Statement of Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance on Governor Cuomo, NYS Assembly and State Senate's agreement on a new Power Plant Siting Law (Article X)
New York, NY (June 23, 2011) - The NYS Assembly and State Senate yesterday voted on a package of energy bills called the Power NY Act (A.8510-Cahill/S.5844-Maziarz) . The package includes a new power plant siting law - known as Article X - which expired in 2002.
"The New York City Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC-EJA) applauds the Assembly, Governor and Senate on a package of energy bills with unprecedented resonance for environmental justice communities statewide. The Article X bill will afford the strongest protections for environmentally overburdened communities of color by mandating - for the first time - cumulative impact analyses that measure a community's total environmental load before siting a power plant. More importantly, if a community is found to be disproportionately burdened, power plant applicants will have to commit to local, verifiable offsets of any projected pollution emissions before the power plant can be sited, thereby easing the burden on our most vulnerable communities," said Eddie Bautista, NYC-EJA Executive Director. "NYC-EJA is grateful to our partners NY Lawyers for the Public Interest, NYPIRG, Environmental Advocates of NY, and our members UPROSE and Youth Ministries for Peace Justice, for their committed advocacy."
The new Article X bill represents significant improvements on the current power plant siting system (which currently falls under SEQRA) and the previous Article X bill. For the first time:
- Power plant applicants will have to conduct cumulative impact analyses - not just environmental analyses - where they will have to measure their plants' impacts in the context of a community's overall, cumulative environmental burdens;
- Furthermore, the DEC will have to promulgate regulations establishing a "disproportionate burdens analysis" before power plant applications can be approved by the State Siting Board - which represents the first time that disproportionate burdens analyses are mandated by statute;
- If a community is shown to be disproportionately environmentally over-burdened, then power plant applicants will have commit to verifiable, local offsets of any pollution created by the power plant "to the maximium extent practicable" - or risk having their applications denied. This provision can effectively amount to no net increases to local pollution when power plants are proposed for EJ communities; it also eliminates the farcical offset programs of the past, when EJ communities would receive power plant pollution, while "offsets" would be provided in far-off, privileged neighborhoods.
- Communities will have access to intervenor funds to hire experts - and lawyers - in the pre-application & application stages
- Boro presidents and community boards will be able to nominate representatives to the Siting Boards
- The MW threshold trigger for power plants to be considered for Article X review has been lowered from 80 to 25 MW
Coupled with the new Article X in Power NY was the On-Bill Recovery bill, which includes provisions to better implement the Green Jobs-Green New York law that was passed in 2009, and was also supported by NYC-EJA. "The On-Bill Recovery bill represents another milestone - since launching NYC's first green jobs program for people of color in 1996, NYC-EJA has been committed to the expansion of green jobs as the most economically and environmentally sustainable strategy to reinvest in our workers and communities," continued Bautista. "We applaud our colleagues at the Center for Working Families for their leadership and staying the course on green jobs - as well as their support of our Article X efforts."
20 years of fighting for cleaner and more just communities - one block at a time,
The NYC Environmental Justice Alliance