Magnarelli: Comprehensive Energy Plan Makes

June 8, 2006

The Assembly has passed a package of energy bills that will make New York a more modern, efficient and healthier state. The bills also help working families and seniors deal with high energy costs.

The newly reformed Article X legislation that is included in our comprehensive plan gives the public a more powerful voice in the siting of power plants, holds state power authorities accountable for their actions, and modernizes power generation facilities (A.10371-C).

New York is tackling the issues necessary to lead the way in producing clean, reliable and affordable energy, and we recognize the need for more oversight of state power authorities and more protections for consumers.

More scrutiny of power plants and increased public participation

Using the proceeds from application fees for electric generating facilities, the new Article X creates an “intervenor” account – managed by the state Comptroller and the state Commissioner of Taxation and Finance. This removes the barriers that prevent local views from being heard and rectifies the balance between developers and affected communities.

This legislation helps the state meet the increasing demand for clean, reliable and affordable energy and makes New York more attractive to high-tech industries and good-paying jobs. The public should be given the opportunity to help decide where these power plants go, and this legislation allows members of the community to express their opinions.

Local community representation on power plant siting boards would also be enhanced by the legislation, since appointees will be named by locally elected officials who are in touch with the community – not by the governor.

Crafting a viable plan for a healthy future

Another provision calls for the modernization of the state’s power system by requiring officials to seek out inexpensive, alternative sources of energy. Power generators must devise their security plans in consultation with the state Emergency Management Office.

Since the health and safety of those who live and work in our state should never be overlooked, the reformed Article X legislation significantly reduces the unhealthy emissions of greenhouse gases and air and water pollutants by major electric generating facilities. With these environmental reforms, New York will be healthier and attract high-tech industries that bring better jobs.

Helping working families and seniors deal with high energy costs

Along with the Article X legislation, the Assembly passed legislation that brings some much-needed relief to working families and seniors across New York State that are struggling to afford rising energy costs. This legislation:

  • develops a program modeled after the low-income Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) to help low-income households, people with disabilities and seniors meet their home cooling needs and protect them from dangerous health risks due to extreme summer heat (A.6794);
  • requires the Power Authority of the State of New York to give financial assistance to provide energy-saving refrigerators for tenants in multiple dwellings, which will significantly reduce electricity demand as well as high electricity bills (A.4052-A);
  • allows public schools and libraries to participate in net energy metering for solar electric generating systems to encourage the use of renewable energy and reduce the high cost of energy (A.7979); and
  • allows rural electric cooperatives to provide power source choice to additional customers through a mutual agreement between the cooperative and the utility company or the Public Service Commission – creating a more equitable playing field for investor-owned and municipal utilities (A.650).

Protecting New York consumers

The Assembly’s energy package also protects consumers from unfair business practices and other violations, safeguarding the public’s health and cutting out energy profiteering by:

  • prohibiting an energy company from transferring a customer’s account from one company to another or change its terms and conditions without the customer’s consent, a practice known as “slamming” (A.7428);
  • requiring any gas or electricity company that offers residential service to file its prices and terms with the Public Service Commission so that customers can make informed energy decisions (A.7426); and
  • requiring energy service providers to hold customers’ prepayments in a form that will allow the prepayments to be returned in the event that the company fails to fulfill its contract (A.7427).

The 2003 blackout taught us that the power grid is susceptible to disruptions. Additional steps have been taken to ensure the safety of New Yorkers in the event of a mass power outage. The Assembly passed a bill to create facilities of refuge throughout the state where New Yorkers can seek refuge with heat and electricity during emergencies (A.5812). The Assembly also passed legislation requiring gas or electric corporations to prepare emergency response plans for service interruptions – minimizing danger and damage to customers and other residents in the area (A.4107).

These measures are the first steps in providing New York with a sound energy plan for the future. New York can be a model for clean, modern energy policies and be a safer place to live and work.