Cohocton Wind Watch: Article X, Green Jobs To Be Part Of End-Of-Session Deal
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Article X, Green Jobs To Be Part Of End-Of-Session Deal

Almost a decade after it expired, Article X – the state’s power plant siting law – is set to be renewed as part of the Legislature’s omnibus, end-of-session deal.

Renewing Article X would be a huge win for the Cuomo administration. The state has been without a power plant siting law since 2003. Legislators and advocates argue the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which provides up to 30 percent of the power used in New York City and Westchester County, cannot be closed unless the siting law is enacted. Renewing Article X would clear a huge hurdle for Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his quest to shut down Indian Point.

Late Tuesday, Cuomo was optimistic that a deal could be reached.

“We are also trying to get Article X done, which is of tremendous importance of the state. It’s been years and years that we haven’t had Article X,” Cuomo said. “I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll actually get that done.”

Key legislators were less cautious, more optimistic.

“We are literally one, relatively minor detail apart right now. We’re working those details out,” said Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, an Ulster County Democrat who chairs the Energy Committee. “We pretty much came to an agreement.”

His Senate counterpart, George Maziarz, agreed, adding one sticking point remains: whether to include a sunset provision in the bill.

“It sunset, and the sun’s never come up since,” Maziarz said. “That was a big thing that we wanted on the Senate side. Now again, I’m not so sure the Assembly’s going to agree to that. We do not want the sunset. They probably will.”

Cahill said that on the contrary, the Assembly has agreed to make Article X permanent.

“Always on everyone’s shortlist is Article X,” he said. “This year it looks like we’re going to be able to get it through. And not only get it through, but get through a fantastic bill that is going to be made permanent.”

Cahill said the deal, which may be voted on as early as today, will provide siting oversight for power plants in excess of 25 megawatts of energy. Plants would be required to comply with federal homeland security regulations, air quality rules, environmental justice and public health provisions, as well as the state’s statutory energy plan.

The deal may also require the state to set up a “utility intervenor fund” of somewhere between $200,000 and $800,000, depending on the size of the plant, which would be provided by the power plant applicant to pay for legal fees.

The deal should also satisfy any lingering environmental justice concerns, Cahill said. For years, the Assembly blocked the law’s renewal based mainly on concerns that new power plants would be sited disproportionately in low-income, minority communities.

“We’ve stood for a long time in not agreeing until we were happy with the environmental justice provision,” Cahill said.

The deal will also include a companion piece to authorize “on bill” financing for the Green Jobs/Green New York program, which allows homeowners to pay for energy retrofits through loan payments. That program was first enacted in summer 2009.

There were almost no serious discussions on renewing Article X – which has become something of a perennial issue for Albany – until this month, when advocates say everything suddenly started to coalesce.

“After a lot of lobbying around energy issues this session, the governor’s office brought together both houses and parties a couple of weeks back,” said Dan Hendrick, a spokesman for the New York League of Conservation Voters, in an email. “Green jobs was a priority for the Assembly, Article X for the Senate. Everyone had something they could work with and negotiate for.”

Hendricks said the deal presents a significant improvement over the previous law. If a community is “environmentally overburdened,” he said, power plant applicants will have to commit to local offset programs before applications can be improved.

“We are very excited about both, Article X in particular, which has been one of our goals for years,” he said.

Kathy Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, said that renewing Article X is essential to rebuilding the state’s economy.

“New York continues to need energy,” she said. “We’re trying to conserve, but the fact is that economic growth, particularly in technology-intensive industries, requires additional energy generation. Otherwise we’re stuck with a 20th Century electrical system.”

Maziarz credited Cuomo for making the deal happen.

“For years we’ve been talking Article X, passing different bills on Article X,” he said. “And you know, the governor really kind of drove it home.”


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