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 achieve 70% 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 five to 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. All projects must obey local laws unless deemed ‘unreasonably burdensome,’ which is the current standard under the Article 10 siting process.
“We are in the midst of a health crisis and a climate crisis, and we applaud New York’s bold leaders for their proven ability to tackle both issues head on. While continuing to fight the COVID-19 outbreak, New York is taking critical steps to build a clean energy future, and we are excited to see the renewable energy siting reform included in the State Budget. Once enacted, this legislation has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of time it takes for developers to build renewables, while also ensuring a rigorous environmental review process and creating green jobs across the state. We look forward to our continued work with Governor Cuomo and the legislature to create a green energy future for New York and reach the CLCPA goals,” said Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters.
“We sincerely thank the Senate and Assembly leaders and the Governor for recognizing this problem and acting to fix it. Last year, NY’s legislature enacted a bold climate law that requires New York to rapidly transition to renewable electricity. This year, amid an unprecedented health crisis, they stepped up to make the system for environmental review, permitting, and transmission planning work so that transition can begin. When this bill was introduced, it was a different world. Now, we recognize that building wind and solar and investing in transmission can be part of our State’s economic recovery. New York needs its green new deal now more than ever,” said Anne Reynolds, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy NY.
“The renewable siting reform package is a crucial piece of legislation to help New Yorkers recover from this unprecedented health and economic crisis. It will help jump start our economy by creating much-needed jobs and business opportunities while allowing the transition to renewables to get up to speed. We applaud the leadership of Governor Cuomo and the Legislature in these difficult times of crisis,” said Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island.
The coalition pushing for renewable energy siting and transmission reform includes: New York League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Alliance for Clean Energy NY, American Wind Energy Association, Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition, Building and Construction Trades Council of New York, Building Owners and Manager Association, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Citizens’ Climate Lobby – New York, E2, Elected Officials to Protect New York, Environmental Advocates, Food & Water Watch, The Nature Conservancy, New York Building Congress, New York Energy Consumers Council, New York Offshore Wind Alliance, New Yorkers for Clean Power, NY Climate Reality Chapters Coalition, New York State Laborers Organizing Fund, Real Estate Board of New York, Regional Plan Association, Renewable Energy Long Island, Urban Green Council, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and 32BJ SEIU.
SEIA also applauded the decision, issuing the following statement by David Gahl, senior director of state affairs, northeast:
“We commend Governor Cuomo, Speaker Heastie, and Majority Leader Stewart Cousins for passing permitting reforms that will fast-track permitting approvals for large scale solar projects. These are unprecedented times and we appreciate that amidst the COVID-19 crisis, the New York legislature and governor are prioritizing the long-term stability and growth of the solar market.
“Like other industries, the solar industry is not immune to the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This week New York leaders made the difficult decision to halt construction projects, thereby shutting down solar installations.
“Incenting solar development is one part of our recovery but we’re going to need to continue to work with the governor and legislature, as well as the federal government to help the industry to rebuild the clean energy economy. When the state recovers from this public health crises, we will need to get New Yorkers back in their solar jobs so that we can jumpstart the state’s economy and lead New York’s recovery efforts. We look forward to working with New York leaders to get the solar industry back on track.”
News item from the Alliance for Clean Energy New York. Updated with SEIA’s statement April 3.