FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jessica Azulay, (315) 480-1515
Groups Call for Public Inclusion in Energy Reform Effort in New York State
New York, NY – Today, while the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) held a technical conference regarding major proposed changes to New York’s energy policy, organizations across New York called on the agency to quickly provide avenues for better public input and participation in these proceedings.
The Public Service Commission’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) process represents a major shift in the way New York approaches energy policy. The PSC intends to transform our current energy system to one that encourages and accelerates the deployment and penetration of energy efficiency measures and distributed renewables, storage and microgrids.
The REV proceeding offers an opportunity to drive an innovative and inclusive 21st century approach to reforming New York State’s energy system that builds on community participation, advances in technology, and views residents not just as consumers but as active participants and potential producers. Yet, the PSC process falls short of achieving this goal.
Across New York State, environmental advocates, public interest organizations and community groups welcome the idea of building a cutting edge, resilient, smart and distributed power system to replace one of the world’s oldest and antiquated energy systems. But, they also point out that the PSC process for stakeholders is extraordinarily complex and difficult to participate in, and thus, is dominated by for-profit utilities and other well-resourced companies and organizations. To date, most New York residents have not had meaningful opportunity to engage in this transformative process, including at today’s technical conference.
“How can we build a new energy vision in New York, when the major and engaged stakeholders resemble the old-school centralized power players that have relied heavily on fossil fuels and antiquated energy systems?” asked Betta Broad, Energy & Climate Program Manager at Catskill Mountainkeeper, “Our incumbent utilities may play an important role in moving New York’s energy future forward. But they cannot, and should not, be dominating that role.”
In comments filed by residents of Buffalo, New York organized by PUSH Buffalo, one resident said, “REV will have a huge impact on who has control of renewable energy – the public needs to know more about this. We cannot let these important decisions being made by a select few when they impact a much broader base.”
In a letter submitted on October 24th 2014 to the PSC, 57 organizations and elected officials called on the agency to slow the process down, engage in meaningful public education around REV and make itself available to answer questions and hear comments from communities all over the state.
“If REV is conducted with New York’s residents at the center of attention, we can better curb the climate crisis, prevent health and safety threats posed by slipshod and dirty energy development in our communities, and achieve electricity affordability for all New Yorkers to live comfortably and work productively,” states the letter.
PSC staff immediately responded to the groups’ letter by inviting them to discuss the concerns and recommendations further. Today, the groups are calling on the PSC to take more meaningful action to slow down the process and open up public participation in the proceeding.
“We are pleased to be invited to discuss these very important issues, many of which have been pointed out for months by concerned organizations attempting to participate in REV,” said Jessica Azulay, Program Director for Alliance for a Green Economy. “We hope the Commission will immediately open this process up so that those New Yorkers who are most vulnerable to changes in energy policy and those who are already attempting to build a renewable, efficient, affordable and distributed energy system in their own communities will be included in the critical decisions being made about New York’s energy future.”
The groups have called on the PSC to adopt the following goals to ensure that this process is done with the right intentionality and public participation that it deserves:
- The REV proceeding itself should be conducted over a longer time period and comment deadlines should be extended by at least 90 days.
- The Commission should proactively seek input from New York residents, particularly constituencies that are underrepresented in the proceedings.
- Proposals and orders should be written in plain, simplified language, with a minimal use of technical terms, acronyms and in multiple language learning formats.
- Free, accessible, open and well publicized information sessions and public hearings should be held across the state at accessible locations and accessible times, and should prioritize communities that are on the frontlines of climate change and environmental injustice.
- A full schedule for the various Tracks, staff proposals, Commission orders, comment deadlines, and public input opportunities for the REV proceeding should be published and continuously updated in a prominent place on the Public Service Commission website.
- Intervener funds for research and the development of alternative proposals should be made available to Parties to the proceedings.
The groups state that their call for energy democracy, environmental sustainability, affordability, consumer protection, and the inclusion of all of New York’s diverse communities in REV is urgent. Many New Yorkers are unable to afford their energy bills, global climate change already threatens New York City and Upstate regions, fossil fuel-related air and water pollution plagues multiple communities and most New Yorkers lack the power to choose more sustainable and affordable energy options.
“A public process is necessary to include New York residents’ voices, attend to community needs, and ensure that the 21st century energy future of New York is equitable for all communities,” said Anthony Giancatarino, Director of Policy and Strategy at the Center for Social Inclusion. “What we are asking for is energy democracy, and the power to address these concerns and gain community control and oversight over how New York moves forward on these important policy goals.”
About the Working Group:
Working Group members include the Alliance for a Green Economy, the Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Center for Social Inclusion, Center for Working Families, the Solutions Project, Syracuse United Neighborhoods, Pratt Center for Community Development and PUSH Buffalo.