July 22, 1999
Council joins coalition seeking to expedite power-plant siting
The Business Council has joined a new coalition of utilities, construction firms and energy companies that is urging lawmakers to clarify how proposed power plant sites will be approved or rejected by the state.
The GAINS Coalition sent a memo to the legislative leaders July 21 urging them to close a "jurisdictional gap" in a 1992 state law that was designed to facilitate the siting of such plants. GAINS is an acronym for Going After Investments in New Siting.
"It is critically important that lawmakers address this issue quickly, preferably in the current legislative session," said Kevin Lanahan, The Council's legislative analyst specializing in energy issues.
The 1992 law is designed to create "one-stop shopping" for entities seeking state approval for new power plants, Lanahan said.
That law created a siting board with representatives of all state agencies with interests in plant sitings, including the departments of Health and Environmental Conservation, the Public Service Commission, and Empire State Development.
The law allows the siting board to review applications by companies seeking to build new, more efficient power plants in New York.
However, it was discovered recently that the siting board may not have the power to issue required permits because the state had failed to petition the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for that authority.
No new major power plants have been built in New York in more than five years despite increasing records in peak demand. Significant growth in new demand for electricity is expected in the next few years, Lanahan said.
More than 12 energy companies have proposals to build and repower electricity generating facilities, but their petitions for siting approval are stalled pending a legislative solution to the jurisdictional question, he added.
The GAINS coalition is urging lawmakers to address the oversight before the end of the legislative session. One bill that would clarify the siting law, Lanahan said, is S.6072, which is sponsored by Senator James Wright. The bill does not yet have an Assembly sponsor.
"The window of opportunity for siting the 12 proposed power plants in New York is now," the coalition's memo to the leaders said. "Companies have the option of building in neighboring states like Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Jersey, which have already streamlined their power-plant siting processes."
The issue has implications both for economic development and the reputation of the state's business climate, Lanahan noted.
"The investment community is watching this process carefully, as are economic development specialists around the country," he said. "If we don't solve the jurisdiction problem soon, we will lose not only these projects and direct economic spinoffs, but also some luster as a place to do business. That should be a key consideration."