Gov. Cuomo Unveils Ambitious Green Energy Program For New York; Groups Praise Effort, Push For More

Jan 13, 2021

Gov. Cuomo delivers the 3rd speech of his state of the state address Wednesday, focusing on green energy.
Credit Governor Cuomo's Flickr page

Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled an ambitious plan to bring more green energy and what he says will be thousands of jobs to New York State. Plans include new solar farms and off shore wind turbines, and more transmission lines across the state.


Cuomo, in the third of a series of four State of the State speeches, says $26 billion will be spent in public private partnerships on 100 projects, including solar energy farms in Saratoga, Cortland, Livingston and Lewis Counties, and the building of two major off shore wind farms , with 90 turbines each, off of Long Island. One will be 20 miles off of Jones Beach, the other, 60 miles off the coast at Montauk, producing 2500 megawatts of power.

Don’t worry neither will be visible from the shore,” the governor added.

In addition, the Port of Albany, will become a center for manufacturing the wind towers to be used at the off shore sites, and existing facility in Brooklyn will be beefed up.

To move all of that new power around, Cuomo says he’s opening a competitive bidding process for three projects involving hundreds of miles of new or strengthened transmission lines. They include two along the entire length of eastern New York that would bring Canadian hydropower through the North Country, the Capital Region and the Hudson Valley to New York City, where the demand for energy is greatest.  A third would run the length of the Hudson Valley.  And 26 miles would be added in Western New York to distribute power more efficiently from the hydro power dam in Niagara Falls.

All of these projects will break the congestion and open the grid,” Cuomo said. 

It’s the second time in his decade as Governor that Cuomo has proposed major green energy projects. His first attempt, a solar panel factory at a former steel plant in Lackawanna in Western New York,  known as the Buffalo Billion,  did not work out as planned.

A state Comptroller’s report in August found that the project is yet to produce the hundreds of jobs initially promised, and that the state entity in charge, Empire State Development did not properly manage the enterprise. Scandals related to the Buffalo Billion resulted in prison sentences for several involved, including the governor’s former closest aid, Joe Percoco, and the former head of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, and Buffalo area developer Louis Ciminelli.

Environmental groups praised the new initiatives.  Environmental Advocates’ Peter Iwanowicz says in a statement that the governor recognizes the extent of change needed to overcome challenges due to a warming climate.

"New York must have an economy that is completely powered by renewable energy, and that Governor Cuomo confirmed that is the direction we are moving.  We look forward to learning of other pieces of the Governor’s agenda—like electrifying transportation and addressing building efficiency—that are also essential in the battle against climate change. New Yorkers are ready to take advantage of the opportunities to come. Let’s get to work," Iwanowicz concluded.

In a statement, NYPIRG’s Liz Moran says the governor is right that global warming poses an “existential threat”, and she urges Cuomo to go further and eliminate tax subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. 

Marco Volpita with New York Youth Climate Leaders notes oil and gas wells will continue to operate as long as they're profitable.

"Removing direct subsidies will decrease the amount of fossil fuels that come out of the ground, pollute our atmosphere and harm our communities."

Credit Steve Buissinne / pixabay

  

Volpita’s organization is one of more than 150 that have sent a letter to Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers asking them to remove the subsidies. The demand comes from a coalition of student, faith, labor, political and environmental groups.  It says spending more than $1.5 billion a year on subsidies for  fuels that accelerate climate change – while making deep cuts to essential services – is "outrageous and unconscionable.”

The coalition has sent lawmakers a petition with more than 200,000 signatures calling for passage of legislation to identify all fossil-fuel subsidies and their impacts on the state.  The senate bill was sponsored by finance committee chair Liz Krueger.  She says giving tax incentives to maximize the use of oil and gas runs counter to New York’s ambitious climate-protection goals.

"Our job, our mission, our obligation is to decrease our dependence on these products as fast as possible. The clock is ticking."

Krueger’s bill previously passed in the Senate but not the Assembly, and will be reintroduced in this legislative session. 

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