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Another Voice: Empire State Data Hub is a winning plan for N.Y.

By Jim Cahill and Lisa Dix

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled a Green New Deal for New York in his 2019 State of the State address. This bold vision moves all sectors of our economy toward deep decarbonization and ensures that our workforce, businesses and communities will be uplifted in this transition.

New York currently has the most aggressive renewable energy targets and programs coupled with the best labor standards in the nation. Our organizations worked together to ensure workers will be paid prevailing wage for all large-scale renewable energy projects and offshore wind will be built under project labor agreements.

We worked together to secure state commitments to substantial investments in clean energy infrastructure such as building offshore wind ports and job training centers, which will make New York the regional hub in this emerging U.S. industry, create thousands of long-term family-wage careers, capture the supply chain and spur new manufacturing and economic development across our state.

We are teaming up again to ensure a just transition in the governor’s policy to phase out coal by 2020. In fact, there is a plan before the state right now to convert the last two operating coal plants — the Somerset coal plant in Niagara County and the Cayuga coal plant in Tompkins County — into state-of-the-art data hubs powered by renewable energy.

As leaders in the environmental and organized labor communities we support the Empire State Data Hub plan and urge the governor to support this plan.

The company that owns both coal plants has an application right now before the New York Power Authority requesting the allocation of a renewable Niagara hydro power contract and economic support funding from Empire State Development to assist in the conversion of these sites to high-tech campuses focused on computational power needed for the burgeoning businesses of artificial intelligence, machine learning and high performance computing.

The Empire State Data Hub proposal has widespread and unified support from environmental, union, business and local leaders. New economic development opportunities for communities and hundreds of family-wage jobs will be created as these sites transition from fossil fuels to high-tech data centers.

Greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced by eliminating coal power and abandoning previous plans to repower these plants to gas. Instead the data centers will be powered by renewable energy, and large-scale solar and battery storage will also be built on both sites.

We agree with the governor when he said, “Let’s take the next step on the Green New Deal.”

Jim Cahill is president of the New York Building and Construction Trades. Lisa Dix is senior New York campaign manager for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

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