Updates from the Committee on Energy

Power Plant Siting Law Includes Stringent Environment and Health Protections
New York steps up on climate change and environmental justice
August 4, 2011

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill, Chair of the Assembly Energy Committee, joined by several environmental and community organizations, highlighted provisions in the recently passed power plant siting law that will put in place regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and finally protect environmental justice communities from new sources of pollution. These actions build on New York’s national leadership in addressing the challenges presented by climate change.

“This law moves New York to forefront when it comes to limiting power plant pollution and combating climate change, providing much needed leadership in the face of Congressional inaction,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “The new siting process demonstrates that it is possible to protect the environment while encouraging economic development.”

The bill, when signed by the Governor, will require the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to adopt carbon reduction regulations for new and repowered generating facilities. The agency is also charged with developing environmental justice rules to protect communities, already overburdened by poor air quality, from increases in pollution. The power plant siting board will not be able to accept applications until the regulations are complete.

“For far too long, New York’s poorest communities have borne the burden of dirty power plants,” said Ross Gould, Air & Energy Program Director, Environmental Advocates of New York. “This legislation will update the state’s power plant siting law to make the disproportionate number of polluting power plants in low-income communities part of our history, as well as take important steps to regulate carbon emissions. Environmental Advocates of New York applauds Governor Cuomo, the Assembly and the Senate for responsibly improving the state’s power plant siting for everyone’s benefit and for taking action to reduce New York’s climate-altering pollution.”

“This groundbreaking legislation will promote environmentally responsible energy generation in New York and help ensure that no communities are unfairly burdened with the environmental impacts of creating the energy that all New Yorkers use,” said Gavin Kearney, Director of Environmental Justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “We commend the Assembly, and Assemblymember Cahill in particular, for their critical leadership on this issue and look forward to working together to ensure that the legislation’s implementing rules effectuate these important provisions.”

"The New York City Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC-EJA) applauds Assemblymember Cahill for his leadership on an Article X bill with unprecedented resonance for environmental justice communities statewide. The Article X law will afford the strongest protections for environmentally overburdened communities of color by mandating - for the first time - cumulative impact analyses that measure a community's total environmental load before siting a power plant. More importantly, if a community is found to be disproportionately burdened, power plant applicants will have to commit to local, verifiable offsets of any projected pollution emissions before the power plant can be sited, thereby easing the burden on our most vulnerable communities," said Eddie Bautista, NYC-EJA Executive Director.

“It’s critically important when making energy siting decisions that protections be put in place for low-income and minority communities that are already disproportionately impacted by pollution,” said Laura Haight, NYPIRG’s senior environmental associate. “We applaud the Assembly for its leadership in ensuring that the final power plant siting law not only includes these protections but also will reduce power plant pollution and move New York towards a cleaner energy future.”

The bill would put in place the following environmental protections:

  • The DEC will promulgate carbon reduction regulations for power plants;
  • develop new rules to define environmental justice communities and mitigation measures that can be applied to offset any emission increases;
  • applicants will be required to conduct a cumulative air quality impact analysis accounting for pollution from the proposed facility and other permitted sources surrounding the site;
  • power plants would have to comply with all state and federal air quality requirements and pollution offsets; and
  • the bill also provides increased funding for communities to hire legal and technical consultants that will enable them to participate effectively in siting proceedings.

"The reformed siting law puts in place a process that will encourage the development of cleaner and more efficient power generation while protecting communities already overburdened by poor air quality,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “These provisions represent a significant improvement over the existing laws and were essential to gain approval of the bill in the Assembly.”