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Environmental groups demand clean energy action from NYS: 'We can't afford to wait'

On the heels of two wind farm projects being abandoned, an alliance of 11 environmental groups wrote to the New York State Public Service Commission Monday with a simple message regarding the state's clean energy goals: "We can't afford to wait."

The group lauded Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for "nation-leading clean energy goals," but criticized what has been a slow siting process for large-scale solar and wind projects, urging the state to "eliminate delays that such projects have faced to date."

Projects that have been derailed this year include the Lighthouse Wind project in the towns of Somerset (Niagara County) and Yates (Orleans County), which has been delayed indefinitely by developer Apex Clean Energy. The Galloo Island Wind Farm in Jefferson County, which was also being developed by Apex Clean Energy, withdrew its Article 10 application earlier this year.

Article 10 is a 2011 law signed by Cuomo that established the siting process for new energy production facilities. The group says that the process "has not worked well for renewable energy sources like solar and wind."

The letter to John Rhodes, chair and CEO of the state's Public Service Commission, was signed by:

  • Audubon New York (Erin McGrath, policy manager)
  • Catskill Mountainkeeper (Katherine Nadeau, deputy director)
  • Citizens Campaign for the Environment (Adrienne Esposito, executive director)
  • Clean Coalition ( Kenneth Sahm White, director of policy & economic analysis)
  • Environmental Advocates of New York (Conor Bambrick, air and energy director)
  • Natural Resource Defense Council (Cullen Howe, senior renewable energy advocate)
  • New York League of Conservation Voters (Julie Tighe, president)
  • NY-GEO (Bill Nowack, executive director)
  • Pace Energy and Climate Center (Karl Rabago, executive director)
  • Sierra Club (Lisa Dix, senior New York campaign manager)
  • The Nature Conservancy in New York (Jessica Ottney Mahar, policy director)

"Major delays within the Article 10 process have resulted in a bottleneck that jeopardizes over 8,000 gigawatt hours per year of local land-based wind and solar projects currently pending before the State Siting Board," the group stated in their letter.

The group wrote that while Article 10 regulations state the siting process should take about 24 months that most of the pending renewable projects have "spent a far longer period of time in the Article 10 process" and are either still awaiting approval or have withdrawn their application.

The group's letter says that the delays, combined with scheduled elimination of the tax credits in the next two years could lead to increased costs for projects, which could put their financing in doubt. The group urged the state to further expedite its reviews, enforce deadlines and otherwise hasten its Article 10 process.

"The climate changes we face demand immediate action," the group wrote. "New York's clean energy goals are laudable, but if the regulatory process is too lengthy and arduous, it will be difficult if not impossible to meet them. Now is the time to take action to reform the Article 10 process so that we can carefully site these renewable facilities in a timely manner. We can't afford to wait."

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