Gov. Andrew Cuomo jump-started the state’s energy policy with last year’s renewal of the Article X law for siting new power plants, and now he’s pushing for a transmission superhighway that could make it easier to meet his longtime goal of shutting down Indian Point. The governor’s behind-the-scenes energy brain trust includes Tom Congdon, an assistant energy secretary, policy adviser Jim Malatras and Bob Hallman, a newly hired deputy secretary for the environment. Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens is the administration’s public face on hydrofracking, which is under review in the state.
Sen. George Maziarz, the Republican chair of the Senate Energy Committee, was a key partner with Cuomo on energy legislation last year. He is also more industry-friendly than his Assembly counterpart, Democratic lawmaker Kevin Cahill, on issues like solar-power investment and the closure of Indian Point. Queens Sen. Michael Gianaris, whose district borders many of the city’s power plants, has played a key role on energy policy.
Cas Holloway, New York City’s deputy mayor for operations, has led the administration’s efforts to invest in and use cleaner energy. Other key offi – cials include Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland, who has raised concerns about the local effects of hydrofracking, and David Bragdon, the director of the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, who oversees the city’s long-term plan to reduce pollution and adopt greener energy technology.
A few key state entities oversee various aspects of the energy market. The New York Power Authority, tasked with providing cheap, clean energy, maintains 17 hydropower and other power plants and over 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines. The Long Island Power Authority carries out a similar task on a smaller scale. The Public Service Commission sets rates and service standards for the state’s regulated utilities. The New York Independent System Operator runs the state’s energy grid and ensures its reliability. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA, conducts research and runs programs to reduce energy use and promote efficiency.
New York’s deregulated market separated energy distributors from generators. The state’s major power generators are Constellation Energy, USPowerGen and Entergy, which owns the nuclear facilities at Indian Point. Its largest energy utilities are Con Edison and National Grid, which distribute the energy to customers.
The New York Affordable Reliable Energy Alliance and the Independent Power Producers of New York advocate for the energy industry on a range of issues, while the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York defends the controversial practice of hydrofracking. Environmental groups, like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the New York League of Conservation Voters, also weigh in regularly on energy policy.
The nuclear power plant, located on the Hudson River within 30 miles of New York City, has become a flashpoint over the past year, particularly after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan nearly a year ago. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been calling for Indian Point’s closure for over a decade, though supporters insist there are not enough replacement options in place or even in development to safely shutter the two reactors.
Opponents of the controversial natural-gas drilling procedure have made their mark, submitting tens of thousands of comments that the state’s Department of Conservation will be sifting through for months. Industry backers grumble that the review has gone on long enough, delaying a critical economic boost to communities in the Southern Tier. Cuomo maintains he’ll take a careful, scientific approach to the regulatory review and only allow it to go forward if it is safe.
The big energy goal the governor laid out this year is a new transmission highway to connect power resources upstate and in Canada with the downstate region, which could see shortages in coming years— especially if Indian Point closes. Such projects generally take longer than building new power plants, but some proposals are mostly or entirely underground or underwater, or would simply upgrade existing lines, which could limit community opposition that torpedoed past efforts.
Another proposal raised this year was a program to boost solar power. However, Cuomo’s plans to encourage procurement of larger solar projects, and to expand rebates for midsize projects, are less ambitious than some Democratic lawmakers were hoping for. Potential transmission upgrades could also spur more investment upstate in wind power, a small but growing part of the state’s energy portfolio.
Tags: Affordable Reliable Energy Alliance, Andrew Cuomo, article x, Bob Hallman, Carter Strickland, Cas Holloway, Con Edison, Constellation Energy, David Bragdon, electricity, Entergy, fracking, George Maziarz, Hydrofracking, Independent Oil and Gas Association, Independent Power Producers, Independent System Operator, Indian Point, Jim Malatras, Joe Martens, Kevin Cahill, league of conservation voters, Long Island Power Authority, Michael Gianaris, National Grid, natural gas, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York Power Authority, NYSERDA, Public Service Commission, renewables, solar, Tom Congdon, transmission, US Power Gen
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