NY Needs to End Addiction to Fossil Fuels, Support Off-Shore Wind

Green Education and Legal Fund
Media Release

For Immediate Release: October 8, 2015
For More Info: Mark Dunlea, 518 860-3725
Steve Breyman, 518 763-7539

Climate Change Activists Call on Cuomo to End Addiction to Fossil Fuels

Urge Him to Say No to Natural Gas, Yes to Wind

Green groups are urging Governor Cuomo to acknowledge that the burning fossil fuels is the main cause of climate change and to halt his plans to flood the state with natural gas and other fossil fuels.

Groups like the campaign for 100% Renewables Now NY want Cuomo to commit the state to a long term contract to purchase off-shore wind (OSW) off of Long Island and NYC. The Green Education and Legal Fund (GELF) supports a state Power Purchase Agreement of 5,000 MW for OSW by 2025 and 10,000 MW by 2030. A report last week by the University of Delaware faulted governments in the US for failing to embrace off-shore wind as essential to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. It said that the US is further away for OSW commercial development than it was a decade ago.

The groups are calling for Cuomo to use his veto power next month to reject the proposed Pt. Ambrose Liquefied Natural Gas facility. The federal government has put a major off-shore wind project at the same site on hold as long as the LNG facility is being considered.

Cuomo is joining former Vice-President Al Gore today to speak about climate change at Columbia University.

Advocates point out that investing in renewables would create millions of new jobs in New York while lowering electric rates by at least half compared to continued reliance upon fossil fuels.

Groups give Cuomo credit to agreeing to half the fracking of natural gas but point out that Cuomo’s energy plan is focused on flooding the state with natural gas. “The methane emissions from natural gas are as much as 86 times more potent over twenty years than carbon dioxide emissions to global warming and it is urgent for us to slash greenhouse emissions to halt runaway climate change, said Barbara Warren, Executive Director of Citizens’ Environmental Coalition

“Cuomo is like someone who agrees with the doctor to give up chewing tobacco but still is chain smoking a few packs a day. It is good that Cuomo agreed to stop one extreme extraction method in NY but he still plans to ship fracked gas into the state. There are dozens of natural gas pipelines, compressor stations, liquefied natural gas facilities, compressor stations, oil bomb train facilities, power plants and storage facilities that Cuomo needs to say no to. And Cuomo needs to stop spending hundreds of millions of customers’ dollars to bail out coal plants,” said Mark Dunlea, Chair of GELF.

“Cuomo acts like China has solved climate change since their mass production of solar panels has slashed prices dramatically. He wants to go on cruise control and allow the market to determine our energy future. But as Pope Frances warned, the market is driven by a search for profits rather than the need to protect the well-being of the world’s citizens and inhabitants,” added Prof. Steve Breyman.

The groups point out that if Cuomo wants to rely upon market forces to guide energy choices, he needs to embrace a large greenhouse gas tax so that polluters pay for the damages caused from burning fossil fuels. For instance, the estimate of the number of “excess” deaths in New York annually from air pollution is between 3,000 and 20,000, with increased health care costs of more than $30 billion annually. The International Monetary Fund estimates that existing subsidies to fossil fuel companies amount to more than $5.3 trillion a year. A carbon tax, which is now supported by many of the largest banks and energy companies, would make renewables a better bargain and accelerate their deployment. A state carbon tax bill in NY calls for an initial carbon / greenhouse gas tax of $35 a ton, with an annual increase of $15.

Climate activists do give Cuomo credit for examining how the state should redesign its energy highway to better integrate decentralized power input from renewables. But much of the state’s REV (Reforming Energy Vision) process is driven by the goal on providing profits to the existing large investor-owned utilities, not by solving climate change.

While the Cuomo administration has called for 50% of the state’s electricity to be provided by renewables by 2030, greens argue this is way too small to have a major impact on climate change. Industry representatives have testified that the proposals put out so far by the Cuomo administration so far (Energy Master Plan, REV, Clean Energy Fund) gets us nowhere close to even achieving the limited goals.

A report by Cornell and Stanford (Jacobson) professors showed that it was feasible with existing technology to transition all energy in NY to 100% renewables by 2030. Unlike Cuomo’s goal, this would include not just existing electricity (about 40% of the state’s carbon footprint) but also transportation, heating / cooling, and agriculture. Even when researchers add on another 20 years to the transition process to allow for politicians’ foot dragging, they estimate that 85 to 90% of all power in the state should be provided by renewables by 2030.

NYSERDA has put out its own report outlining the potential for off-shore wind in NY. They note that the costs could be cut by 30% with the commitment for a large scale project off of Long Island. Unfortunately, on the same day that Cuomo said no to fracking, LIPA which he controls rejected a major off-shore wind project.

NYS did just receive a small federal grant to better coordinate action on off-shore wind with several other northeastern states. Cuomo’s energy officials have argued for a go slow approach to off-shore wind while they hope that OSW projects in Europe drive down the costs. OSW advocates point out that whichever state first attracts a major project will likely control the jobs and economic development from wind along the entire east coast since that is where the major investment in ports and factories will be made. Off-shore wind turbines must be built at a port since they have to be transferred directly to a ship for transport.

“The one place in the United States that makes the most economical sense for OSW right now is downstate NY, due to the extremely high electric prices from Pataki’s disastrous energy deregulation. A major project however would slash costs and provide much needed jobs and business for local companies,” added Dunlea.

The state’s efforts over the last decade to increase renewables from 19% of electric production to 30% fell far short of its goals (about 22.5%). Most of the increase was from on-shore wind.

– 30 –