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.