health, create good paying jobs and help jump start the economy once the pandemic is over. Kudos to Governor Cuomo and the Legislature for working together to ensure that New York reaches its legally-binding renewable energy, greenhouse gas reduction and offshore wind targets. This new, comprehensive approach to siting and permitting renewable energy projects and the transmission upgrades necessary to bring it to the grid once again confirms New York’s environmental leadership,” said Joe Martens, Director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance.
New York is at the epicenter of a global pandemic. Good paying jobs will be needed coming out of the COVID-19 crisis.
“Now more than ever, we need to take advantage of opportunities to create good middle-class careers with benefits that will drive economic growth across New York. We thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and commitment to building toward the future, while creating new pathways to middle-class careers for thousands of hard-working New Yorkers,” said Gary LaBarbera, President of Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.