New Budget Impacts Clean Energy Future

Albany’s new budget may help alleviate economic stress in New York, but at what cost?

The final budget allotted $30 million towards communities facing power plant closures. This will help to offset the economic impact of the loss of outdated energy infrastructure, such as coal, in areas that have long depended on these facilities. Though no one is questioning that these municipalities need the boost, many are upset the funding is coming from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

RGGI regulates greenhouse gas emissions in the northeast United States. It functions by instituting a cap on short tons of carbon dioxide produced in the power sector. States can flout the cap by purchasing energy allowances, allowing RGGI to invest the money in environmentally-friendly green energy projects. Proponents of the initiative have predicted that its efforts will contribute to a 45 percent reduction in emissions by 2020.

The new budget will help to transition these communities away from antiquated power, as the state policy shifts towards a renewable future. But this renewable future depends on a developing industry, and the reallocation of funding threatens to create a major setback in the state’s ambitious energy efficiency goals.

The James A. Fitzpatrick Power Plant. PC: AP Photo/Michael Okoniewski

The James A. Fitzpatrick Power Plant.
PC: AP Photo/Michael Okoniewski

The comes as New York is at a crossroads for power. Governor Andrew Cuomo continues grappling with energy giants over the fate of power plants throughout the state. These include the James A. FitzPatrick nuclear plant in Oswego county, which provides $74 million on its annual payroll, and another $17.3 million in property taxes. The Entergy corporation, which owns the plant, has planned to shut it down as Governor Cuomo continues to pressure the company over Indian Point in Westchester. 

The budget primarily targets coal plants. Governor Cuomo plans to eliminate coal from the state by the end of the decade. Currently-operating coal plants have faced mothballing, sales and attempts at retrofitting. Controversy has swarmed around the Cayuga power plant outside Ithaca, where local officials want it retrofitted. The Public Service Commission has denied these requests, citing the plant’s outdated qualities. Earlier this week, the plant caught fire from an unknown problem with the machinery.