Q: Is DEC being transparent and open enough in its hydrofracking review? Some opponents have criticized DEC over its process, especially after a year-old health summary was leaked to the press this month while Freedom of Information requests went unanswered.
JM: New York’s review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing has provided extensive and ample opportunity for the public to review and comment, including three public comment periods.
The health summary you refer to is nearly a year old, and does not reflect final DEC policy. The final [Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement] will reflect the review currently underway by [Department of Health] and its outside experts. No conclusions should be drawn from this partial, outdated summary.
Q: Hydrofracking has become a cultural phenomenon, with well-known celebrities demonstrating against it and Matt Damon starring in a new movie that deals with the issue. How does the high-profile nature of fracking affect your work?
JM: Not at all. Our review is based on the facts and the science. Our determination will be based on the findings of the environmental impact statement and DOH Commissioner Shah’s public health review of that document.
Q: The Cuomo administration issued the New York Energy Highway blueprint last fall. What work have you or DEC been doing in connection with that report?
JM: We are continuing to work with the other members of the Energy Highway Task Force on implementing the recommendations in the report. We are the lead agency on one Energy Highway recommendation: working with the other RGGI [Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative] states to strengthen the RGGI cap, which could provide additional auction proceeds to fund the community support plans and greenhouse gas emission reduction programs identified in the blueprint and mentioned in Gov. Cuomo’s State of the State address.
Chair, New York State Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee
Q: What did you think about the governor’s State of the State address?
GM: I was pleased to see the governor devote so much time in the speech to energy topics, because it demonstrates that it will be in the forefront of his thinking and agenda for the coming session. I was particularly excited about his proposals to expand and strengthen the NY-SUN program, and to leverage public and private money to build more renewable energy through the Green Bank. I would have liked to hear more discussion about repowering older generating stations, as I truly believe that this is a vitally important issue, particularly for upstate communities.
Q: What is your top energy priority?
GM: First and foremost we have to make the necessary reforms to our utility and energy systems that allow us to address the flaws exposed by Hurricane Sandy. Beyond that I am committed to putting forward legislation to assist aging power plants and their host communities with repowering.
Q: How should the governor address the problems at LIPA?
GM: I think the governor has made a good start with the feedback he received from the Moreland Commission. Time and again LIPA has proved to be incompetent and unwilling or unable to communicate with its stakeholders. I agree with the governor that we have to end LIPA, not mend it. That said, we have to be vigilant to ensure that no solution is adopted that would compromise the well-established benefits NYPA provides to its host communities upstate.
Q: How is the New York Energy Highway progressing?
GM: There has been a bit of a pause in progress while we all grapple with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but I expect we will begin to move the process forward again very soon.
Chair, New York State Assembly Energy Committee
Q: You were just named chair of the Assembly Energy Committee. What will you bring to this role?
AP: I believe that I will bring a lot of energy to the Energy Committee. I’ve long been an advocate of developing new energy sources, and you can’t help, in my area, but be concerned about the current ones and monitor the ones that are currently being used. With the storm, there’s no question we have to look closely at Con Edison and LIPA and all of those and the provision of service, and with weather patterns changing and infrastructure needing to be shored up, making sure that we have alternative energy sources, so that if we were to close Indian Point, there were sufficient energy sources available for residents in my region and in the surrounding region that Indian Point serves.
Q: Energy policy has historically been dominated by white men. What does it mean that a woman is now leading this committee?
AP: I think it’s always important to get everybody’s perspective. To the extent that it was dominated by one group means that you’re not getting everyone’s thoughts and their input into very important considerations. Time will tell whether there’s a woman’s side of this.
Q: Your district is close to Indian Point. How will that affect your leadership?
AP: I’m in lower Westchester, but I’m certainly within the evacuation plan model. Because of that I’ve always paid close attention to it, and so have all of my constituents, and I have a great resource here in having people pay close attention to it, so I think it will help me in making important decisions regarding the plant. My constituency has a great deal of interest, and we shouldn’t be shut out of those decisions. I want to say I’m coming to this with an open mind. I do have some prejudices because I’ve been involved, but I’m going to try to hold them back and have an open mind going forward on all issues, because I have not delved into them as deeply as I will with this chairmanship.
Former Chair, New York State Assembly Energy Committee
Q: What is on the energy agenda?
KC: Doubling down on the grid is important. We’re proposing a grid modernization act. That will be a comprehensive approach to the energy issue from the point of receipt and use, the residential end, all the way up to distribution and power production. And we think it’s time to comprehensively redesign the system.
Q: Would that cover the same ground as the New York Energy Highway?
KC: The Energy Highway would be one of the components. Fixing transmission is an important component, and that’s what the Energy Highway is. But grid modernization would include things like dealing with what we saw in Long Island, where they were using antiquated systems technology. It would deal with things like distributed generation that the governor mentioned. It would also make sure that when we are putting a power plant online, we would know what its impact is across New York. When we’re putting a power line in, we know its impact across New York State. We’re looking to increase technology, we’re looking to increase distributed participation, but the single most important thing that our bill will do is to create the workforce necessary to deliver electricity reliably, safely and reasonably priced for the next generation.
Q: What is your opinion of the Champlain Hudson Power Express?
KC: We have legislation on that score, and the legislation is twofold. No. 1 is that it would require any out-of-state power producer to meet all the same standards that we require all of our in-state power producers to meet. … They would have to answer our environmental standards. The other bill we have says that if you’re bringing power in from another country, you may not use a power line to do that exclusively. You must also have a portal in New York that can allow power in and power out. And if this Champlain Hudson line were modified to do that, I think it would be an ideal solution for New York City.