Greens Criticize Cuomo re Raid of Climate Change Funds, Bail out of Coal
The Green Education and Legal Fund (GELF) criticized Governor Cuomo today for his apparent successful raid of almost a third of the state’s carbon pollution fund ($41 million), his push to bailout coal plants to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, and his blocking through LIPA of off-shore wind projects.
“While the Governor has taken some positive steps to promote renewable energy, he has made more than his fair share of bad decisions. He needs to support a 21st century energy system and stop promoting dirty old technology. The state’s progress in increasing renewables has fallen way short of the goal of 30% of the state’s electricity by 2015. He needs to start providing leadership on off-shore wind and end his efforts to bailout the coal industry and otherwise expand the fossil fuel infrastructure,” said Mark Dunlea, President of the Green Education and Legal Fund.
Under Cuomo’s leadership, the state is planning to bail out the Dunkirk Coal plant with more than $150 million. The Cayuga plant is seeking another $145 million bailout. Environmentalists such as Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign instead want Cuomo to shut down all four of the state’s remaining coal plants by the end of the year. Committing to retiring coal would be a critical interim step to achieving large carbon reductions in the electric sector.
Planning now for New York’s responsible transition away from coal will enable the state to get out in front in protecting communities and workers, save ratepayers millions of dollars by ending out-of-market ratepayer subsidies to prop up and artificially extend the life of uneconomical coal plants and significantly clean up New York’s air and water.
GELF said that Cuomo needed to throw out his draft State Energy Master Plan and its support for fossil fuels and nuclear power. The plan should be re-written to provide concrete benchmarks and a timetable to transition the state’s energy system to 100% clean energy (renewables and conservation) by 2030.
Greens do agree with Cuomo that the state’s energy distribution system needs to be upgraded to be “smarter” and to make it easier for small scale renewable energy projects to tie into the grid. Providing financial incentives for such efforts has been key to Germany’s worldwide leadership on renewable energy. Utility companies in the US are pushing hard to hinder renewable energy by going in the opposite direction, asking the federal and state governments to impose additional fees for small renewable energy sources. Environmentalists are concerned that the Cuomo administration’s belief in market forces will cause it to weaken rather than strengthen its subsidies for renewable energy.
“The Governor should start with the easy step of making every government building carbon free. We need solar panels on every school and government building. We need the state to invest in heat pumps and insulation. We need to overhaul the state’s building codes to promote the maximum energy conservation and efficiency possible. The great news is that this will pay for itself quickly in lower energy costs while creating good paying jobs and improving our air quality,” noted Dunlea.
GELF also faulted Cuomo for failing to push the state’s $5 billion plus windfall from various financial settlements into dealing with the climate change crisis, including the need to invest in the MTA and mass transit statewide.
GELF is also calling upon the state to enact a carbon tax to provide a financial incentive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while raising funds to help convert to renewable energy sources.
The group urged the Assembly’s new Climate Task Force to hold hearings on Cuomo’s energy efforts, including the renewal of the Renewable Portfolio Standard and the state energy master Plan. The Assembly should also question the Cuomo administration as to why it has thwarted implementation of the Green Jobs Green Homes program to energy retrofit hundreds of thousands of homes.
A 2013 report (aka Jacobson, http://stanford.io/1GY8RsX) by Stanford and Cornell professors, among others, showed that it is technologically feasible for New York to transition to a 100% clean energy system by 2030 while creating up to 4.5 million jobs (about half a million 40-year jobs). Going to 100% clean energy, including energy reduction and conservation, would lower energy costs by more than half compared to continued reliance upon fossil fuels and nuclear.
The Jacobson plan calls for 40% of the state’s energy needs to be met by offshore wind. There are no present off-shore wind farms in NY or even on the east coast, which has the most potential for such projects. On Dec. 17, LIPA, which is controlled by the Governor, voted against a proposal by Deepwater Wind to construct wind turbines off of Long Island that would have powered 150,000 homes. In contrast, some 53 offshore wind projects, totaling almost 3,800 megawatts (MW) of capacity, are producing clean renewable energy off the coasts of 10 European countries, with nine more major offshore wind projects under construction.
GELF wants the state to fund a comprehensive study of each step required to implement the Jacobson plan, and in doing so, develop a detailed transition plan that ensures jobs for existing workers in the fossil fuel industry statewide.
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