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Another Voice: Conflicts entangle the state energy authority

By Jim Simon

On April 23, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority announced its third annual solicitation for large-scale renewable energy projects under the state’s Clean Energy Standard. New York taxpayers concerned about the rapid increase in industrial-scale wind and solar projects should take heed.

There is a labyrinthine and conflicted web woven between NYSERDA, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, industrial wind and solar developers and the state Article 10 Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment (the Siting Board).

NYSERDA and the DEC are two of the seven members of the Siting Board who decide if a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need is issued by the state Department of Public Service. Problem is, NYSERDA is a public, billion-dollar-plus corporation that operates beyond the oversight of the State Legislature. Where does its money come from? You, the ratepayers.

Every time New Yorkers pay for electricity we are adding to what NYSERDA affectionately calls its Green Bank. And where does the Green Bank money go? A sizeable portion is “awarded” to industrial wind and solar developers under the Clean Energy Standard solicitations mentioned above.

It gets worse. The NYSERDA grant decision-making process and the actual amounts awarded are completely concealed from New Yorkers. It is our money, but not our decision, nor the decision of the lawmakers we elect.

Shockingly, in many cases, the NYSERDA grants are awarded before the developers have even filed their application to the DPS for the lengthy Article 10 certification review process.

For their second annual solicitation, NYSERDA’s January press release announced the awarding of 20 projects – including the Heritage Wind project proposed by Apex Clean Energy in Orleans County. In public statements recorded in the press release from NYSERDA CEO Alicia Barton and DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, they praised the developers and their “community engagement and responsible siting considerations" (Barton) and touted NYSERDA’s “rigorous review process" (Seggos).

What community engagement? What review process? At the time of the NYSERDA announcement, Heritage Wind hadn’t filed its application. They still haven’t.

Hasn’t NYSERDA put our money where its mouth is and awarded funding in anticipation of a favorable outcome from the Siting Board in which they are called to be an impartial voting member? And guess who sits on the board of directors of NYSERDA where their billion-dollar Green Bank finger is tipping the scales of justice? Right, the DEC commissioner.

Welcome to New York. Clean energy? How about clean government?

Jim Simon is town supervisor in Yates, Orleans County.

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