New York elected officials, renewable energy advocates and community members call on Cuomo & PSC to finally release a plan for a managed, equitable and affordable transition from fracked gas to renewable heating.
For Immediate Release
New York – Elected officials from across New York joined almost 200 community members and renewable energy advocates for a rally and press conference to call on Governor Cuomo and the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) to stop harmful delays in a statewide gas planning proceeding that is supposed to align New York’s gas system with New York’s climate laws and goals.
The Cuomo-appointed PSC oversees the Department of Public Service (DPS) which was originally ordered to release a White Paper to guide the proceeding in August of 2020. The DPS has since requested 7 extensions, all approved by the PSC, stalling the critical proceeding for almost 6 months. The next due date for their report is February 12, 2021 and the message from the press conference and rally was clear:
“Our communities and our climate can’t wait any longer,” said Lee Ziesche, an organizer with Sane Energy Project, a member of the Renewable Heat Now campaign. “In the six months that the PSC and Cuomo have kicked the can down the road, National Grid has spent tens of millions of dollars building contested fracked gas infrastructure that they now expect to raise our monthly bills for. At this pace, that infrastructure will go into service and emit greenhouse gases and pollution before we hear a word from New York State. We need a plan to get off fracked gas now.”
The Renewable Heat Now campaign, along with 190 elected officials and 130 organizations from across the state, have filed comments within the proceeding outlining what people and communities need in order to move the state off fracked gas in an orderly and equitable way and ensure every household has access to affordable renewable heat and renewable energy.
Organizers of the rally and press conference say that as the state suffers from a convergence of crises, these delays are impacting environmental justice communities hardest.
“Every household should have access to affordable renewable energy and heat,” said Peekskill City Councilor Vanessa Agudelo. “Every day we waste is another day we put communities like mine in jeopardy, is another day that we tell communities like mine that our waterways, our lungs, and our quality of life do not matter. Our state government has the opportunity to ensure that communities that have been hit the hardest by the fossil fuel industry are not being left behind and become the centers of green investment. So my message to Governor Cuomo and the Public Service Commission is: release the white paper, stop delaying, and start acting.”
“Government officials are far from oblivious about what is going on,” said Noel Sanchez with the Brownsville Residents Green Committee, a community group formed to stop National Grid’s North Brooklyn Pipeline. “Even the mayor has denounced the pipeline, yet my friends had to put their bodies on the line to protect our community from this racist pipeline. Maybe for Cuomo these delays don’t mean much, but my neighbors and I cannot afford to pay higher bills for a fracked gas pipeline that soon will become a stranded asset. The current energy system is killing us and every delay only makes this just transition that we truly deserve harder to reach.”
Many of the elected officials at the press conference represent regions that have faced chaotic utility moratoria and/or widely-opposed new fossil fuel infrastructure. They said that local municipalities and cities need planning resources to help their local residents and businesses avoid costly retrofits, stranded assets, and crises due to gas moratoria.
“Municipalities can prosper and continue to grow while offramping from dependency on natural gas and Lansing has proved this,” said Assemblymember Anna Kelles. “The Town of Lansing has endured a gas moratorium for the past six years yet has successfully continued to grow and meet the needs of the community. The gas moratorium in Lansing has not stopped development, it has inspired innovation. Meeting the CLCPA requires an aggressive plan. The planet has waited long enough for us to become the stewards that it deserves.”
“About two years ago, ConEd announced a moratorium on gas hookups in new construction, but now talk of ConEdison’s moratorium on gas hookups in new construction has quieted because science has spoken and courage has spoken,” said Westchester County Legislator Catherine Parker. “Now ConEd partners with geothermal companies and has made a tremendous effort to let homeowners know of this option. There is more work to do, and the Public Service Commission is poised to help our utility companies plan for a future that lines up with our climate goals. So I say to the PSC, be courageous. Science is on our side.”
Calls to listen to climate science and state climate law were echoed throughout the rally.
“In order for us to meet our climate mandates, we need to be actively developing a plan that is equitable, affordable, and transparent,” said Senior Associate Attorney with Earthjustice Meagan Burton. “Unfortunately very little progress has been made. The silence by the Commission and lack of a clear plan has allowed utilities to continue to spend our money on projects we oppose, it enables the utilities to continue to dig and put unnecessary pipes in the ground, and it also allows utilities to promote gas through their narrative. This cannot continue.”
“We can’t pretend we are making progress on combating climate change if we continue to build out fossil fuel infrastructure that will lock in emissions for years to come. We don’t have time to move backwards — or invest in the fossil fuel infrastructure of yesterday,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “ I urge the PSC to release a draft proposal on gas planning which can allow our state to make informed and equitable decisions about our energy future.”
The Renewable Heat Now letter has been signed by a wide range of elected officials, from smaller, more rural municipalities to elected officials representing the largest user of energy in the state, New York City.
“If Exxon is no longer able to viably invest in fossil fuel infrastructure, then why is New York interested in doing so?” said Manlius Town Board Member Katelyn Kriesel. “My constituents have been stepping up to do the work to build sustainability, but there is only so much we can do and so many policies we can pass. Until we have real leadership from the PSC carving out what needs to be done by the gas companies, we are going to be spinning our wheels. So I’m calling on the PSC to release the white paper and integrate the regulations we need to see to get off fossil fuels and move to a sustainable future.”
“Our communities need the Public Service Commission to provide guidance and resources to municipalities for responsible development as well as require steps to ensure affordability and resilience of the electric grid,” said Brighton Town Boardmember Robin Wilt. “We need to create funding mechanisms that can work with local government around building codes and financing that will support electrification of our communities so we can fully leverage the benefits of clean energy sources. From an equity and ethics perspective, I’m here to demand that funding be provided to all communities so they can transition themselves off fossil fuels.”