Lawmakers Against Climate Protection Measure
New York’s Green New Deal is here — but it isn’t called the Green New Deal.
Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act into law. The legislation passed the state Assembly, 105-35, on the second-to-last day of the legislative session during a late-night vote. Both Assemblymen Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, and Joe Giglio, R-Gowanda, voted against the measure. The legislation was one of the few on which Goodell didn’t lead the questioning on the floor for Republicans.
WHAT DOES THE LEGISLATION DO?
The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act would limit the state’s overall greenhouse gas emissions limits by 85 percent by 2050 and ensures at least 35 percent of investments from clean energy and energy efficiency funds are invested in disadvantaged communities.
The legislation creates a Climate Action Council that will include 22 members, co-chaired by the state DEC commissioner and the director of NYSERDA. That committee will be charged immediately with creating a scoping document that outlines how to meet the state’s emissions targets.
Six regional public comment sessions will be held, at least three of which will be upstate. Measures to be considered include standards for the transportation, building, industrial, commercial and agricultural sectors; measures to displace fossil-fueled electricity with renewable electricity or energy efficiency, land use transportation planning measures to reduce emissions from vehicles; measures to achieve long-term carbon sequestration or promote best management practices in land use, agriculture and forestry; and achieve at least nine gigawatts of offshore wind electric generation by 2035, six gigawatts of distributed photovoltaic solar generation by 2025, three gigawatts of statewide energy storage capacity by 2030 and 185 trillion BTUs of end use energy savings below the 2025 energy use forecast.
The scoping document will also include recommendations to help those whose jobs will be lost, how to promote both personal and freight transport vehicles, how to reduce emissions from buildings, including water and space heating, establishing appliance efficiency standards, new building codes, annual building energy benchmarks, disclosing energy efficiency in home sales and expanding state facilities to use performance contracting.
Four years after the law takes effect, community organizations, environmental groups, health professionals, labor unions, municipal corporations, trade associations and other groups will be required to promulgate rules and regulations to make sure they are complying with the law.
There are also 15 percent offsets from sources that can prove they can’t comply with the state’s timeline to cut emissions if there isn’t technology available to achieve the cuts and as long as the source has reduced emissions as much as possible. After four years, the DEC will determine if the offset will remain. Electricity producers are not eligible to participate in the offset program, with producers also not eligible to use waste-to-energy projects or use biofuels for energy or transportation purposes.
The DEC is given the authority in the law to enforce the reductions from all sources — including homes — and gives state agencies the power to give weight to emissions as the agencies issue permits, licenses or other approvals.
The act requires 70 percent of the electric generation secured by load serving entities regulated by the Public Service Commission to be produced by renewable energy systems by 2030. Additionally, the bill requires that the statewide electrical demand system will be zero emissions by 2040. The measure would spur the procurement of at least nine gigawatts of offshore wind electric generation by 2035, six gigawatts of distributed photovoltaic solar generation by 2025, three gigawatts of statewide energy storage capacity by 2030 and 185 trillion BTUs of end use energy savings below the 2025 energy use forecast.
The legislation, which was accompanied with an emergency memorandum from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, did not include an estimate of the cost to the state. Assemblyman Phillip Palmesano, R-Corning, cited a study from the University of Massachusetts by a professor in favor of the legislation that it would cost $8.7 billion a year for the state to reach its targets. The Empire Center for New York State Policy, meanwhile, estimated that the mandate to buy 9,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity by 2035 will require $48 billion in up-front capital costs paid by state electricity ratepayers.
Assemblyman Steve Engelbright, D-Setauket, cited the costs of inaction by citing hurricanes and wildfires — though some happened outside of New York state.
“Do we have estimates?” Engelbright asked in response to Palmesano’s question. “Not at this time. We don’t know what the estimates of cost would be for replacing. We can see that as part of the report that we’ve asked for from the Climate Working Group. And, indeed, we do know that the cost of not going forward with this initiative is in the last year, 2018, hurricanes Michael and Florence combined for $49 billion of damage and the western wildfires are estimated to have cost $24 billion. We have similar numbers from Superstorm Sandy that have been visited upon our state. The cost of not doing something is also difficult to be precise with even now.”
Palmesano also questioned the offset programs and why electricity providers are unable to take part in them. One of the areas Palmesano would later question regarding available technology was agriculture, which relies on diesel-powered machinery for which there aren’t alternatives yet. He also specifically asked about the process used to make cement.
“The offsets are really for industries and activities that don’t have any known technology to immediately address or where the technology is unfeasible in the short term,” Engelbright said. “For example some aspects of the agricultural sector are just extremely difficult to know exactly how to solve some of the emissions issues related to that sector. We do not have that problem with the direct combustion of fossil fuels. We have alternatives. It’s a matter of setting goals and implementing those already known and well-established alternatives.”
CAN IT BE MET?
Locally, one has to wonder how such standards will be met. During last week’s heat wave, power costs to the region were at $596.99, according to the New York Independent System Operator site. Cooler temperatures on Monday did bring much lower power rates. At 1:30 p.m., the cost in Western New York remained close to being the highest across the state — with New York City and Long Island regions near that amount.
With the marginal price at $30.91, Western New York was paying a rate of $43.32 at that time.Power costs are determined by the locational based marginal pricing, which is the cost to provide the next megawatt of load to a specific location in the grid. For years, due to Huntley in Tonawanda and the Dunkirk power plants, electric prices were the cheapest in the Western New York region. With a greater amount of power being imported, it increases congestion that drives up the cost.
One has to wonder what the price to deliver to Western New York will be in the future as the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act is implemented.
Further, the Chautauqua County just this week passed legislation signalling its opposition to wind turbines on Lake Erie. Erie County has also taken a similar stance.
During the privilege of the floor segment of the meeting, George Borrello, county executive, thanked the legislators for creating the motion. He said wind turbines are destroying the economy and would destroy the lake. He added that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Green Energy Standard calling for more renewable energy is just partisan politics.
“(Wind turbine farms) support a bogus political agenda. That’s all it is,” he said. “It is a horrible idea that has risen from the dead, again.”
The Business Council of New York state had lobbied against similar legislation — the Climate and Community Protection Act — saying many scientists, climate activists and environmental organizations believe achieving zero emissions by 2050 is physically impossible.
The Empire Center for New York State Policy’s analysis pointed to Cuomo’s 2016 Clean Energy Standard and its mandate to require 50 percent of the state’s power to come from renewable sources by 2030. In May, the Empire Center published an analysis of the state’s Independent System Operator’s 2018 Power Trends report that showed the state hasn’t yet hit its 30 percent target for renewable energy goal by 2015 that it set in 2010.
Since passing the Clean Energy Standard in 2016, electricity generation from renewable energy has actually decreased in 2017 and 2018 while consumers used more electricity in 2018 than they did in 2016 and 2017.
That would seem to call into question Engelbright’s statement during the Assembly debate that the state isn’t forecasting an endless increase in the state’s power consumption. One way the Engelbright said the state can meet the required cuts is by cutting energy usage.
“We’re not envisioning the need for an endless growth in new power,” Engelbright said. “If we stop using power for example, in the residential sector, simply not talking about not using it all, but ramp down the need for it by bringing new heating systems into homes that are based on groundwater as well as solar and using renewable fuels in conjunction with renewable energy in conjunction with weatherization and insulation, we should be able to see a significant savings in the amount of energy that is needed. At the same time, we envision a significant new source of renewable energy from offshore wind and the community based solar. Those are not imaginary. They might have been 25 years ago but they’re real now.”