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Environmental groups knock handling of statewide energy plan

First hearing Tuesday in Albany

Tuesday, February 18, 2014
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— Environmentalist groups are calling on the state to make it easier for the general public to review and comment on the new statewide energy plan released last month.

The first of several public hearings on the new plan is taking place at 10 a.m. today at the Albany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at 255 Fuller Road in Albany.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority announced the draft State Energy Plan is open for public comment but the Sierra Club, NYPIRG and dozens of others contend there are various obstacles in the way of what they consider true public participation.

Citizens’ Environmental Coalition, Food & Water Watch, Frack Action, New York Environmental Law and Justice Project and roughly 50 others signed onto a letter Friday calling on NYSERDA to boost public participation.

Later that same day, NYSERDA announced a public comment period extension through the end of April.

Two other reports, the Greenhouse Gas Inventory and the Draft Energy Efficiency and Renewable Resource Potential, contain essential data needed to understand the state’s situation.

And neither of those are available to the public yet, said John Armstrong, a spokesman at the anti-hydrofracturing group Frack Action.

Frack Action and the others are calling for these documents to be completed and made available so the public can get a full picture.

Armstrong said members of the public are growing more aware, and interested, in state-level energy decisions.

“More and more New Yorkers are seeing the importance and relevance of the state’s energy choices,” Armstrong said.

Another request by the groups is to move some of the public hearings to evenings because many people work during the daylight hours and daytime public hearings shut them out.

The draft plan includes a variety of recommendations and ideas on how to support new energy technologies with a focus on an “innovative clean energy economy” in the state.

The plan’s purpose, according to NYSERDA’s announcement, is to “put new York on track to contribute to long-range global emissions reductions that reduce the impact of climate change.”

Though aimed at goals environmentalists consider important for New York state, the plan reads like one large vision statement with few specific details.

Armstrong said environmental groups are asking for more of a blueprint outlining specific steps beyond general visions that the plan is filled with.

The goal to make power cheaper, for example, relies on “initiatives” expected to boost demand for energy efficiency projects.

The plan describes getting to that point as requiring “mobilization of capital, supply and services sector readiness and capacity, increased consumer awareness, improved ease and simplicity of participating in programs, better availability of reliable and meaningful data, improvement of building codes and investments in state facilities.”

Armstrong, whose organization is fighting against implementation of hydrofracturing in New York, said one big goal for Frack Action is getting more commitment from the state to reduce the use of fossil fuels that can foul air and water.

“New Yorkers are also increasingly concerned about the quality of their air and water,” he said.

Recent severe weather events are also guiding more thought toward the impact that energy-use decisions have on climate change, he said.

People interested in reviewing the draft NYS Energy Plan can find it online at http://energyplan.ny.gov/. The webpage includes a means by which members of the public can submit written comment on the plan.

After today’s hearing in Albany, other sessions are scheduled for New York City, Buffalo, Long Island and Syracuse.

 
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