NYS Seal For Immediate Release:
January 26, 2004

Assembly to Consider Sweeping Changes in Power Plant Siting Rules

Legislation Aimed at Facilitating Local Input and Scrutinizing Impact on Communities

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Energy Committee Chair Paul Tonko announced expected action today on legislation that would institute sweeping changes in the siting process for major electric generating facilities in New York State designed to provide more opportunity for local input and to better gauge the impact of facilities on communities - without lengthening the existing application review period.

Citing the urgency to address the state's energy needs, Silver and Tonko called on the New York State Senate to pass a power plant siting proposal and to convene a joint conference committee to resolve differences in the two proposals.

The bill (A.6248-B) sets forth changes in the reauthorization of Article X of the Public Service Law that governs siting of such facilities, as well as Article Six of the Energy Law that addresses energy planning. The Assembly purpose is to focus the power plant siting process more carefully on measuring and monitoring power plant emissions.

"Meeting New York's needs for electric power is essential to the economic well-being of our state and its residents, and so is maintaining the livability and desirability of our communities," Silver said. "These changes would make the Article X process work more effectively while at the same time ensuring that the voices of affected residents are heard."

"We are proposing sensible modifications to Article X that would provide additional protections for health and shift some burdens from the applicants to the state agencies, where they belong," said Tonko (D-Amsterdam), sponsor of the legislation. "These changes would improve the process without lengthening the current application review time line."

According to Silver and Tonko, the Assembly held a series of hearings on power plant siting that uncovered attempts to circumvent the provisions of the law. "This legislation redresses the imbalance between the developer and the local community," said Tonko.

The legislation would facilitate local input and scrutinize the impact of a power plant siting on surrounding communities by:

  • Protecting the health of families in the local community by requiring analyses - conducted primarily by state agencies - of health impacts, the cumulative impacts of emissions in the affected area and environmental justice issues relating to the concentration of plants` in minority neighborhoods, all of which would be taken into account by the siting board in making its decision.

  • Improving local community representation by requiring that the ad hoc or local community appointees to the siting board be based on nominations from locally-elected officials rather than chosen by the governor, as under current law.
  • Strengthening the community outreach process by requiring the use of multiple languages as appropriate, as well as the use of community newspapers.

Calling attention to additional public health protection provisions of the bill, Silver and Tonko noted the bill lowers the current threshold used to measure conditions that trigger provisions of the bill. The legislation reduces the size of the power plant for which the Article X process applies from 80 to 30 megawatts and would require totaling the cumulative impact of counting multiple plants located within the same community separately towards this threshold.

Other provisions of the bill would extend the law for four years and include the following modifications to Article X:

  • Increase the amount of intervenor funding from a maximum of $400,000 to $500,000, making 25 percent of the funding available in the pre-application process, compared to none under current law, and making legal fees eligible for funding.
  • Remove some of the burden for performing analyses in the siting review proceeding from the applicant by requiring them to be performed by state agencies.
  • Include among the analyses by the state departments of health and environmental conservation an examination of cumulative impacts of emissions from sources in the area, as well as potential health effects and an environmental justice analysis.
  • Require a detailed security plan, most of which would be confidential.

Silver and Tonko also highlighted the fact the measure addresses many of the recommendations called for in a report recently issued by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Energy Policy Task Force.

"This comprehensive power plant siting legislation strikes a balance between the economic and infrastructure needs of the state and the environmental and local concerns that must be considered," said Silver. I applaud Assemblyman Tonko for his valuable leadership in crafting this critical legislation and hope that this important issue can be resolved quickly."