Groups Applaud Renewable Siting Reform

Media Contact: Thomas Meara | 


Amid the COVID-19 crisis, efforts to reform renewable energy siting and transmission planning will support a clean energy economic stimulus and job creation for New Yorkers

April 1, 2020 – A broad coalition of environmental, clean energy industry, real estate and labor groups applaud Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie on the inclusion of the renewable energy siting and transmission reform in the State Budget. The improved siting process for renewable energy projects will help New York to achieve 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030, as required by NY’s 2019 climate law, and maintain New York’s strong environmental and public participation standards. 

Amid the COVID-19 health crisis, this renewable energy and transmission siting legislation is a critical tool for economic recovery after the pandemic subsides, as there are more than 60 wind and solar projects that can begin construction after environmental review and permitting. Currently, it takes 5-10 years for projects to get to construction. This legislation was needed because environmental protection and climate action go hand in glove with growing a strong economy. New renewable projects will help meet the State’s clean energy and climate goals, improve air quality and public health, drive economic activity, and create family-sustaining jobs for New Yorkers. 

In early March, the coalition sent a letter to Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders urging them to include the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth & Community Benefit Act in this year’s budget. The final agreement establishes an Office of Renewable Energy Permitting at the NYS Department of State; lays out a sensible, stepwise permitting process; and directs the new Office to establish standard operating conditions for wind and solar projects. The bill also:

  • Creates a new NYSERDA program to identify sites that can be made “build-ready” for renewable development;
  • Creates an Endangered Species Mitigation Bank Fund to support conservation projects;
  • Directs the State to complete a study of the grid and open proceedings at the PSC on capital investments in the grid;
  • Authorizes NYPA to pursue transmission projects that are deemed high priority; and
  • Adds deadlines to the permitting process for transmission, which will include onshore transmission needed for offshore wind development. 

Local governments will have access to intervenor funds, and both they and the public will have the opportunity to participate in the process, and all projects must obey local laws unless deemed ‘unreasonably burdensome,’ which is the current standard under the Article 10 siting process.  

“We are in the midst of a health crisis and a climate crisis, and we applaud New York’s bold leaders for their proven ability to tackle both issues head on. While continuing to fight the COVID-19 outbreak, New York is taking critical steps to build a clean energy future, and we are excited to see the renewable energy siting reform included in the State Budget. Once enacted, this legislation has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of time it takes for developers to build renewables, while also ensuring a rigorous environmental review process and creating green jobs across the state. We look forward to our continued work with Governor Cuomo and the legislature to create a green energy future for New York and reach the CLCPA goals,” said Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. 

“We thank Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature for demonstrating to the nation what compassionate and steady leadership looks like in these unprecedented times. Even with the immediacy of this public health crisis, we commend our leaders’ long term vision, by removing massive renewable energy siting barriers that are currently undermining our ability to meet NY’s nation-leading climate goals.  The Legislature and Governor’s bold action on renewable energy siting reform in the State Budget will keep our climate goals on track, while balancing environmental protections, and ensuring that the Empire State is moving ever upward towards becoming a renewable energy jobs and economic powerhouse,” said Lisa Dix, Senior New York Campaign Manager of Sierra Club.

“Even during these wholly challenging days, New York continues to lead from the front. This legislation reflects the existing gap in New York’s ability to meet its clean energy goals and puts forward a commonsense plan to fix it – a testament to Governor Cuomo and the legislature’s focused leadership. It has the potential to get vital renewable energy projects up and running faster, create countless family-sustaining jobs, and help tackle the climate crisis. Most importantly, this legislation will help us get closer to shaping the clean energy future we envision for our children,” said Cullen Howe, Senior Renewable Energy Advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). 

“We sincerely thank the Senate and Assembly leaders and the Governor for recognizing this problem and acting to fix it. Last year, NY’s legislature enacted a bold climate law that requires New York to rapidly transition to renewable electricity. This year, amid an unprecedented health crisis, they stepped up to make the system for environmental review, permitting, and transmission planning work so that transition can begin. When this bill was introduced, it was a different world. Now, we recognize that building wind and solar and investing in transmission can be part of our State’s economic recovery. New York needs its green new deal now more than ever,” said Anne Reynolds, Executive Director of Alliance for Clean Energy NY. 

“The inclusion of renewable energy and transmission siting reforms in the State budget is another giant step in New York’s nation-leading efforts to address climate change, improve air quality and public health, create good paying jobs and help jump start the economy once the pandemic is over. Kudos to Governor Cuomo and the Legislature for working together to ensure that New York reaches its legally-binding renewable energy, greenhouse gas reduction and offshore wind targets. This new, comprehensive approach to siting and permitting renewable energy projects and the transmission upgrades necessary to bring it to the grid once again confirms New York’s environmental leadership,” said Joe Martens, Director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance.

“New York continues to lead the nation in its commitment to affordable, clean, renewable energy. These siting reforms will enable significant additional investments in New York, providing a key tool to help the state’s economy recover after the coronavirus pandemic recedes. We applaud the Cuomo administration and legislative leaders for ensuring that economic development and a sustainable environment can continue to go hand in hand, even in the middle of a global health crisis. These forward-looking reforms allow the state to address current economic challenges and combat climate change at the same time,” said Andrew Gohn, Eastern State Affairs Director for American Wind Energy Association.

“Now more than ever, we need to take advantage of opportunities to create good middle-class careers with benefits that will drive economic growth across New York. We thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and commitment to building toward the future, while creating new pathways to middle-class careers for thousands of hard-working New Yorkers,” said Gary LaBarbera, President of Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. 

“This reform shows real leadership in a time of crisis—New Yorkers are acutely aware that the health of each person is inextricably linked to the choices that we make individually and as a society. This will enable renewable energy projects that will contribute to cleaner air and water and thus better health for New Yorkers. By unlocking the backlog of renewable energy projects, this will facilitate large-scale investment into New York State and will help solidify New York’s leadership in the transition to greater climate and energy security,” said Suzanne Hunt, President of Hunt Green, Consultant to Generate Capital, and Member of E2.

“As local elected officials are working closely with the state and federal government to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, officials are also eager to partner with the state to create jobs for thousands of New Yorkers and reach the climate goals outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. We are looking forward to continued collaboration to develop a streamlined approval process for renewable energy projects, especially on abandoned commercial sites and brownfields, while respecting the home rule and land use decision-making authority of local communities. New York is a leader in climate action, and by working together, we can protect our environment for future generations,” said Greg Young, Supervisor, Fulton County Board of Supervisors and co-chair of Elected Officials to Protect New York. 

“The practical reforms to the renewable energy and transmission siting process contained in this budget will break the backlog of wind and solar projects, injecting hundreds of millions into the economy and generating much needed revenues for local governments. Governor Cuomo, the Assembly, and the Senate deserve thanks for continuing to make clean energy a priority in this difficult time,” said Conor Bambrick, Director of Climate Policy at Environmental Advocates of NY.

“During an unprecedented crisis, New York once again leads the nation in fighting global warming and protecting our critical natural resources. Climate change is already affecting New Yorkers, and in the months and years ahead, more and more of us will face frequent flooding, droughts, rising seas, and dangerous extreme heat. The Nature Conservancy commends Governor Cuomo and Senate and Assembly leaders for accelerating the responsible development of renewable energy, upgrading our aging transmission infrastructure to deliver clean energy, creating good paying jobs, and ensuring a safer future for our children and grandchildren,” said Echo Cartwright, New York Director of Climate Mitigation for The Nature Conservancy.

“As we confront the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 crisis, renewable energy projects are now more critical than ever. Not only will these projects create thousands of good-paying, local jobs and spur additional economic growth, but they’re going to supply clean power to New Yorkers and help the building industry meet our ambitious goals for carbon emission reductions. We applaud Governor Cuomo for championing this effort and the State Legislature for including this reform in the budget,” said Carlo A. Scissura, Esq., President & CEO of the New York Building Congress. 

“Our ability to meet the goals of New York’s ambitious climate change legislation is predicated on our ability to ramp up the transition to renewables. A deep thanks to the Governor and Legislature for exemplifying leadership so cogently,” said Tim Guinee, New York State Legislative Action Coordinator for the NY Climate Reality Chapters Coalition.

“New York is at the epicenter of a global pandemic. Many of our members are on the frontlines, assisting the state’s efforts to build out hospital capacity so the system does not get overwhelmed. However, many members are also not working because their jobs were appropriately shut down to help stop the spread of the virus. We will get through this and after we do, our first priority should be rebuilding the economy and putting people back to work. We applaud Governor Cuomo and the state legislature for recognizing the tremendous economic opportunity to site and develop renewable energy projects faster. This legislation will help ensure New York reaches its climate goals and creates more good-paying jobs across the state,” said John Hutchings, Director of NYS Laborers’ Organizing Fund.

“At a time when leadership in the White House is dangerously non-existent, we are especially grateful to have leaders in New York who care about the health of our citizens and the future of our planet. By including renewable energy siting reform in the 2020 budget, the Governor and Legislature are making sure that we not only established nation-leading clean energy targets but that we meet them by getting projects built” said Betta Broad, director of New Yorkers for Clean Power.

“We commend Governor Cuomo, Speaker Heastie, and Majority Leader Stewart Cousins for passing permitting reforms that will fast-track permitting approvals for large scale solar projects. These are unprecedented times and we appreciate that amidst the COVID-19 crisis, the New York legislature and governor are prioritizing the long-term stability and growth of the solar market,” said David Gahl, Senior Director of State Affairs of Solar Energy Industries Association.

“New York will not meet its climate change goals without adding significantly more renewable energy and making immediate improvements to our grid. These measures championed by the Governor and adopted by the Legislature will allow green energy projects to be built quickly, providing more sustainable options for building owners and their tenants,” said James Whelan, President of Real Estate Board of New York. 

“This legislation will help usher in a new age of clean energy, healthy communities and jobs and economic opportunity for many of New York’s residents. In the face of an unprecedented crisis that threatens the health and well-being of all of its residents, New York has demonstrated leadership by maintaining its focus on longer-term decarbonization goals while simultaneously working to contain the COVID-19 virus. We thank Senate and Assembly leaders and the Governor for unflinchingly acting to advance renewable energy siting reform in the State Budget,” said Tom Wright, President and CEO of Regional Plan Association.

“The renewable siting reform package is a crucial piece of legislation to help New Yorkers recover from this unprecedented health and economic crisis. It will help jump start our economy by creating much-needed jobs and business opportunities while allowing the transition to renewables to get up to speed. We applaud the leadership of Governor Cuomo and the Legislature in these difficult times of crisis,” said Gordian Raacke, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island.

“At the same time the Governor and State Legislature demonstrate extraordinary leadership to battle COVID-19, Urban Green applauds this major step toward decarbonizing New York’s electric sector to tackle the long-term threat of climate change. Today’s reforms will help overcome perhaps the single largest barrier to a carbon-free NYC – the transmission of renewable power. These actions are needed to unlock the rapid and responsible development of new renewables and transmission lines, bringing clean energy and local jobs to power New York’s green economy,” said John Mandyck, CEO of Urban Green Council.

“Our nation’s five-star general for COVID-19 has not lost sight of New York State’s fight to be a national climate leader too. WE ACT and our members salute New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo for his leadership during this crisis, having the foresight to include renewable energy siting and transmission reform in the State Budget. Because scientists say we only have a decade to put the solutions in place for the climate crisis, Governor Cuomo has trained his sights on the broken Article 10 process which has only approved a few wind projects since 2011. The Governor recognized that at that pace we would not meet our climate goals in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Because of his leadership, New York State will meet those climate targets and frontline communities all across this state, like Harlem and Washington Heights, will benefit by getting access to renewable energy jobs that will power our future,” said Cecil Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director and Director of Policy Initiatives at WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

“While New York battles today’s public health crisis, it is also taking real steps to address the climate crisis. We applaud the State Legislature and Governor for passing reforms to the state’s renewable siting laws, which will help New York reach its renewable energy goals, put projects on a faster timeline, and help rebuild our economy and put people to work. These reforms are crucial in our efforts to combat climate change,” said Kyle Bragg, President of 32BJ SEIU.

The coalition pushing for renewable energy siting and transmission reform includes: New York League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Alliance for Clean Energy NY, American Wind Energy Association, Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition, Building and Construction Trades Council of New York, Building Owners and Manager Association, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Citizens’ Climate Lobby – New York, E2, Elected Officials to Protect New York, Environmental Advocates, Food & Water Watch, The Nature Conservancy, New York Building Congress, New York Energy Consumers Council, New York Offshore Wind Alliance, New Yorkers for Clean Power, NY Climate Reality Chapters Coalition, New York State Laborers Organizing Fund, Real Estate Board of New York, Regional Plan Association, Renewable Energy Long Island, Solar Energy Industries Association, Urban Green Council, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and 32BJ SEIU.