New York’s Dutchess County is widely seen as the birthplace of the modern environmental movement. It remains a big part of its beating heart today. But new testimony submitted by Dutchess County’s government in a utility rate case suggests that local leaders are no longer singing kumbaya with their hometown non-profits like Scenic Hudson and the late Pete Seeger’s Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.

An environmental juggernaut on the Hudson

Some of the most ferocious green attacks against power plants and electrical infrastructure have been launched from the shores of the Hudson River in Dutchess County’s Beacon, Rhinebeck, and Poughkeepsie, preserving a state of arrested development just 60 miles north of New York City. Scenic Hudson and Hudson River Sloop Clearwater maintain their headquarters in Dutchess County, and parts of the county have been represented by environmentalist firebrands like Congressmen Richard Ottinger, Maurice Hinchey, and State Assemblymember Sarahana Shrestha, a proponent of socialist degrowth via the Build Public Renewables Act. Pete Seeger was famously spurred into action about the Storm King plant because he didn’t want to look upon an “eyesore” from his cabin on Mount Beacon.

In 2019, New York State passed “landmark climate legislation” called the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which mandates that the state use 70% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% carbon-free energy by 2040. To actually implement the bill, it will cost taxpayers, ratepayers, taxpayers and utilities will have to spend somewhere between $44B and $3T, and the people that wrote the bill say that their estimate is a “spitball.” 

Dutchess County commented on the scoping plan of the CLCPA, concluding, “What must be done to implement the plan is gargantuan, and state government will need to grow in a gargantuan fashion to accommodate all the Plan implementation requirements. New York will become the most-regulated State in the Nation and the most overburdened with Climate commitments. At the end of the day how much balance is there in a $3 trillion dollar price tag to reduce carbon in the atmosphere by approximately .3 ppm over the next 30 years costing every New York State man, woman and child approximately $150,000 in new State costs alone?”

People looking for an answer to that question could look to a quote from Scenic Hudson attorney Dale Doty in 1963’s Storm King pumped storage plant lawsuit. From Embattled River: The Hudson and Modern American Environmentalism:

“In his brief, Doty questioned whether cheap electricity better served the public interest than “preserving the beauty of one of America’s great scenic and historic landscapes.”

While the Scoping Plan of the CLCPA was finalized in early 2023, the plan is in a state of limbo while a carbon tax scheme called “Cap and Invest” is being drafted, with the goal of a 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 and and 85 percent by 2050. The emissions math was crafted by Cornell University climate wonk Robert Howarth, who the Biden Administration tapped in to make the case that natural gas is worse for the climate than coal.

While Cap and Invest looms, the battle over the future of the electrical grid is being fought over at the state’s Public Service Commission, where regulated electrical utilities like Central Hudson and Orange & Rockland are making the case to pay for the mandated green infrastructure upgrades by increasing ratepayer bills by 6-16%. Dutchess County is primarily served by Central Hudson.

Predictably, a hydra of green organizations are testifying to have their cake and eat it too. Alliance for a Green Economy, Beacon Climate Action Now, Communities for Local Power, Energy Justice Law and Policy Center, Shrestha, Ulster County Government’s Jen Metzger (who helped pass the CLCPA as a State Senator) and more all testified in some way that Central Hudson should eat the cost of mandated green infrastructure upgrades, and some suggested that they should not maintain gas infrastructure for the hundreds of thousands of people who depend on it. It should be noted that, already, utilities in New York State earn some of the lowest returns in the United States. This is part of the time-honored anarchist method of using regulations and mandates to “monkeywrench” critical infrastructure and capture it or shut it down.

You can learn more about our analysis of the rate cases here.

This is where Dutchess County is fighting back.

Dutchess County: “Extreme societal risk” from replacing reliable infrastructure with renewables

Dutchess County is responsible for roughly 41% of Central Hudson’s electric revenues and 44% of its natural gas revenues. They retained Poughkeepsie-based energy consultant Allan Page to testify on their behalf at the Public Commission’s Central Hudson hearing.

Here are some of the quotes from his testimony, which matches other testimonies in decrying Central Hudson’s flawed billing system, but actually addresses the root causes of why the utility is seeking such a large increase in ratepayer fees:

  1. In commenting on the Draft Scoping Plan, the County points out the economic pain being imposed on individuals and businesses and the extreme societal risk created by replacement of reliable, secure energy infrastructure with intermittent renewables. 
  1. The feasibility of meeting arbitrary timing mandates is slim to none… the State will require that residents help fund trillions of dollars of unproven energy systems.
  1. Up until the middle of the 1990s, Central Hudson arguably had the lowest electric rates in the Northeast… [it] controlled its organizational destiny… under a vertically integrated corporate structure. 
  1. Electric customers have carried much of the load for reducing carbon in the State of New York… which ranks as the lowest per capita carbon producing state in the nation.
  1. For this 39% increase in carbon reduction costs, what can the Central Hudson customer expect as a tangible direct return? The answer is a worldwide amount of carbon reduction… Central Hudson’s efforts are expected to reduce ambient CO2e emissions globally and the effects will not necessarily be limited to any area… on a global basis, the impacts are too small to be meaningful. 
  1. Not only will the Dutchess County Central Hudson customer receive no benefit from CO2 reduction, but in fact, if you believe the projects of the IPCC, ambient carbon in the atmosphere will continue to increase over time from now until 2050 and beyond. Such projections are based upon the fact that all nations are not committed to reducing national carbon generation. 
  1. In between the current state of the hydrogen industry, understanding and expending customer funds on accelerating such understanding on the part of Central Hudson operations, comes at a cost with limited customer benefits. The proposal to reduce EV acceptance barriers through education and reducing potential customer EV anxiety at a price tag of some $1.5M in customer funding is better performed by competitive entities looking to market EV’s… carbon reduction in the fossil fueled vehicular segment of the New York economy does not fall under the Commission’s list of responsibilities.
  1. From the current day to 2050 the state measures success through partnerships, outreach and education, and workforce and economic development. Implementing the plan produces no measurements of… cost savings, or reducing climate change threats, or reducing carbon in the atmosphere in Dutchess County.
  1. Up until the present rate cases, the focus of the County has been to seek win-win rate orders in which Central Hudson gains as well as the County by serving a customer of Central Hudson and a County citizen. 
  1. Implementing the CLCPA has compounded the complexity of electric billing in the state, with DERs, community solar, PSC climate affiliated orders layering in more changes to customer billing which must conform to not easily understood tariffed language… one such way of reducing complexity is to be most deliberate and thoughtful in regard to implementing the CLCPA.
  1. There are voluntary and regulatory investments proposed or required to facilitate and support carbon reduction and environmental justice objectives as established within the CLCPA. The voluntary investments ($4M+) should be held in abeyance until required by regulation.

Across the Hudson River from Dutchess County is the much more liberal Ulster County, Central Hudson’s other territory. Few other places in New York State are more ridden with foundation-funded doomsday climate NGOs and politically aligned with the CLCPA and other climate mandates (Ithaca and parts of Brooklyn, perhaps). To a person, letters from Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger, the Ulster County Legislature, State Senator James Skoufis, State Senator Michelle Hinchey, Kingston Mayor Steve Noble, agreed the rate increases were unconscionable, but the cause was solely attributed to bad billing practices and Central Hudson’s corporate shareholder greed. Only in testimony from Dutchess County (as well as State Senator and former Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison) did anyone surmise as to how climate mandates are the main cause of the coming unconscionable rate increases.

A Brave Statement on Behalf of Everyday Citizens

While dozens of articles have been written about liberal Ulster County politicians beating a dead horse about greedy Central Hudson and their incompetent billing practices, none have been written in the region about how the potentially trillions of dollars of “landmark legislation” mandates and nudging have been piled onto Central Hudson, by extension, the working class of ratepayers and taxpayers. If Roger Caiazza of Pragmatic Environmentalist had not highlighted Dutchess County’s testimony, and their hard break with the local environmentalist organizations holding the state hostage, it’s hard to know if anyone would have seen it.

The truth of their statement is especially brave knowing that the threat of chaos from nearby organizations like Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, Clearwater, Food and Water Watch, Communities for Local Power, Sierra Club of the Mid-Hudson Valley, Partners for Climate Action Hudson Valley, NYPIRG, Indivisible and more is forever looming.

We at New York Energy Alliance stand with the Dutchess County government in their advocacy for everyday Hudson Valley residents’ checkbooks.

Buchanan NY’s Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant closed in 2021, dying a death of a thousand paperwork cuts over 40 years at the hands of non-profit organizations like Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson, and politicians like Governor Andrew Cuomo and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. This has been to the detriment of the tax base of Buchanan, the electricity consumers of New York, and the state’s supposed climate goals (fossil fuels replaced all of the carbonless electricity produced by the plant).

One of the biggest questions around the plant’s closure was the fate of the 1,000+ strong workforce directly employed at Indian Point. The opponents of the plant, like Cuomo, State Senator Pete Harckham, Riverkeeper, the National Resource Defence Council (NRDC) and more, have been champions of a policy called “Just Transition” for the workforce, by replacing their lost jobs by guaranteeing them a place in the decommissioning process.

Big Promises

“In the CLCPA, we talk about a ‘just transition,’ ” said Senator Peter Harckham (D-Peekskill). “This [the closure of Indian Point] is going to be the poster child for that.”

In 2019, Harckham introduced legislation that “require[s] whoever is doing the decommissioning to hire from the facility and pay workers what they were being paid,” he said, reaffirming the commitment months later in 2020.

Another prominent voice was Kit Kennedy, the Managing Director of the NRDC:

“We also need to ensure that the community around Indian Point and the workers at the plant are supported in the transition to a future without Indian Point.”

Riverkeeper, which spearheaded the fight to close the plant, wrote in 2017 that a “thorny, vital but as yet unanswered question” included how to “achieve a just transition for plant workers and surrounding communities to life after Indian Point.” 

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, another long-time adversary to the plant, wrote “it’s time to turn our focus to ensuring economic and workforce development… includ[ing] retaining workers with valuable institutional knowledge and technical skills, and retraining and placement in similar industries.” Their environmental director, Manna Jo Greene, added “we have to get to work, put the plan into place, find the financing and create those wonderful jobs. That’ll be part of the solution.”

With all of the various stakeholders assured that jobs would be protected, in 2021, Holtec, New York State, Westchester County, the Town of Cortlandt, the Village of Buchanan, Hendrick Hudson School District, the Public Utility Law Project and Riverkeeper all collectively entered and supported a Joint Proposal to the Public Service Commission that affirmed that “Holtec’s decommissioning plan yields considerable economic, social and environmental benefits to the surrounding community.”

The Tritium Conspiracy Theory

One of the linchpins of the decommissioning of nuclear plants is the safe and legal disposal of “liquid effluent water” which contains a minuscule amount of a radioactive substance called tritium. Tritium is used in glow-in-the-dark items like exit signs and dials in watches. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Tritium is “produced naturally in the atmosphere when cosmic rays strike atmospheric gases… release of tritium from [nuclear reactors] are at fractions of the natural background production rates.”

The amount of radiation exposure that the average American receives from living near a nuclear plant that is disposing of liquid effluent is minuscule: someone could drink a liter of water directly from the liquid effluent tank, and receive a dose of radiation equivalent to eating 10 bananas. Taking a cross-country flight from New York to Los Angeles exposes passengers to the equivalent of drinking tritiated water every day for a year. 

For 60 years, Indian Point discharged liquid effluent water into the Hudson River at a concentration that was 1/100th or below the legally required limits. In 2023, Holtec was scheduled, as per their decommissioning plan, to release 1.3M gallons of tritiated water into the Hudson River, a tiny fraction of a fraction of what has already been harmlessly released. 

In a stunning betrayal of the “Just Transition” promised for Indian Point union workers, every nearby environmental organization and related politicians fearmongered about the tritiated water releases in an ignorant and unscientific Orwellian campaign to further demonize nuclear energy. They insisted on a costly alternative of storing the water onsite, a move that delayed decommissioning by eight years, caused 138 layoffs right before Christmas, and went against the advice of the workers working on the plant and the wishes of the town where the plant is located.

The president of Riverkeeper said that the safe discharges were “an affront to the people who love the Hudson but fear for their health and the damage tritium discharges can bring to the river and to their communities.” Hudson River Sloop Clearwater called for the “Save the Hudson Bill” to be signed into law, which would prevent any radioactive material from decommissioning nuclear power plants to be released into the Hudson. And Pete Harckham, who said just three years ago that the Indian Point decommissioning would be the “poster child” for Just Transition, authored the State Senate version of the Save the Hudson Bill that would be responsible for laying off 138 workers at Indian Point.

“This bill may be well intentioned, but it would stop the decommissioning of Indian Point and lead to substantial long-term job losses in the Hudson Valley. The concerns raised by the bill’s sponsors have been addressed, and the EPA has developed environmentally conscious procedures that our members are following closely. A handful of misguided activists from outside our community shouldn’t be allowed to stop a worthy project that is providing critical blue collar jobs.”

Bill Banfield, spokesperson for the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters

It made no difference. Hundreds of thousands of people signed a petition calling for the signing of the bill, thanks in part to Riverkeeper’s misleading Facebook ads:

Governor Kathy Hochul signed the bill into law on August 18, 2023, and the layoffs came right around Christmas.

What’s next?

With the bill passed, there is now no pragmatic solution on what to do with the water. As such, the decommissioning work is largely now delayed until a solution can be found. With up to an eight year delay, this means that certain contractors cannot move to the next project and instead will just be laid off. This will also delay the handover of the property to the Town of Buchanan, delaying any opportunity to start the site’s next chapter.

The activists’ preferred solution is to “store on site.” This will put the water in casks to wait at least one tritium half life (12 years) so that it can be released in a less radioactive state. However, the Town of Buchanan passed a resolution in July favoring discharges into the Hudson River, and banning the storage of the water on site. 

When this topic first came to public forum, New York Energy Alliance was in a superminority calling for the discharges going forward unimpeded (20 for vs. 120 against by our count). 

Watch:

Now that the chickens are coming home to roost and the negative consequences of an avoidable delay have revealed themselves, the greens are trying to have their cake and eat it too. They want to still be seen as the good guys standing up for the environment against the big bad company while deflecting the blame that they caused the jobs to be lost, at Christmas no less. We stand with labor, Holtec, the Town of Buchanan, and other sensible citizens in continuing to call out this charade.

As New Yorkers enter 2024, everything seems to be up in the air. An all-consuming, yearlong referendum on the last decade is coming, from the hyperlocal to the national level.

One area that figures to play a heightened role is the nexus of land use, energy policy and climate change. How will billions of dollars of promised government investment in renewable energy affect New Yorkers’ pocketbooks, farms, viewsheds, and energy reliability? Do New Yorkers know what have, or haven’t, signed up for? What can be done in time to make a difference?

The four people below are trying to answer those questions.

1. Kris Martin, Saving Greene: Citizens for Sensible Solar

While focusing on renewable energy and land use issues in Greene County (which straddles the Mid-Hudson Valley, Hudson River, the Catskills, and the Capital Region), Kris has created a number of fundamental resources for anyone looking to learn more about the impacts of climate mandates on Upstate New York. The latest is a 65 page report on solar’s impact on farmland titled Enough Land, which can be found on Kris’ Substack.

Background

I grew up in a farming community in western New York, in Allegany County. I earned a master’s degree in technical communication from RPI and worked for IBM research and development in Kingston and Westchester County until retiring. After moving back to western New York a couple of years ago, I changed my focus from activism to doing research and writing about renewable energy issues. 

Getting Into the Solar Resistance Movement

I’ve been interested in solar technology, climate issues, and reducing my carbon footprint since college. In 2017, I invested $40,000 of my retirement savings in a ground-mounted residential solar array. It was my own tiny contribution to fighting climate change, and I was proud of it. Then in 2018, two grid-scale solar projects were announced for the town where I lived. One was across the road from me, and the other was in my backyard. In fact, I supported the project in my backyard. The one across from me, though, was sited on hundreds of acres of active farmland, wetlands, and habitat for threatened and endangered species, all surrounded by homes.

At first, the developers showed us a project map showing 800 acres covered solidly with solar panels. It was crazy: there were panels five feet from the road. I couldn’t support that, so I joined the local “opposition” group, Saving Greene: Citizens for Sensible Solar. Eventually I became their research and communications coordinator. After proudly telling the press they’d downsized the project, the developers showed us new maps with the project now on 400 acres. These were the real maps, not the decoy they’d showed us up front. A friend in the industry explained that we were supposed to have panicked over the first map and been reassured by the second; it was a common enough strategy for manipulating how people viewed these projects. This time it had backfired by stirring up real distrust and opposition in the community.

One of the developers came out to my house and was very pleasant, very cheerful. We stood on my front porch, and he said, “Well, you’ll lose your view.” Then he added that my property value would probably increase. I knew the property-value study he was referring to. It applied to wind projects, not solar. 

I always assumed solar developers wanted to help fight climate change. Some may, but many don’t seem to care about it at all. They trot out climate change when they want to shame the people who oppose their projects and cut into their profits. They use shame as a weapon. Calling us NIMBYs is the easiest way of attacking and shaming us, the best way to turn other people against us.

I asked the developer who’s buying this electricity. It was a very roundabout answer: 40% of the electricity was being sold to a company in Connecticut. They were getting state funding from NY to do this. I began to get very suspicious of the solar industry. I’ve gotten to the point that the solar industry isn’t here to save us, they’re here to profit from climate change.

There was no one helping us. We seriously looked. NPR and such have accused the groups like ours of being funded by fossil fuel companies. But the money was coming out of our own pockets.

At first, I didn’t find anyone who was opposing or questioning. The people I ended up talking to were solar developers and off the record. That’s where I learned much of what I knew initially.

We were the first group to oppose grid scale solar. There were groups opposing wind in Upstate NY. If I got any information from anyone on how to oppose this, it was from wind people.

Enough Land

I’d collected information and written about solar topics before, but nothing on the scale of Enough Land, my white paper on agriculture and solar land use. It took over three years to research and write. I wanted to answer the question: Do we have enough land for agriculture and solar buildout?

I kept hearing we only need 1% of the state’s land for solar, as if that’s somehow meaningful. It’s not. Solar projects have very specific land requirements, and the best land for solar is often the best land for farming. The solar industry wants us to think they’re saving struggling family farmers. But they’re also really hurting farmers who need to rent the land being converted for solar. In fact, the majority of upstate farmers expect solar to harm their operations.

“Who’s Buying the Electricity?”

When I looked into who was buying the electricity from the project I was opposing, I learned that 40% was being sold to a Connecticut utility. New York taxpayers were paying for the expensive review and approval process, and New York was counting the project’s capacity toward its clean energy goals. Connecticut was counting it toward theirs. It was all a numbers game. I’m disgusted by what’s being done in the name of fighting climate change. The climate industry isn’t here to save us from ourselves; it’s here to profit from climate change. 

Saving Greene was the first group to oppose grid-scale solar in upstate New York. We didn’t have much in the way of resources, and getting accurate information was incredibly hard at first. It still isn’t easy. The people who helped me the most were solar developers who didn’t like how things were playing out and people who had opposed wind projects in the past. They’d faced some of the same issues that we were starting to encounter, and they provided solid advice. Even now, there aren’t many resources available to groups that are starting up. Until recently there hasn’t been a real effort to bring them together as a coalition. I’m glad to see this changing.

NPR accuses groups like Saving Greene of being funded by fossil fuel companies and backed by mysterious Republican interests. You don’t need to invent conspiracy theories to explain solar resistance. As an activist, I found that incredibly offensive and disappointing. I used to support NPR, but I can’t take them seriously anymore. Quite a few of us in Saving Greene were progressive Democrats, and our funding came from the community and our own pockets. Some of us are still paying off expenses. It’s so easy to pretend that the solar resistance movement results from ignorance and malice. I’m constantly having to explain that there are real, solid issues to discuss.  

I’m not claiming the resistance movement has all the answers. We don’t. For instance, I’ve heard people opposing large projects claim that panels are leaching toxins into the soil. Then they turn around and say solar should go on residential rooftops instead. Are they listening to themselves?  

The “Ridiculous” Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act

When I first looked at the Climate Act, it seemed ridiculous. It’s not achievable. It wasn’t thought out by energy experts; it was written by politicians. The scope and timeline are way too ambitious; I feel like it’s setting us up for failure. To our politicians, decarbonizing our economy quickly is more important than doing it right. In our rush to be first, we won’t be able to take advantage of emerging technologies and approaches, like agrivoltaics [the co-location of agriculture and solar development]. In a few years, when states like North Dakota start building out solar, they’ll have better options for preserving farmland than we have now in New York. We’re chasing numbers, not making meaningful changes.

I listened to dozens of Climate Action Council meetings; they were trying to make the Climate Act sound workable, and it just wasn’t. No one on the Climate Action Council represented rural upstate New York, where most renewables will be sited. The Council did include lobbyists, though. I wrote comments about issues like electrifying transportation in underserved rural communities, but I knew no one at the state level cared about what happens in these places.

The state seems to have decided that hydro, wind, and solar are our only options for reaching zero emissions. At the same time, they know we need gas to provide stable power when we don’t have breezes and sunbeams. I’m not a fan of gas, but we don’t have a good replacement. The state says we need a resource that’s emissions-free, dispatchable, and economical. They just don’t know what it is, so I call it magic juice. We’re going to backstop solar and wind with magic juice. I have a problem with that approach.

Rebranding With the Build Public Renewables Act

I think the Build Public Renewables Act is essentially rebranding. It addresses some legitimate issues on public vs. private, but mostly it’s another effort to look good in front of the world. Our state government really wants to pat itself on the back.

About 92% of the energy generated upstate is emissions-free, and at least 95% of NYC’s energy is produced using fossil fuels. Some of us view renewable energy buildout as kind of neocolonialism. Upstate New York’s latest purpose is to provide land so NYC can have clean energy. Underserved rural communities are being targeted for buildout. It’s cynical, and it’s wrong.

The Collapse of the Solar Industry

I can’t rule out the solar industry imploding over the next several years. The industry seems more interested in buying and selling corporations, getting tax breaks, and chasing incentives than in producing clean energy. I wonder sometimes if it’ll all come crashing down when you take away those incentives. Providing clean energy for NYC will require an awful lot of very expensive transmission infrastructure. Transmission is usually funded by ratepayers, not by the state. If no one can afford to fund it, of course, there’s not much point in building out large-scale renewables.

When I started to oppose solar projects, I felt like I should have an energy alternative to offer. To my surprise, it ended up being nuclear energy, especially advanced nuclear. Mind you, I protested Seabrook and thought Indian Point was a disaster waiting to happen. I didn’t realize how much propaganda and how little real information was out there. I know it’s an unfashionable solution, but there’s quite a bit of support for it upstate, especially in areas where reactors are located.

How Battery Fire Risks are Confusing

Wait until NYC residents get a good look at their battery situation. Right now, it looks like the downstate region may host at least 19,000 MW of energy storage. That’s 2,000 MW for Staten Island alone, and there are plans to construct a 300-MW battery facility in Manhattan. Residents can’t fight it because it’s being proposed under the state-mandated Section 94-C siting process for renewables. I suspect the NIMBY-haters are going to become NIMBYs themselves when they understand the scope of what’s happening.

My primary concern about battery storage is fire and the release of toxic gases, the potential for disruption of daily life. We’ve had three battery fires in New York this year. Fires can require evacuating half a mile or more around the site. How do you evacuate Staten Island in a matter of minutes? These fires can’t be extinguished with water. They don’t require oxygen to burn. Lithium-ion battery technology wasn’t designed for industrial use, and it’s not a great solution for our energy storage requirements. It’s what we have, though, so we’re using it.

Very few residents know much about battery fires, and they’re getting conflicting messages. The industry says everything is perfectly safe, but then there’s another fire and more evacuations. People are confused. These facilities are going in so fast, and they’re getting so big; the whole thing is a little scary. Most communities don’t even have emergency plans for battery fires. There’s a state task force looking at the issue, but it takes time and experience to develop effective responses. Meanwhile, we’re installing as many of these things as we can. We’re getting ahead of ourselves. Again.

New York needs to stop focusing on looking greener than the rest of the country. Our leaders talk about “nation-leading” policies and goals, but climate leadership shouldn’t be a goal in itself. Getting things right should be the goal.

2. Roger Caiazza, Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York

Since 2017, retired environmental consultant Roger Caiazza has published his analysis of New York State’s energy and climate political economy on his blog, Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York. It goes into the details beyond the idealistic headlines, asking questions how much policies will cost, if the lights will stay on, and if there are environmental tradeoffs.

Background

I was born in Cooperstown and raised in Oneonta. Went to SUNY Oneonta, and got a degree in meteorology. I went out of the state from 1974 to 1981, got a master’s degree, and worked in Kansas City and Boston for environmental consulting firms.

In 1981, I came to Syracuse, and got a job with Niagara-Mohawk as their meteorologist and environmental analyst. Since then, I’ve been evaluating different environmental policies related to the energy system.

I worked for Niagara Mohawk until deregulation and they sold off their power plants. I then worked for NRG Energy for ten years. In 2010, I retired from NRG, and then I went to work for the Environmental Energy Alliance of NY, an ad hoc organization. The environmental staff people at all the utilities get together and discuss policy and compliance issues.

In 2017, I stopped being the director, but I still provide support a couple hours a week. There also is a contingency if relevant issues come up. This year, many issues came up.

A Shift Starting in 2000

The members of the Alliance pride ourselves on being the technical people. In the past,. the agencies considered us a resource when they were coming up with regulations. We talked to them very early on in the process and suggested things to consider when developing policy. .” That’s all gone now because politicians drive regulatory policy much more than in the past.

When I retired as the director of EEANY, I set up the blog in 2017. Some of these issues really bother me. “You gotta be kidding me” kind of stuff. I needed to vent. Now I’ve got a blog that has published over 650 articles to get things off my chest.

There has been a shift in the environmental regulatory landscape since I started in New York. Around 2000, there was a shift away from “we’re all in this together”, to “you guys are the evil industry people.” It’s become progressively worse to this point, especially for the utility companies. They rely on the Administration to approve their rate requests. They can’t come out and say “Hey, you guys are nuts,” because there will be retributions. If the state is wrong, and the utilities are right, they can’t say it, because they’ll get hammered. Cuomo led the world in that personal vendetta category. Companies would say, “we have a problem with this,” and he’d come down on them.

That extended to NYISO. In July 2016, NYISO pointed out that in order to do what you want to do with all this renewable energy, you’re going must build all kinds of transmission. They viciously attacked the ISO. Cuomo sicced Energy Czar Richard Kauffman on NYISO, saying “you guys aren’t with the program, you’re just deniers,” and the guy running the ISO left.

It is even worse because under Cuomo, they would put political appointees down at the staff level. Those people were more or less spies. If any staff person stepped out of line, the political appointees at the top knew. So they stifled any dissent No staff in any of the agencies has any reason to speak up with any cautionary tales because it will affect their career path.

And that extends to the companies in the State because they’re going to get hammered. Even if you’re a private company, some day you may need a permit, and they will delay acting on your permit. Against that backdrop, I sort of feel obligated to have someone saying hey, this is all nuts. I don’t go forward without someone having said, it won’t work the way you’re expecting.

CLCPA Concerns Ignored

The Climate Act has become the major topic of the blog. When I stared in 2017, one of the things I wanted to write about was my history with power plant opacity, ie the smoke coming out of the plant. It was actually a non-issue but became an issue because the lawyers could get fines out of it. There were no health effects, it was just entirely aesthetics. NRG paid millions in fines with no value to society. But I never wrote it anything, because I got tied into the Climate Act. The majority of my articles are associated with that now

Putting in regulations that you have to get to zero by 2050 was the kicker. The more research I’ve done on what’s happened since, or how that got developed,has shown it was politically driven by a few individuals since its inception. Honestly there are so many aspects of this that are, oh my god, what you’re doing here is nuts, and it’s just a few people pushing it, and it happens to be who the administration is listening to, while ignoring the system operator, the Reliability Council, the staff people who know what’s going on in the agencies. 

When they were going around for the public meetings for the Scoping Plan, I went to a hearing. When I stepped up the mic and gave my presentation, I saw Co-Chairs Seggos and Harris get together and say “that’s the guy.” I get people who can’t be quoted contacting me and saying thank you for doing what you’re doing, and they’ll give me information to look at, that kind of stuff.

Dr. Robert Howarth at Cornell claims to be one of the authors of the Climate Act. They gave him outsized deference during the scoping plan and the Climate Action Council. He was always jumping in saying we don’t need any new technology, it’ll be cheaper, it’ll be wonderful. The Hochul administration should’ve stepped on him and said wait a minute, in the first presentation by NYSERDA and their consultant on what would be needed to change the electric grid to zero emissions, they said we need a new technology, a “dispatchable zero emissions resource”, something you can turn on and off when you need it without any emissions, but it doesn’t exist, unless you’re willing to go nuclear. 

So, they could’ve told him to sit down and shut up. “What you’re saying is wrong.” But he was quoted by others members of the council, and it influenced the direction of the Scoping Plan. We’re trying to claw that back now, the PSC in July finally set up a proceeding to figure out what this zero emissions dispatchable resource is going to be. Gee, is this feasible? It’s something new.

The narrative is there’s an existential threat, and the way to address that is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because wind and solar are free, it’ll be wonderful. That’s the soundbite. Trying to explain all the problems with different aspects of that, people don’t want to hear it. That narrative is constant. Every day there’s something else, this extreme weather event HAD to be climate change. Oh geez, we’ve installed more solar than coal, whatever number they come up with. It’s constant. People believe it, because it’s so incessant. The NGOs are incessant. If someone steps out of line, they come down hard. TV meteorologists, very few are skeptical now, 10-15 years ago there was an organized campaign to jump on anyone stepping out line.

Searching for the Mythical “Zero Emissions Dispatchable Resource”

The business community rrecently has started to develop a campaign to say timeout. Let’s put this on pause until we figure out how much it’ll cost, if there are real risks to reliability, are there impacts that are being ignored? That’s encouraging. Great Britain in the last week pushed off their timetable for when you have to buy an electric car from 2030 to 2035. They pushed off forcing people to go to heat pumps. When they questioned the Prime Minister, he said people can’t afford it. New York has not reached that point yet but there’s  going to be the realization. In July, the PSC came out with their first status report, which didn’t get a lot of publicity. They admitted in the current rate case, 10% of the bill for Niagara Mohawk is for the climate act. It’s just getting started.

The variability and correlation of wind and solar resources is the problem. If you’re going to rely on wind and solar, and we know that wind in particular goes calm, it turns out that it can go calm over a very large area for two weeks. And, in the winter, it’s the time when it’s the coldest weather. How are you going to deal with that? That’s where that zero emissions dispatchable resource comes in. I got myself on the Extreme Weather working group, which is a committee with the NYS Reliability Council. They have analyzed some data looking at potential offshore wind from Virginia to Maine. There was an oh my god moment when they realized they all went calm at the same time.

Trying to deal with that is an enormous challenge. That’s what the Reliability Council and State Integration analysis is worried about. It’s been dismissed so far in no small part because of Howarth. The wind’s blowing somewhere! It’s astounding to me that there are meteorologists saying it too. In Texas, where there was that polar votex,  I looked at where the wind was blowing somewhere. For New York, that somewhere was Nebraska. That means there needs to be a dedicated transmission line to Nebraska to dedicated wind farms so we can have energy in NYC when it is needed.: That’s never going to happen. The place holder solution is this magical resource, we’re going to use hydrogen, when we overbuild, we’ll create hydrogen, and store it for use when it is needed 5% of the time   That is irrational.

One thing that has been fun with my blog, is that I established contact with other people who have a lot more technical background on specific topics than I do. In this regard, there’s a guy who teaches thermodynamics at some university.. He’s an engineer an d, frankly, thermodynamics was always over my head. Finding somebody who could talk to me and explain things about that has been enlightening. His issue is the second law of thermodynamics. Every time we convert energy some of it is lost.   One hundred percent of the solar energy hitting a solar panel takes an immediate hit when converted to electricity.  When the energy is stored in a battery, you lose a big percentage. When the battery discharges more energy is lost.  When we transmit it, you lose a percentage. In order to maintain reliability all those factors have to be considered.  It won’t work. Physics.

What will make the average person notice?

I really think that when people catch onto the costs, and the changes to your personal lifestyle they will rebel. But really, it’s the costs. Roger Pielke’s Iron Law of Climate is, people are willing to pay something, but not a lot. When people catch onto how much they’re going to say wait a minute, timeout.

In NYS, the Hochul Administration has not been up front about what all of this is going to cost. The Hochul administration has never admitted to the costs. The state has forbidden the companies from saying what the costs are explicitly in their bills. The PSC must come out with a report about the costs. Most of the costs in electric bills so far are going to be for putting in the transmission upgrades. When we have to electrify our houses and cars and everything else, you’re going to have to upgrade the distribution system too. Just add a zero at the end of your bill. You’ve got to. I don’t think they will be able to hide that, although they will try.

It’s a good question, are people going to notice in time? Ultimately we’re going to have to vote the clowns out who voted for this. How long is that going to take? I have no guess when it will happen. There’s going to be a timeout, at least. You talk to an environmentalist, and say you’re rushing down this path promising cheaper energy costs. When the costs increase and that claim is debunked then people will say, “Why should I believe you on any this crap?” Eventually people are going to say I’m not going to do what you want.

For timing I would assume in the next governor’s election, it will be an issue. And you know, we’ve got this huge upstate-downstate divide in the politics today. However I think that when all of the apartments and condominiums in big buildings in NYC have to spend millions on Net Zero, I think they will vote for their pocketbooks.  They’re going to vote for someone who says no we’re not, we’re not doing this nonsense. And even if we do it, what’s it really going to do for global warming? We’re less than one half of one percent of global emission and global emissions have been increasing by more than one half percent per year for many years  Why would we impoverish ourselves for something that is not going to make a difference.

3. James Hanley, Empire Center

James Hanley an independent New York energy policy expert. Follow him on X.

Background

Born in Indiana, went to grad school for political science at University of Oregon. Taught at a small college in Michigan for 20 years and left to pursue something different. I got interested in energy policy, I co-taught a course on nuclear weapons and power with a chemist. We had a lot of fun with it, and it got me interested in thinking more about energy when we covered the prospects for nuclear power in the future. I eventually got a job here at the Empire Center in 2021 focusing on New York energy policy.

First Impressions of New York Energy Policy

My first impressions was that policy was being driven by people who had a very romantic vision without understanding how energy systems actually work. It’s not that the goal of reducing greenhouse gases is terrible. And certainly reducing pollutants from energy production is a very good goal. I have bad asthma myself. The idea of reducing pollutants that cause breathing problems is very near and dear to my heart. Is the cost worth the benefits? For a lot of these people, it’s just an assumption that the environmental cost always outweighs the benefits of anything we can do. 

I come from an economics background, so I know that’s not necessarily true. In particular, the environmentalists don’t take the concept of energy reliability seriously. They seem to mystically believe that somehow, some way, there will always be enough energy. That we can easily make it happen. And if we look at the long, long term, sure, we can get there. But it depends on what types of resources we focus on. I am dubious we can get there with just wind and solar. I don’t think energy storage is realistic for dealing with long periods of low wind and solar output. It’s February, the sun goes down at 4:30, there’s a peak for a few hours, batteries might be able to get us through that. But as the Climate Action Council put in the scoping plan, we have to deal with long periods of low sun and wind output. We’re not realistically talking about storage that can cover long periods.

How do you ensure continued reliability while trying to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases? So far, we really only have one answer to that question, and that’s nuclear. I am energy agnostic, but I just don’t see that many actual competitors if those are the goals. Unfortunately nuclear isn’t tremendously cheap. We need clean, cheap and reliable and it’s hard to get all three from one source. The long range costs of nuclear, if you’re looking at the full system costs, are less than wind and solar because you don’t need the cost of storage. In California, as they shift toward renewable energy, they’re paying for the cost of two side by side energy systems, their VRE system and their reliable backup system which is mostly coal and gas. California has cleverly shoved their power production out of state, so they haven’t actually reduced their emissions that much.

Reliability, Costs and Transparency

At the Empire Center, the mission is twofold: we are pro free markets, and we’re government watchdogs looking out for transparency in government. I’m the energy guy. My point of attack is trying to point out the risks of policy, making people aware of the dangers of a lack of reliable energy. Do the benefits outweigh the costs. As we structure these policies, I’m not sure that they are.

The Climate Action Council consultants say that they are, but I’m deeply skeptical. I’ve been trying to get more transparency on these cost estimates. We do a lot of FOIA requests. I keep bugging NYSERDA to tell me this, tell me that, and I hear that it’s privileged information, it’s trade secrets of the consultants. It’s protected because they can’t share information about their proprietary models.

Whether it gets much attention or not, I’m not sure, but NYISO has tried to sound the alarm on the peaker plant rule in NYC and just designated multiple power plants down there as necessary producers, or the city will run a serious power deficit this summer. That may get through to people’s attention. NYISO has to try to prevent catastrophe. There’s a part of me that says the only way we’re going to get through to people is through a blackout, but when we have blackouts, people die. Either people will have a stroke from a lack of air conditioning or at the hospital or whatever. I really don’t want it to happen.

There’s pushback against NYISO about that. Some of the climate activists, or health advocates are upset that the peaker plants are in poorer neighborhoods. The good thing is that we don’t have to use them too often. But when they do turn on they can cause health problems. There’s pushback about using them. The conflict between those voices and NYISO saying that not having them will kill people too, maybe it’ll start to get attention.

Cap and Invest Costs Looming

In terms of the CLCPA in general, the other thing that may get people paying attention is when we enact the Cap and Invest program, energy costs, gas costs, home heating costs will skyrocket, and that will wake people up. A lot of people are going to be unhappy about that.

Right now, the legislature is dominated by pro climate action voices and pro social justice voices. They’re on a roll. There’s no obvious roadblock to them in the immediate future. The DEC and NYSERDA are working on Cap and Invest regulations right now. Within the next year they’ll roll out their proposed policy for public comment, and that’ll take a year. If we’re getting close to a gubernatorial election year, is Hochul able to push back against it coming into effect right away? She’s been tremendously ineffective at getting anything she wants. When they first started looking at the cost of Cap and Invest, Basil Seggos very publicly said the cost of this could be extraordinary. That was kind of their “Come to Jesus” moment.

He said explicitly it could drive gas prices up by 62 cents a gallon, and increase natural gas costs by 80%. Just astronomical. Hochul then said we need to change the way we do accounting from the 20 year accounting to a 100 year accounting. I wrote an explainer on it that’s up on our website. Pretty technical question. New York is one of two jurisdictions that use a 20 year accounting method. Howarth told me that the 100 year accounting method came out of a UN meeting in the 70s, and that it’s outdated. There’s a scientific argument, either you’re more concerned about methane emissions, which trap more heat but drop out of the atmosphere faster, or carbon, which traps less heat but stays in the atmosphere longer.

Choosing a timeframe for accounting for them, it’s a compromise, and we’re trying to account for multiple greenhouse gases. Each lasts a different amount of time, traps a different amount of heat, and we’re trying to put it all in the same framework. It comes down to which chemicals are you most worried about. If you use a 20 year framework, it’ll push you toward faster reductions. That’s why the advocates really want it.

The problem is reducing emissions faster is going to cost more. That’s the magic there. Hochul tried to change to the 100 year plan that everyone else is using, and the climate advocates slapped her down and she backed off quickly. She also lost her Supreme Court appointment battle, the only governor to lose that battle. She’s not politically strategic or effective. When the costs for cap and invest come through, if she’s in an election cycle, people are going to be upset and she’ll be responsive to that. Cuomo was strategically effective if nothing else, and she’s just not.

Part of it is that they want to provide rebates to low and moderate income people. Potentially that offsets their feelings of financial hurt. It might not. It all depends on how it works out in practice. If you pay a whole lot for something, and get a rebate later, people don’t really feel made whole. They feel the hurt from the financial blow more than they feel the compensation months months later.

“They’re lying to us”

They’re frankly lying to us. They’re saying the benefits to New Yorkers will outweigh the costs. Over half the benefits from the CLCPA come from the social costs of carbon. That’s a global benefit. It’s hard to say what share of the benefit we actually get here in New York. I asked NYSERDA in a FOIL, what are the New York-specific benefits? Their accounting are global benefits. Most people haven’t thought about that yet. We have 0.25% of the global population and emit about 0.4% of the global greenhouse emissions. 

It’ll be interesting to see what laws or statutes are proposed in the Legislature next year. The one big thing we can be sure about is the development of the Cap and Invest program. That’s a major component to the CLCPA and going after greenhouse emissions.

4. William Barclay, Leader of the New York State Assembly Republican Conference

William Barclay is Leader of the New York State Assembly Republican Conference, and has served in the the New York State Assembly since 2003. He has been a leading voice against the mandates of the CLCPA, saying “This plan simply isn’t based in reality. Energy policy without reliable energy production isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

What’s to Come in 2024

Two things are coming to a head, the Democrats seem intent on continuing to implement the CLCPA, which requires us to go on renewables by 2030. That is colliding with the realization that the expense to do what they’re doing with the CLCPA is incredibly expensive. The PSC just rejected 10 billion dollars in additional costs for additional renewable energy projects across the state. The costs are immense, and consumers aren’t always looking at that, but they’re starting to see it. Earlier this year, we heard about the costs of changing over from gas stoves to electric stoves. Something like $35,000 to change your house over. The other one is that electric school buses will cost about $350k, when they normally cost $120k. That will cost the state overall $8B. The costs of implementing this are starting to dawn on the PSC and policymakers.

Cost-benefits ignored to this point

We already have high energy costs for a lot of reasons that are prohibitive. Renewables are not reliable energy, We can’t store enough electricity in batteries. When the sun doesn’t shine, you can’t generate solar, and when the wind doesn’t blow, you can’t generate wind energy. If you’re cutting out your reliable sources like natural gas and nuclear, we’re going to get caught in a pinch.

Experts in the field are warning about it. It hurts economic development; why would you move a company into an area that doesn’t have reliable energy? It hurts citizens who are already here who can’t afford to heat or power their homes. It’s going to hurt economic development and the populace of New York State.

This year with the state budget, the revenue looks okay. But the coming years look problematic. We’ve increased the budget by $60B over the last five years. A lot of that money is going towards subsidizing renewable energy projects. Maybe we’ll get through 2024, but at some point, we’re going to have real constraints on the New York budget and we’ll have to swell that budget down. I hope that we’ll look at the cost benefit of some of these projects throughout the state. NYS only emits 0.4% of global emissions… even if we implement everything and spend $500B, we’re not going to make a dent in global warming, which is the reason given to move over to renewable energy. Maybe this year, it won’t come to a complete head, but we’re going to have some real challenges in our state budget.

By the way, I’m not opposed to renewable energy, but we need balanced energy generation. We can’t transfer over by mandate and expect everything to work, and we can’t shut down generation from nuclear and gas.

The Role of Nuclear

I am heartened by the fact that there have been a number of environmentalists who have pushed against coal-fired plants. They have seen nuclear as maybe a source that can answer the questions. Nuclear is highly efficient, it doesn’t emit, and it’s reliable, those are three very important keys. Ultimately people can wake up to the power of it and how important it is. Even with small modular plants we have to convince people it’s safe generating electricity. I have three nuclear plants in my district, and whether it’s residual holdovers from the 70s, or because the Simpsons didn’t help, but people have a lot of wrong impressions about what the radioactivity of the plants is. It’s important to see nuclear’s key role in solving our future energy challenges, showing that’s its really safe clean way of generating electricity.

Impact on 2024 Governor’s Race?

I hope the cost of what’s being proposed is starting to be realized by NY voters. Whether it’s at the stage yet that it’s going to have an impact on elections, I’m not sure, but I’m certainly going to make it an issue in my races. It’ll become a pocketbook issue. Whether it’s this election or future elections, who knows. I do think it’ll become an issue. The cost of what the Democrats are proposing is so high, it’s going to come from the consumers at some point.

-I ask that if you are participating by telephone please hit *3 so we can unmute your line.

As our utility rates for gas and electricity increase due to irrational energy policies, those who pushed them will try to obfuscate their role. One way this is done is their focus on rate case advocacy and the demonization of the different Utilities in New York State (Con Ed, Central Hudson, National Grid, etc.). Many of these groups such as AGREE, PULP, WE ACT, and their aligned politicians make opposing rate increases a staple of their work (when they bother to show up to their appointed time). While smart from a PR standpoint (you would be hard pressed to find anyone who wants to pay more for anything) this is only a deflection of blame that focuses on the symptoms and not the cause.

For those who do not know how this all works, Utilities are monopoly companies that own and maintain the power and/or gas lines and deliver gas and/or electricity to ratepayers (i.e. us). Because they are monopolies for historical and logistical reasons, they are regulated by the state, in NY the Department of Public Service, or PSC.  In order to charge more for their services the Utilities must ask the PSC for permission to increase rates. Hence, the rate case. Rate increases are usually justified by spending on capital projects, thus long term capital is incentivized. 

When you first hear the green groups talk about this system it seems like they would agree with the critique others have made about it. Namely, that Utilities have no incentive to control rising costs as they get paid more the more they spend on infrastructure, leading to projects that should decrease overall rates (such nuclear power plants or gas pipeline expansions) actually increasing them. However, they pivot away from this and focus on their true goal: the total destruction of our reliable fossil fuel infrastructure (they state as much within the first 4 min of their  Rate Case 101 video). 

These groups have worked hard to make sure reliable infrastructure is not only impossible to build here in the state but is actively torn down. From Storm King to Indian Point our Utility infrastructure has become fragilized because of their actions. And this fragility increases our costs. They admit as much, as seen in the following quote taken from the transcript aforementioned video (emphasis my own):

and so I saw some questions in the chat there was a question a lot earlier about how weather impacts your rates and I’d like to just briefly talk about that and and then we’ll go to some of the other questions but weather impacts utility rates in a lot of ways our utility rates are especially affected because of our reliance on fossil fuels so because we are reliant on fracked gas right what they call natural gas but what we know is really just methane and is very bad for your health we rely on global markets that are volatile you know the price goes up and down and we have to deal with that fluctuation we’re not protected right uh the price of fracked gas increases and decreases while solar is always free and so you know we know that a fossil fuel future is not consistent with one that has energy affordability

Ignoring the misleading take that solar energy is free, it is absurd to point to the fluctuations in market prices without addressing why those prices fluctuate so much. Who are the ones to block pipelines, stop natural gas extraction, and in general make the cost of doing business in the fossil fuel industry so high? If we were able to extract more fuel and transport it more readily these costs would go down. This is where the obfuscation happens. As I mentioned before, in NYS Utilities are only responsible for the delivery, not the generation, of gas or electricity. They do not control the price of generation, and they have said as much. Central Hudson directly blamed the closure of Indian Point for an obscene electric rate spike in February 2022. In much better news, National Grid predicts lower home heating prices this winter due to increased production of gas and lower overseas demand. By solely blaming the Utility in the public rate cases these green groups get to gain brownie points from people who rightfully are outraged at rate increases while being able to wash their hands of the fact that they led to this situation of higher overall prices in the first place. 

It should be noted that this is not a blanket defense of these Utility companies. While listening to many recent rate cases posted on the PSC YouTube page it was very apparent that these companies do have problems in area’s like billing and customer service. However, as the rubber hits the road and our grid becomes more costly and unreliable we cannot let those who caused it pass the buck and use the situation to further the collapse. The so-called environmentalists are the ones causing your rates to go up, not the Utilities, and we would do well to remember that.

Sites of Resistance

For decades, mostly Downstate New York State politicians have simultaneously advocated for electrifying more appliances, home heating and cars while shutting down and blocking reliable sources of energy like nuclear, natural gas and dual-fuel power plants. Foundation-funded activists have assured them: when the time comes, they’ll be able to force Upstate and Western New York communities to turn their farmland and lakes into renewable energy and battery zones.

What they didn’t count on was that communities would stand together and fight back. Even as Downstate politicians try to steamroll local opposition and home rule with new mechanisms like the Office of Renewable Energy Siting, or rebrand their plans as being “publicly owned,” this list of local community groups is just a small sample of the deep, grassroots opposition to land-intensive, intermittent renewable energy in Upstate New York.

What did we miss? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us!

1. Copake

Company: Hecate Energy
Opposing Groups: Sensible Solar for Rural New York
Project mW: 60
Project Size: 220 acres

Texas-based Hecate Energy has been one of the most notorious renewable energy developers in NYS, with several projects that have received organized community pushback over the years. One of the most contentious battles has been over the proposed Shepherd’s Run Solar project in the 3,300-person Town of Copake. Since 2020, there have been dueling lawsuits and appeals involving this project between the Town of Copake and various New York State agencies, contesting not only the project but the power of the Office of Renewable Energy Siting itself to override home rule.

Joining many of the lawsuits against the democratically elected government of Copake have been a hydra of heavily-foundation funded environmental organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, the New York League of Conservation Voters, Scenic Hudson and New Yorkers for Clean Power.

In a September 2021 letter to his community, Copake Deputy Town Supervisor Richard Wolf summed up his frustration with the outside groups fighting against his town:

I’d like to make one more point: in their legal papers, neither ACE-NY nor the parties requesting to file an amicus brief, ever even mention Home Rule or the interests and concerns of Copake and the other petitioner-towns. They in effect argue that the petitioners don’t understand the existential threat of climate change and New York’s need to do something about it. Well, we DO get it. We’ve been saying for many months that we want to work with Hecate to develop a right-sized template for rural town solar projects, and that we will advocate for right-sized projects all around the State, so that New York can meet its ambitious renewable energy goals.

It’s safe to say that no one in Copake voted for the aforementioned groups to spend their considerable resources meddling in their affairs.

The latest update? In August of 2023, State Senators Michelle Hinchey and Pete Harckham sent a letter to ORES “underscoring the potential adverse environmental and agricultural impacts of Shepherd’s Run,” urging them to find a more “suitable location for the project.” Hinchey also recently introduced a bill to require ORES to more seriously consider agricultural impacts when siting renewable projects.

It doesn’t sound like they were successful. On August 25, Assemblymember Didi Barrett (who represents Copake) made the following announcement:

Concerned citizens can submit their comments here.

2. Middleburgh

Company: Borrego Energy
Activist Groups: Residents of Middleburgh NY
Project mW: 5
Project Size: 640 feet tall

In 2021, Borrego Solar, Inc. proposed building two industrial wind turbines as part of a community energy project on a farm about four miles outside of the village of Middleburgh, NY in Schoharie County.

The response from residents of the town was swift, and luckily for them, the local government was responsive to the grassroots energy that they showed.

A petition quickly went up that garnered close to 700 signatures:

“We, the residents, homeowners, and business owners of Middleburgh, NY and nearby affected towns, are opposed to the construction of large-scale industrial wind turbines in our town. These turbines will lower our property values, ruin our scenic views, kill wildlife, and have negative effects on the environment, tourism, and the health of residents living near them.”

By the end of May, 2022, the project was withdrawn by Borrego after the town changed its zoning ordinance to prohibit large-scale wind and solar energy projects.

“According to Don Airey, supervisor for the town of Blenheim and chair of the county board’s Energy Committee, the real issue for residents is the question of home rule. He protested the “unbelievable crassness of not only the wind and solar industries, but of our state legislators, our governor, and, you know, agencies like NYSERDA,” in forcing such developments on rural communities without giving them any say in the matter.”

3. Conquest

Company: NextEra Energy Resources
Activist Groups: Conquest Against Industrial Solar, The Rural Preservation and Net Conservation Benefit Coalition
Project mW: 200 + 20 mW of battery storage capacity
Project Size: 2,289 acres

In 2020, NextEra proposed what might be the largest solar array ever built in New York State in Cayuga County called the Garnet Energy Center. In 2021, it was reported:

“But the project is causing division among Conquest neighbors.

Long-time resident Eugene Moretti is against the project because he believes it would industrialize their quiet and for the most part, untouched community.

“We were never a partner, we were never consulted, there was never any outreach to say come here Conquest, come here citizens of Conquest this is something we want you to be a part of this, we want you to sign on,” Moretti said.”

Despite reservations from community activists and Charles Knapp, Town of Conquest Supervisor, in October of 2022, the NYS Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment trumpeted their approval of the project. A month later, The Rural Preservation and Net Conservation Benefit Coalition coalesced and filed a rehearing petition, on the grounds of the project’s impacts on wild birds.

Sadly, in February of 2023, the Board unanimously rejected the appeal.

4. Duanesburg

Opposing Groups: Duanesburg Neighbors

As a proactive measure in 2022, the Town of Duanesburg enacted a months-long moratorium on the construction of solar arrays. As of February of 2023, the town was still collecting feedback on the law while they sought to use zoning laws to balance the rights of property owners with the rights of neighbors.

5. Cortlandville

Company: RIC Development of New York
Opposing Groups: Concerned Citizens of Cortland
Project mW: 5
Project Size: n/a

Cortlandville, in Central New York’s Cortland County, is a hotbed of solar development. The latest is this 5 mW proposed for Route 2015, which comes on the heels of much bigger proposals that were highlighted by Concerned Citizens of Cortland:

“$90 million, 90-megawatt project proposed for Homer, Cortlandville and Solon.
$22.1 million, 20-megawatt project in Willet.
$27 million, 15-megawatt project in Lapeer.
project of up to 20 megawatts in Cincinnatus.
Two 5-megawatt projects on Riley Road in Cortlandville.
At least five, and possibly six, projects on properties owned by Gutchess Lumber in Cortlandville.”

The intensity of solar development has led to the resistance. One local resident even posted videos of the neighboring NextEra Energy solar farm from his house, highlighting the consistent hum that comes from the farm whenever the sun is shining.

6. Athens

Company: Freepoint Commodities
Opposing Groups: Saving Greene
Project mW: 5
Project Size: 43.4 acres

In July of 2023, it was announced that after years of Zoning Board fights and a lawsuit that made it to the New York State Supreme Court, a final ruling on a variance for the 43.4 acre Freepoint Solar farm was issued. According to Wave Farm, the Town of Athens Board passed a six-month moratorium on all solar projects for good measure.

Kris Martin, an Admin of Saving Greene: Citizens for Sensible Solar, wrote that solar developers are moving on to easier pickings in poorer parts of the state after this and some of the other proposed projects received organized opposition.

Also, thank you to the people at Saving Greene for having such a great website and we used one of their photos as the featured image of this blog post.

7. Glen

Company: ConnectGen
Opposing Groups: Glen Families Allied for Responsible Management of Land (GlenFARMLand)
Project mW: 250
Project Size: 2,000 acres

In May of 2023, ConnectGen presented plans on two solar megaprojects: Mill Point Solar 1 and Mill Point Solar 2. According to the Daily Gazette, opposition to the project has been strong:

“Widespread criticisms of the proposal have similarly remained consistent among locals concerned about the scope of the massive installation and its potential impact on the rural farming community.

“We still don’t think it’s a good fit for our community. There are better uses for this land,” said Steve Helmin, a resident and co-chair of Glen Families Allied for Responsible Management of Land (GlenFARMLand).”

In addition to fighting this project, GlenFARMLand is spearheading a #stopenergysprawl coalition.

8. Rush

Company: Invenergy
Opposing Groups: Residents United to Save our Hometown (RUSH)
Project mW: 180
Project Size: 2,000 acres

In 2018, the Blackstone-backed solar developer Invenergy signed a number of leases with farmers in Rush, NY to stitch together 2,000 acres of land for a solar mega-project. The group RUSH (Residents United to Save our Hometown) was formed in opposition, and as of the end of 2022, they had successfully delayed the project without a final victory.

In response to RUSH, Invenergy has formed an astroturf group called Finger Lakes for Clean Energy, where they are touting the project’s benefits, including the creation of three permanent jobs and 3,000 sheep that will graze the site.

9. Barre

Company: Apex Clean Energy
Opposing Groups: Clear Skies Above Barre, Inc.
Project mW: 180
Project Size: 33 Turbines, 650 Feet Tall

Since 2018, Clear Skies Above Barre has organized a door-to-door and online campaign to “protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents of Barre and surrounding communities that would be impacted by industrial wind development, that values a sense of community and neighborhood relations.”

Currently, they’re fighting against the proposed Heritage Wind Project, which promises to build what are believed to be the tallest wind turbines in the entire United States, and taller than any building in Western New York.

10. Collins

Company: EDF Renewables
Opposing Groups: Concerned Citizens of the Collins Wind Project
Project mW: 200
Project Size: 30-40 Wind Turbines

“We don’t want this to be the town of windmills and turbines… this is farm land. We want to keep it that way.”

One of the latest developing fights against renewables is in North Collins, NY.

“A few concerned citizens came together when they learned about The Collins Wind Project that was targeting prime farmlands in their hometowns. The goal of the project is to have 35-40 industrial wind turbines at a height of 650 feet each in the North Collins, Collins, Brant, Concord, and Eden areas.  With the negative impact this could have on safety and health of our communities our group quickly grew to over 1,000+ members in just two months. The Collins Wind Project would have the largest turbines in all of New York and only a few feet shorter than the largest in all of the United States!”

A fundraiser is currently running to help raise money to mount a legal defense.

11. Rotterdam

At the end of 2022, the Town of Rotterdam approved a yearlong moratorium on large-scale solar arrays, after the community had been targeted by multiple solar projects that caused backlash.

According to the Daily Gazette, the moratorium is a chance for the Town to take a step back and evaluate their options.

“Board member Joseph Mastroianni said he understands that solar energy plays a role in preserving the environment for future generations, but raised concerns about more short-term impacts that large-scale projects present for the town.

“The 12-month moratorium is going to allow us to understand particular projects as well as the general environment of this issue,” he said.”

12. Lake Ontario

Company: Apex Clean Energy
Opposing Groups: Save Ontario Shores, Inc.
Project mW: 200
Project Size: 45-70 Wind Turbines

In early 2015, Save Ontario Shores formed in opposition to a massive proposed development of wind turbines around Lake Ontario. Thanks to their tireless efforts, Apex Clean Energy withdrew their application this summer. However, SOS isn’t going anywhere; they are a plaintiff in a larger lawsuit against the state Office of Renewable Energy Siting.

13. Lake Erie

Company: Great Lakes Wind Project
Opposing Groups: Citizens Against Wind Turbines in Lake Erie (CAWTILE)

For years, environmental groups, renewable developers and liberal politicians have eyed Lake Erie as a potential place for what they believe is abundant and cheap wind energy. However, even the New York State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) no longer believed in January that such a project is feasible, mostly due to the brutally bad economics of wind power.

Leading the fight against such a project is Citizens Against Wind Turbines in Lake Erie. Despite the negative NYSERDA report, a Westchester-based State Senator is still insisting on pushing a project through.

To protect the interests of the neighboring communities, on August 19, CAWTILE partnered with legislative champions like Congressman Nick Langworthy, State Senator George Borrello, State Senator Pat Gallivan, Assemblyman David DiPietro, Assemblyman Andy Goodell and Erie County Legislator John Mills to put on a “It’s Not Over Till It’s Over” boat rally to show their opposition.

“Our Great Lakes are the lifeblood of our communities, providing recreation, clean water and economic vitality,”” Langworthy said in a statement supporting the group. “One of my first actions in Congress, introducing H.R. 426, the Lakes Before Turbines Act, will protect our environment and local economies from ill-conceived wind energy projects on these waters.”

What did we miss? Help us write part two of this article by getting in touch with us at info@nyenergyalliance.org and letting us know about your community’s fight against unfair renewable energy siting.

On April 25, 2023 the NYEA spoke at a public hearing of the Indian Point Decommissioning Board. The main topic of the night was Holtec’s plan to release water into the Hudson River as part of the Indian Point decommissioning process. As pointed out by Holtec this is already allowed by existing permits and has been done safely by previous plant operators for decades. However, “environmental” NGOs (most prominently Food and Water Watch but also Sloop Clearwater, The Sierra Club, and Riverkeeper) have jumped on this routine plan as another opportunity to attack nuclear energy. Their assertions have included:

  • Overblown concerns about the safety of the tritium in the water and the effect it could have on tourism, nature, and health 
  • Proposals of additional oversight and more expensive remediation (namely storage on site for decades) 
  • Technocratic nitpicking about how the discharge license was for an operational plant, not a closed plant (as if that changes anything about the water) 
  • Claiming it is Holtec’s corporate greed that makes them “cut corners” with this discharge plan in order to save a buck

Some even used this opportunity to continue their hypocritical attack against the Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission line, saying it would disturb the bottom of the Hudson and cause further pollution. 

The hypocritical content of these attacks reveals the anti-industrial nature of their source. The tritium has been discharged safely for years, and the radiation is much lower than what we are exposed to in our daily life or at a medical appointment. Permits can be reissued. And, as we point out in our statement, Holtec gets paid for whatever they do with the water; pour it into the river, hold it on site for decades, fire it into space, taxpayers will pay for it (it’s their whole business model). Whatever additional requirements Holtec is made to do, it will only be used as a precedent by these same groups to put further erroneous demands on future plants in the hopes of keeping them from even being built and not affect Holtec’s bottom line one bit.

Many also predictably brought up the numerous local, county, and state level representatives that have spoken out, and taken measures, against the discharge. All of these politicians are comfortable in the knowledge that new nuclear will not get built until the aforementioned NGO’s are overthrown, so get free brownie points by going against the “big bad company” with no downsides. 

Taken together, this should not be seen as a representation of the people’s will, but as a one win-win charade for everyone except the working people of New York. They are the ones left without reliable energy and without jobs, and they have to pay for the decommissioning. This whole process reveals yet again the lengths the anti-industrialists will go to achieve their policies in the name of the “environment.” The NGO’s should be ignored, the water should be discharged, and, most importantly, New York should focus on commissioning the cheap and reliable energy we all need to thrive.

Statement transcript:

Hello Indian Point DOB, NYS DPS, and fellow citizens, I am Brian Wilson with the New York Energy Alliance and thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight. I am here to comment on Holtec’s plan to discharge water from the Indian Point site into the Hudson and the general response to said plan. This process has degraded into a win-win charade for everyone except the working people of New York State.

For the quote-on-quote “environmental” NGO’s sounding the alarm and opposing this plan, this is just another chance to get their digs in against nuclear power while also trying to make it just that much harder to build another plant within the state. For Holtec, this just becomes another way to make money on the decommissioning of Indian Point. The water is going to be dealt with, and whatever ridiculous hoops they are made to jump through they are going to be paid for by you and I.

For politicians this becomes an easy photo op to go against the quote-on-quote big bad polluting corporation. They know a new nuclear plant will not be built in this state until the aforementioned obstructionist NGO’s are pushed out of power by labor and industry, so lose nothing in being against discharging the water.

The working people of NY, however, are only left with a lackluster and expensive theater performance. The decommissioning process should not be allowed to be bogged down by spotlight chasers trying to grab a megaphone. It should, instead, be executed in a reasonable and timely manner so that NY’s focus can switch from decommissioning to commissioning the cheap, plentiful, and reliable energy it needs for its industries and people to prosper.

ALBANY, N.Y. — Changing New York’s unique accounting method for greenhouse gas emissions has become an unexpected issue in state budget talks — sparking concern among environmental groups.

The proposal has support from the fossil fuel industry and would likely enable more combustion of natural gas and other fuels for longer than currently envisioned under New York’s climate law in a plan approved in December.

Gov. Kathy Hochul is supportive of the change, which was also proposed in a bill sponsored by Energy Committee Chair Sen. Kevin Parker on Monday, and it has come up in budget negotiations. Some other Senate Democrats are not supportive of the proposal.

“The 20-year methane accounting reflects the reality of the climate impact of burning natural gas,” said Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), who chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee, in a statement. “It is one of the strongest parts of the [state’s climate law]. Giving in to the polluter lobby by weakening our methane accounting will kneecap all our efforts going forward.”

New York is the one of only two jurisdictions to use a 20-year time horizon to account for the damaging effects of planet-warming gasses instead of 100 years. Maryland’s 2022 climate law also uses the 20-year metric.

This important distinction was a key provision pushed by supporters of the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act passed in 2019. It makes methane, the main component of natural gas, more potent than under the longer accounting timeline. Backers say this more accurately reflects the short-term warming impact of greenhouse gasses and the urgency around reducing emissions.

Hochul’s administration has been examining the issue of accounting for greenhouse gasses for the past few months.

The governor indicated in her State of the State address in January that she wants to link a proposed cap-and-trade policy for emissions in New York with other states. She directed state agencies to analyze the cost of using international accounting methods compared to the state’s law for cap-and-trade. California and other markets all use the 100-year timeline and incorporate the benefits of capturing emissions from biofuels before they’re burned.

“We’re getting closer to the time when these costs would begin to show up for New Yorkers,” said a person in the governor’s office who requested anonymity to candidly discuss negotiations. “New York has an outlier greenhouse gas emissions accounting methodology, and that emissions accounting methodology will drive additional costs to consumers as compared to the accounting methodology utilized by the rest of the world.”

The cost of using the CLCPA accounting metrics has not been fully analyzed, according to the governor’s office, and they’re focused on affordability as a key component in budget negotiations around cap-and-invest and climate policies.

The state’s most recent greenhouse gas inventory for 2022 shows emissions are about 170 million tons higher under the state’s accounting framework than the international standard used by the federal government and other states. That includes “upstream” emissions that occur outside New York.

“To achieve the CLCPA statewide emissions targets, New Yorkers would be financially responsible for eliminating those inflated emissions and out of state emissions,” the person in the governor’s office said.

Hochul’s top energy officials have publicly defended the estimated costs, which in the climate plan approved in December use New York’s accounting rules, as being a small fraction of the state’s economic output. They’ve repeatedly said that the net health and climate benefits outweigh those costs.

The CLCPA mandates that New York reduces emissions 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 and 85 percent by 2050, with the remainder offset to hit net zero. Under the current accounting, those reductions will require an aggressive electrification of buildings that currently rely on natural gas. There’s also little incentive under the current framework to use low-carbon fuels like renewable natural gas or biodiesel.

“At the end of the day, we just have to get to net zero, not absolute zero, and we have until 2050,” Parker said. “Part of what we have from the ecoterrorists is an attempt to move the goalposts.”

Environmentalists rally opposition

At least a dozen environmental groups have sent memos opposing Parker’s bill, S6030, since it was introduced on Monday including Sierra Club, Earthjustice, NY Renews, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Food and Water Watch and Environmental Advocates NY.

“Governor Hochul would side with the fossil fuel industry to torpedo New York’s landmark climate law, along with her own budget proposals to address the climate crisis, should she move forward with a proposal to weaken the state’s accounting for methane emissions,” said Earthjustice’s New York policy advocate Liz Moran. “The Governor and the Legislature still have the opportunity to make this a winning budget for the climate, but that is thrown to the wind if they cave to fossil fuel interests to gut New York’s climate law.”

Parker said the 20-year timeline makes achieving the state’s climate goals more expensive, as utilities pass costs along to ratepayers. He also said New York using its own accounting method ignores the need for a global solution to reduce emissions.

“It creates an easier time horizon and cost horizon for companies to use as they go into this process,” he added. “At the end of the day, something that works is better than something that’s fast.”

Proposals to give rebates to New York residents from climate funds raised under a cap on pollution would address concerns about cost for residents, said New York City Environmental Justice Alliance executive director Eddie Bautista.

“That would make sure that costs are not regressive,” he said. “The senator’s bill endangers the emissions goal that environmental justice communities have fought for for decades.”

Accessing federal money

National Grid, one of the state’s largest gas and electric utilities, and National Fuel, the largest gas-only utility, have previously pushed to change the accounting framework.

The forestry industry, the Clean Fuels Alliance that represents producers of alternative fuels and airlines are all supportive of Parker’s proposed measure. One argument they’re making is that New York needs to align its accounting with federal standards for companies to easily access incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act.

“If we don’t have this accounting we could lose billions of dollars of new investment,” said John Bartow, executive director of the Empire State Forest Products Association. “It’s more expensive to accomplish our emissions reductions using a 20 year” accounting method.

Bartow cited a report prepared by Tristan Brown, an associate professor at SUNY ESF, that seeks to calculate benefits of the state supporting use of low-carbon fuels.

These groups have also been supportive of a low-carbon fuel standard for transportation, which would incentivize displacing fossil fuels with biodiesel and other alternatives. Detractors are wary this would simply prolong the use of combustion engines that still emit co-pollutants rather than accelerate electrification.

Another change in the bill that’s drawn support from groups pushing for broader use of low-carbon fuels is requiring Department of Environmental Conservation to change the way it accounts for burning renewable natural gas produced from sources like crops or cow manure. Right now, DEC calculates those as very similar to burning fossil fuels.

“You’re severely discouraging investments in New York from low carbon fuel providers who might otherwise come to the state,” said Floyd Vergara, the director of state governmental affairs for the Clean Fuels Alliance of America. He said the group is not involved with the push to change the time horizon for greenhouse gas accounting.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan), who chairs the Environmental Conservation Committee, is not persuaded. She said federal officials have indicated that funding from the IRA will be based on individual projects, not the state’s plans.

“It clearly is the fossil fuel industry that is trying to stir up that there’s a big problem,” Glick said. “It’s a complete red herring.”

Glick said she would not support the Hochul administration’s pitch to change the accounting under the cap-and-trade proposal.

“It’s all very preliminary, but not good,” she said. “We’re not interested in doing things that erode the goals of the CLCPA. You set aggressive goals. You understand that you work as hard as you can to reach a goal, sometimes you don’t, but you don’t undermine your goal at the outset.”

Government Overreach: BPRA Degrades Home Rule


With the Build Public Renewables Act (the BPRA) going into the NYS Assembly yet again, and its anti-worker NGO coalition pushing for its final passage, it is worth revisiting its major flaws. For those unaware, the BPRA nominally would allow the New York Power Authority (NYPA), who historically built and operated nuclear, hydro, hydrocarbon, and transmission resources for the benefit of all New Yorkers, to get into the game of building and operating renewable energy projects. However, as many other articles across the political spectrum have pointed out, the bill would bar NYPA from ever building another nuclear plant ever again, force the premature closure of its modern NYC peaker plants (actually making the grid dirtier), reduce NYPA’s flexibility, is undemocratic with its empowering of unaccountable NGOs, depends on wonky means testing in an attempt to reduce energy prices, and would bar municipalities and state buildings from purchasing power from local, non-renewable, sources (unless a bunch of wonky criteria is met). Many of these problems were addressed in a much improved version of this bill included in Governor Hochul’s budget proposal. However, this is not enough for the NGOs behind this bill who are still pushing for the original bill’s passage. This shows they are more ideologically committed to their preferred energy source than providing cheap and reliable electricity for working people of this great state and the industries that fuel its economy.

It is worth going into more detail for the last issue raised above, as many of the deep dives into the BPRA have not looked closely at the municipal power procurement provision (it was a late addition to the bill). The specific language for this part of this bill, condensed down, is as follows (section 34 of the BPRA):

“…the authority shall be the sole provider of electricity to all state owned, leased, controlled, or operated buildings and … the authority shall be the sole provider of electricity to all municipal owned, leased, controlled, or operated buildings that use electricity.” (Note the only way out of this is if NYPA’s power is more expensive or if the municipality can get 100% renewable power elsewhere).

This is a nonsensical addition to the BPRA that would allow even greater overreach by NYS in pursuing its irrational energy policy. Not only have municipalities lost their constitutional right to oppose renewable projects and may be forced to subsidize renewable projects, they will now be forced to, somehow, guarantee the power they buy is renewable too. How does this make sense for the cities and towns of Syracuse, Rochester, Oswego, Ontario, Scriba, Fulton, Pulaski, Pultneyville, Lyons and many others to not get there electricity form the abundant and cheap nuclear power that is right next door; or for Downstate municipalities not to be able to have all options on the table as reliability margins grow thinner? What is more likely to happen is a shell game of renewable energy credits (RECs) where towns now have to buy pieces of paper saying their buildings are “green” while still getting their actual power from whatever grid they are on. Our courthouses, city halls, and DMV offices are not powered by paper, but by electrons, and this will just lead to further costs to overburdened municipalities.

New York State’s climate policies are hurting the working people of this state and is being pushed to pursue even more irrational ones. We do not need a gun to our head forcing us to build and buy unreliable electricity; we need cheap reliable power that treats local governments and people as a partner and not as an obstacle. If you found yourself in agreement with what was said here, this Sunday (March 26th 2-4:30 PM) at the Columbia Greene Community College Theater many speakers who are experts on this topic are gathering to talk about the wider NYS Climate Law and the damage it is doing to New Yorkers. The NYEA will be sending a representative to attend, and we hope to see you there.

On March 1, the Otsego County Board of Representatives stood up for their constituents by voting unanimously to oppose a key provision of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s executive budget. Under Hochul’s proposed change to Real Property Tax Law, local municipalities would lose the right to assess solar and wind projects at full value, in effect forcing local taxpayers to subsidize corporate development in their communities. With artificially low appraisal values, communities would be deprived of important tax revenue needed to sustain public services.

New York state energy policy has run into significant opposition in upstate New York. Although this resistance might be characterized as NIMBY behavior, much of the activism is motivated by the gradual obliteration of communities’ rights to home rule, as defined in Article IX of the state constitution. Communities are increasingly deprived of the means to protect their resources and to share in the benefits of needed development.

New York has been undermining home rule for a long time. Earlier deregulation of the power industry divided up the energy pie between private (inevitably nonlocal, out-of-state or even global) corporations and large state-run agencies (the New York Power Authority). The option of municipal ownership and control over power generation and transmission, previously established by nearly 50 New York communities, has been effectively shut down. Today large corporations, many of them foreign-owned, have moved into the upstate energy business. New York State Electric and Gas, which has long served much of central New York, is now owned by a Spanish company. The developer of a large proposed solar project in nearby Herkimer county is a French corporation.

More recently, to implement its goal of 100 percent clean, carbon-free electricity by 2040, the state in 2020 created the Office of Renewable Energy Siting, which stripped local communities of the right to evaluate and permit large renewable-energy projects (over 25 megawatts). As a result, local governments have been bypassed on the most important energy policy decisions of the day. The right of our communities to manage their own energy needs – perhaps the best long-term solution to the energy problem — has been lost, and it needs to be restored.

Without local control, clean energy needed to fight climate change will be extracted from our communities and exported elsewhere. Otsego County will become an energy colony run by distant government agencies and global corporations. Our resources will be taken without our approval and without compensation. The industrialization of our rural landscape will be a net loss to us. The profits generated will leave the community.

Solar and wind projects may well be necessary, but currently they are not an economic benefit for upstate communities. Quite the opposite: They industrialize large tracts of land and in return offer few jobs and token benefits to residents, who must bear the externalized costs of the environmental impacts on their communities.

If renewable energy is to be exported from upstate counties to other communities, the playing field needs to be leveled. That can only be done on terms acceptable to municipalities. Impacts would have to be mitigated to their satisfaction, and significant financial benefits would have to be retained locally.

Some communities would choose to accept renewable-energy projects in return for the financial benefits, if those benefits were legally guaranteed. Others would choose to forgo energy projects to protect other assets more important to them. In the end, projects would be vetted by a democratic community decision-making process. They would end up located where they are most wanted and needed, and where they would have to share their profits. The question is who decides: corporations and state agencies, or the people? If home rule is restored, the people will decide.

Adrian Kuzminski is a member of Sustainable Otsego, a nonpartisan political action committee in central New York focused on sustainable living, economic independence and home rule.

Clean hydrogen production is underway at the Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station in Oswego, New York. The facility is the first-of-its-kind in the United States to generate clean hydrogen using nuclear power. 

This nuclear milestone is part of a $14.5 million cost shared project between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Constellation to demonstrate how nuclear power plants can help lower the cost and scale-up the production of clean hydrogen.

Constellation will use the hydrogen generated on-site to help cool the power plant.

Demonstrating Clean Hydrogen Production

DOE supported the construction and installation of a low-temperature electrolysis system at the Nine Mile Point nuclear power plant that leverages the facility’s existing hydrogen storage system.

Constellation’s new Hydrogen Generation System produces hydrogen without emissions by using electricity generated at the plant to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Clean Hydrogen Generation System at Nine Mile Point.

The system started producing clean hydrogen in February to supply hydrogen for plant operations—a process that was previously dependent on trucked-in deliveries of hydrogen made from fossil fuels. 

“This accomplishment tangibly demonstrates that our nation’s existing reactor fleet can produce clean hydrogen today,” said Dr. Kathryn Huff, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy. “DOE is proud to support cost-shared projects like this to deliver affordable clean hydrogen. The investments we’re starting to make now through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act will further expand the clean hydrogen market to create new economic and environmental benefits for nuclear energy.”

“Hydrogen will be an indispensable tool in solving the climate crisis, and Nine Mile Point is going to show the world that nuclear power is the most efficient and cost-effective way to make it from a carbon-free resource,” said Joe Dominguez, president and CEO of Constellation. “In partnership with DOE and others, we see this technology creating a pathway to decarbonizing industries that remain heavily reliant on fossil fuels, while creating clean-energy jobs and strengthening domestic energy security.”

Scaling-Up Clean Hydrogen Infrastructure

Roughly 95 percent of the hydrogen produced in the United States is currently sourced from fossil fuels—opening up new market opportunities for nuclear energy.

The Hydrogen Generation System at Nine Mile Point is one of four projects supported by DOE to demonstrate clean hydrogen production at commercial nuclear power plants.

In addition to these demonstrations, DOE is investing billions through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to develop and mature clean hydrogen production in the United States to help lower emissions and create new job opportunities for American workers.

It also supports the Department’s Hydrogen Shot goal of reducing the cost of hydrogen by 80 percent to $1 per 1 kilogram in 1 decade. 

Constellation plans to monitor the performance of the new system as it considers the possible deployment of other hydrogen systems at additional sites.

A county dairy farm says it may be forced to downgrade or even close due to good farmland potentially being sold to solar project developers.

John and Laura Knight, along with Travis and Julia Olmstead, penned a letter on behalf of Mid-Knight Dairy LLC to the Chautauqua County Agricultural Farmland Protection Board. The farm is located at 3232 Fluvanna Townline Road in the town of Ellicott.

In their letter, they said they stand to lose well-drained, valuable ground that borders their farm that they’ve rented for 35 years. The landowners are apparently looking to lease the property for a solar farm.

“There is no land that even comes close to the caliper of ground that we would lose to a potential project,” they wrote.

The authors said they financially cannot compete with this type of development.

“We cannot place the blame entirely on our neighbor. Who would not jump at the opportunity to receive the amount of money that solar companies can pay? Their offer far exceeds anything in rent or even if we were to make an offer to buy the land ourselves,” they wrote.

Mid-Knight Dairy members added that should this land no longer be available, their costs to farm are going to go up and they’re going to be using more gas and oil. “If we lose this land we will have to pick up more land miles away.

We will spend far more money on fuel, tractor tires and labor. Again, more fossil fuel used all in the name of ‘clean energy,’” they wrote

And if they cannot find alternative land, other drastic measures may be taken. “If we cannot find suitable land we may be forced to sell cows or the farm due to a shortage of forages to feed our animals. A loss of a local farm like ours means more food will need to be transported from further away,” they wrote.

The dairy farm started in 1836 and has grown from 30 to 150 cows. “Good, close farmland is a crucial part of our family business. For many farms like ours losing prime cropland can be catastrophic,” they wrote.

Representatives with Mid-Knight Dairy said politicians must look at the big picture.

“We are not against renewable energy but we think that placing solar farms on prime farmland is shortsighted. How will we feed the rising human population if we destroy good farmland? We must protect our most valuable resource: land used for food production. We can live without many things in life, food is NOT one of them,” they wrote.

Steve Kimball, chairman of the county Agricultural Farmland Protection Board forwarded their letter to the county legislature. He said this is not the first time their board has received such comments.

“The potential negative effects of solar projects will be significantly felt by farmers as productive farmland is converted from agricultural uses,” he said.