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November 15, 2021

Advocates Oppose Petition to Subsidize Fossil Fuels & Undermine Definition of ‘Zero-Emission’

Environmental and climate justice organizations urge PSC to protect the integrity of the CLCPA

Contacts

Adil Trehan, Sierra Club, adil.trehan@sierraclub.org, (202) 630-7275

New York, NY

Today 25 environmental and environmental justice groups filed a response pushing back against a petition by the Independent Power Producers of New York (IPPNY) that seeks to classify fossil gas-fired power plants and hydrogen combustion as zero-emissions power sources under the state’s Clean Energy Standard.

Yet, as demonstrated in these comments, the Petition is inconsistent with both the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act's (CLCPA) mandates, the recommendations from the Power Generation Advisory Panel, and Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) recent air permitting decisions. Relying on a false sense of urgency, the Petition urges the Commission to rush to adopt a deeply flawed definition of “zero emissions” — to refer to any resource that does not increase net emissions — that would result in electric customers subsidizing additional fossil fuel generation in tension with the mandates of CLCPA based on misplaced claims of climate mitigation.

The petition aims to have New York taxpayers subsidize existing fossil-fuel power plants, which would continue to produce air pollution that exacerbates climate change and disproportionately harms the health of disadvantaged communities.

“New York State is blessed with an abundant and still largely untapped renewable energy potential, including solar, land-based and offshore wind resources, which we can use to meet the state's aggressive climate and energy targets,” said Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island. “It would be ironic to now allow a return to fuel combustion technologies to avert the climate crisis which has in large part resulted from burning fuel.”

“Since Superstorm Sandy, New Yorkers — particularly our Black and Brown residents — have suffered disproportionately from climate change and severe weather impacts. We have also worked hard to reduce our climate vulnerabilities, including passing the nation’s most ambitious climate law, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. The last thing New Yorkers want or need is a cynical attempt to green-wash unproven and polluting technologies that keep us dependent on fossil fuel infrastructure and natural gas. The Public Service Commission (PSC) must reject this IPPNY application and keep us moving forward to the authentic clean energy future envisioned by the CLCPA,” said Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.

“At a time when the climate crisis is intensifying, literally killing New Yorkers in their own homes, while exposing Indigenous, Black, Brown and poor Asian and poor white communities to myriad calamities, it’s simply irresponsible and downright repugnant for Big Oil acolytes to place fossil fuel profits over people-centered climate justice,” offered Anthony Karefa Rogers-Wright, director of Environmental Justice for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “PSC has no choice but to reject a last ditch and desperate effort by IPPNY to utilize Orwellian doublespeak in a futile effort to circumvent the mandates of the landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. IPPNY is too often on the wrong side of the people, now they are on the wrong side of the law and this simply cannot be permitted — PSC must exercise immediate interdiction and dismiss IPPNY’s baseless check in the dark as they attempt to gamble our future away.”

“Incentivizing the burning of fossil fuels, as IPPNY's petition seeks, will harm the climate and threaten public health, particularly in environmental justice communities that often bear the brunt of fossil fuel infrastructure. There is simply no basis to pretend that fossil fuel resources can be zero emissions and New York State, under the CLCPA, cannot support any incentives to that effect,” said Mandy DeRoche, deputy managing attorney in the coal program at Earthjustice.

“The petition advances a deeply flawed definition of ‘zero emissions,’ and prematurely seeks ratepayer support for non-renewable energy generation. Sierra Club urges the Public Service Commission to uphold the CLCPA and follow the recommendations laid out by the Power Generation Advisory Panel, such as accelerating the deployment of battery energy storage and fostering R & D for long-duration storage,” said Allison Considine, NY campaign representative at the Sierra Club.

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