Silver, Tonko Announce Energy Plan
Initiative Would Benefit Residential, Commercial Ratepayers
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Energy Committee Chair Paul Tonko today announced the introduction of omnibus legislation to establish a comprehensive state energy plan that would reduce energy costs and the state's dependence on foreign oil and promote energy efficiency and conservation and the use of renewable forms of energy.
"This energy plan we are announcing today would establish a much-needed and long-overdue comprehensive energy policy aimed at securing a reliable source of clean, safe and affordable energy for New York State. Our initiative would reduce electricity prices for the state's residential and commercial customers who currently face some of the highest energy rates in the nation that drain jobs from our Upstate economy and money from the wallets of working families. This proposal addresses the full-range of issues necessary to ensure our state has a smart, forward-looking, growth generating energy policy," said Silver (D-Manhattan).
"This comprehensive energy plan provides relief to energy consumers and helps encourage on-site generation opportunities for municipalities, businesses and homeowners," said Tonko (D-Amsterdam). "Our proposals will help the state respond to the global warming crisis, invest in energy efficiency, and lower the cost of doing business for our dairy farmers. After 12 years of failed energy policy from the former administration, which has placed the reliability of the electric system in jeopardy, the Assembly plan will protect consumers, reduce energy demand and cut costs for businesses."
In announcing the Assembly's energy plan, Silver and Tonko underscored a key job creation provision of the omnibus bill (A.8940) to renew the state's low-cost economic development power programs, including Power For Jobs, for three years. The programs, which are set to expire at the end of the month, would continue until June 30, 2010, providing many businesses throughout the state with the low-cost electricity they need to remain competitive and maintain their employment levels.
The initiative would continue the low-cost power programs to assist businesses with predictable energy costs to help them remain competitive. To ensure appropriate use of the program's benefits, the plan calls for job commitments and energy audits and energy-efficiency investments. It also ensures that power historically dedicated to Western New York continues to be available to that region's qualified businesses.
Under the terms of the legislation, the state Energy Office, which Gov. George Pataki's administration eliminated 12 years ago, would be re-established. The legislators charge that the agency's abolishment left an energy policy adrift and lacking in coordination, resulting in exorbitant energy rates, a struggling Upstate economy and power outages in the Downstate region. They noted that while in 2006 the average price of electricity in the United States was 8.86 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), New Yorkers paid 13.89 cents per kwh and two New York electric utility companies rank first, Consolidated Edison at 18.29 cents per kwh, and second, National Grid at 14.06 cents, per kwh, among the nation's top five companies with the highest prices.
The Assembly energy plan would authorize the state Energy Office to coordinate the implementation of energy programs scattered among the state's agencies and authorities; examine the impact of market deregulation and competition on consumer prices and the impact of federal government policies on the state's policies and energy prices; and reauthorize Article 6 of the Energy Law to create a statewide energy plan.
The proposal also would enact programs that promote cogeneration and on-site generation to spur development of 'combined heat and power' systems. These highly efficient systems would reduce the load on the state's aging electric-transmission grid and enhance net-metering opportunities to support the advancement of renewable energy generation facilities, such as wind and solar.
In light of last summer's Downstate power outage, where many residents of Queens and Westchester County were without power for up to 10 days, the legislation would require utility companies to create and file with the Public Service Commission (PSC) an electric utility emergency plan. It would establish "facilities of refuge," providing shelters equipped with stand-alone, heat and electricity generation systems in municipal and school facilities that would be available during a disaster.
To reduce the state's dependence on foreign oil and address the looming consequences of global warming, the legislation would promote New York's greatest and most cost-effective energy resource, energy efficiency. It would require the Department of State and other appropriate agencies to examine the adoption of higher efficiency requirements for all buildings in the state. The plan also would create an advisory panel on the state building code and appliance energy efficiency standards. In addition, the legislation also would establish new low-cost loan programs for energy efficiency and on-site generation for households, businesses and municipalities.
With New York ratepayers paying among the highest energy rates in the country, the Assembly legislation requires the PSC to review annually the multi-year rate plans of energy utilities operating in the state.
To ensure accountability and transparency within the operations of the state's energy authorities, the Power Authority of the State of New York (PASNY) and Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) would be required to open their books for public inspection. The authorities also would be directed to provide clear documentation regarding their purchasing practices and energy pricing to ensure that customers receive the lowest possible price for electricity.
The measure also would mandate that LIPA re-create an elected Board of Trustees, with the chair appointed by the governor. This board would be empowered to seek assistance from the PSC regarding LIPA's operations, costs, plans and rate structures.
Another key provision included in the Assembly's efforts to establish a comprehensive state energy plan was approved last month. The bill (A.8697) would reauthorize Article X of the Public Service Law to reinstate a process for the siting of power generation facilities; require the complete analysis of a power plant's total impact on a community and the environment; mandate adequate citizen participation in the review of power plant applications; encourage the re-building of older, dirty facilities with higher efficiency projects; and require consideration of environmental justice, the siting of energy generation facilities in primarily minority communities, before deciding on a siting application. Currently, the Assembly is negotiating with the Senate in a joint legislative conference committee to reach an agreement on power plant siting legislation by the session's end.
New York State Assembly
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