ALBANY (TNS) — An unusual mix of real estate, labor and environmental groups are joining forces to call on legislators to back Gov. Cuomo’s proposal to streamline the approval process for renewable energy projects in New York.
Cuomo unveiled details of the plan as part of his budget amendments late last month and now a broad coalition of supporters including REBNY, the League of Conservation Voters and unions want lawmakers to get on board.
A total of 19 groups signed off on a letter to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, and the governor on Thursday, calling on the trio “to refine and improve upon the proposed legislation so that this issue can be addressed” in the state budget.
“The renewable energy siting reform proposal greatly improves the efficiency of review and permitting while maintaining environmental protections,” the groups write. “It preserves community participation as it invites local input on draft permits and establishes a hearing process if local governments identify ‘substantive and significant’ issues.”
Cuomo’s proposal would speed up the permitting and construction process for solar, wind and other renewable energy projects by creating the Office of Renewable Energy Permitting. The office would to streamline the process for siting large-scale renewable energy projects across the state.
Large scale renewable are currently permitted through the state’s Public Service Commission, which oversees grid issues and utility companies. Renewable energy developers and environmentalists alike have long been frustrated by the snail-like pace of the current system.
The letter sent Thursday included a pair of recommendations from the groups: give the Department of Environmental Conservation a meaningful oversight role concerning environmental reviews and ensure that endangered species are protected during the approval process.
A representative for the governor said the administration will review the recommendations. A Heastie spokesman noted that the Assembly’s budget proposals will be released later this month, ahead of the April 1 deadline.
The need to streamline renewable projects will only grow in the coming years, advocates argue, as the state attempts to keep to its promise to combat climate change.
Last year, lawmakers approved a bill that included ambitious climate targets for the state: 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040 and economy-wide, net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“We must work together to find solutions that allow for the development of projects that decarbonize our electric sector,” said Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “We urge state leaders and other stakeholders to act now and find a resolution during budget negotiations.”