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New York Governor’s Latest Energy Proposals Again Undercut NatGas

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week unveiled even more energy policy proposals aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, growing the state’s renewable energy economy and further diminishing the role of natural gas.

Rolled out as part of his annual state-of-the-state proposals for the year ahead, Cuomo, a Democrat, wants to expand and strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a mandatory cap-and-trade program among nine states to reduce power sector emissions. Cuomo hopes to bring Virginia and New Jersey, where voters elected Democratic governors last year, into the RGGI.

Currently, RGGI emission caps only cover power plants with a capacity of 25 MW or more. To strengthen the program, Cuomo plans to direct the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to craft a rule that would group together smaller peaking power units that collectively exceed the RGGI threshold and get them covered by state regulations.

Cuomo also wants the DEC to propose reforms to help reduce smog-forming pollutants at the fossil fuel-fired peaking plants and adopt regulations to end the use of coal in the state’s power plants by 2020.

“New Yorkers know too well the devastation caused by climate change, and in order to slow the effects of extreme weather and build our communities to be stronger and more resilient, we must make significant investments in renewable energy,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo also wants to invest $200 million for 1,500 MW of energy storage to increase renewable energy transmission. He also expects to issue solicitations this year and next for “at least 800 MW” of offshore wind projects and “foster” the offshore wind industry and its workforce.

New Yorkers for Affordable Energy, a coalition of business, labor and industry interests formed last year to promote natural gas development in the state, welcomed some aspects of Cuomo’s latest proposals, but said they fail to address gas infrastructure constraints that have been exacerbated by the administration’s stance against some pipeline projects.

“Unfortunately, projects that could address constrained natural gas infrastructure and provide good paying jobs for union construction trades have been slowed by an uncertain regulatory process,” the group stated. “While the state transitions to new sources of energy in the decades ahead, it is imperative that we continue to ensure reliable and affordable access to existing energy sources for millions of New Yorkers struggling to heat their homes this winter.”

Cuomo’s administration said the latest proposals are meant to build on the governor’s Reforming the Energy Vision policy, which includes a clean energy mandate to generate 50% of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

The administration has denied certifications for several natural gas pipeline projects and banned high-volume hydraulic fracturing. Some environmental groups, however, still don’t believe Cuomo is doing enough.

Food & Water Watch called the latest proposals “modest steps in the right direction,” but said New York and the rest of the country is looking to the governor to end all fossil fuel consumption. “The climate crisis demands ambitious action to move off fossil fuels, and Gov. Cuomo’s modest proposals fall short.”

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