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Governor Cuomo Proposes New Renewable Energy Siting Process

In recognition that the existing process for siting large renewable energy projects pursuant to Article 10 of the Public Service Law is not approving projects at the rate necessary to achieve New York’s stator goal of 70% renewable energy from electric generating sources by 2030, Governor Cuomo has proposed the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act with the intent of streamlining the process for siting large renewable energy projects. While the details of the proposal are not yet available, the key components of the proposal include: (1) a new Office of Renewable Energy Permitting (“Permitting Office”) within the Department of Economic Development (“DED”) for environmental review and permitting of projects; (2) a NYSERDA program to advance “build-ready” projects prioritizing existing or abandoned commercial sites, brownfields, landfills, former industrial sites, and other underutilized sites; (3) a host community benefits program to provide incentives to host communities and utility bill discounts for residents of host communities; and (4) accelerated transmission infrastructure development. Projects currently under review under the Article 10 process will be able to opt-in to the new permitting process.

The goals of the new Permitting Office sound a lot like the goals of the Article 10 process (i.e. a project approval board with a board decision within one year of a complete application) when it was passed in 2011. The key distinction is while the Article 10 process is managed by the Public Service Commission and its extensive regulatory review structures, the Permitting Office would be housed in the DED, which currently appears to lack significant processes for reviewing these types of projects. The Governor’s announcement also states that “Municipalities will have an opportunity to advise the Office on compliance with local laws and the Permitting Office will consider and may apply local laws in light of the State’s clean energy and environmental goals” which implies that there may be significantly less local stakeholder participation in the Permitting Office process as compared to the Article 10 process.

These and other details of the proposal and the overlap with Article 10 will be significant to local stakeholders and developers. Stay tuned.