NY Green lights up clean energy projects, but concerns linger
Some groups have expressed concerns about the impact a project will have on Indigenous communities, and some want assurances that the state’s shift to clean energy will result in the shutdown of fossil fuel power plants in the most vulnerable areas of the city.
Two projects aimed at boosting renewable energy in New York and putting the state on track to advance its climate initiative were given the green light Thursday afternoon following a vote by the Public Service Commission from New York. Together, they will bring enough solar, wind and hydroelectric power to cut the state’s dependence on fossil fuels in half, via two electric highways in Delaware County and Canada, according to the governor’s office.
The companies involved promise green jobs and investments in aquatic and environmental justice projects. But not everyone celebrates. Some groups have expressed concerns about the impact a project will have on Indigenous communities, and some want assurances that the state’s shift to clean energy will result in the shutdown of fossil fuel power plants in the most vulnerable areas of the city.
Clean Path New York, a joint project of the New York Power Authority, EnergyRe and Invenergy, promises to deliver more than 7.5 million megawatt hours of solar and wind energy to the city.
It will then go through a permitting process, which will assess the environmental impacts of the location, design, construction and operation, according to a company executive. If permits are approved, Clean Path NY will begin operations in 2027.
The Champlain Hudson Power Express project, which was also approved this week, will bring 1,250 megawatts of hydroelectricity from Quebec, Canada. This project, by Hydro-Quebec and transmission developers owned by Blackstone, has already received all necessary permits, including a certificate of environmental compatibility and public utility, according to a company spokesperson. It will begin construction this year and is expected to be operational by 2025.
Combined, the projects are estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of taking 1 million cars off the road, according to the state.
“New York continues to lead the country with innovative green energy initiatives and has been an example to the rest of the world on how to deal with the perils of climate change, the existential threat of our time,” said Governor Kathy Hochul in a press release. announcing the approval of the projects, which followed an extensive request for proposals process and public comment period.
The projects have generally won support from environmental and labor groups, who have praised their potential to reduce New York’s dependence on fossil fuels in line with goals set by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, while creating green union jobs.
The groups behind the plans have also pledged to fund programs that benefit communities hardest hit by the effects of climate change. Clean Path NY said it would invest $70 million in environmental justice programs, and the Champlain Hudson Power Express Project created a $117 million trust fund to be administered by the Hudson River Foundation over three decades for environmental and advocacy projects related to aquatic health.
But others dispute certain elements of the Champlain Hudson project, including the environmental impact it may have on Indigenous lands due to dams associated with hydroelectricity.
“Virtually every mega-dam in what is now known as Canada is within 100 kilometers of an Indigenous community,” said Amy Norman, an Inuk land protector from Labrador at a meeting to protest against the project before the vote. “So no matter where this hydroelectricity comes from, it has a disproportionate impact on indigenous peoples, it harms our ways of life, it harms our cultures.
READ MORE: New York’s hydroelectric plan raises concerns about its impact on waterways
Last spring, five First Nations leaders write a letter to former Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan stating his opposition to the project. Riverkeeper has also publicly opposed the plan, although it has previously expressed support.
“Our opposition to the CHPE project has grown stronger as the impacts of Canadian dams on environmental justice become increasingly apparent,” said Richard Webster, Chief Legal Officer of Riverkeeper.
The Champlain Hudson team acknowledges that its facilities are “near or on land subject to Indigenous land claims”, but claims to have signed agreements with Indigenous communities and nations promising compensation, sources of revenue and jobs.
“HQ and TDI have a strong commitment to equity and social justice in the development of the CHPE project, and this extends to the only First Nations community impacted by the Quebec portion of the transmission line, the Mohawk community of Kahnawà:ke,” Gary Sutherland of Hydro-Quebec said in a statement to City Limits.
A Riverkeeper representative told City Limits the promises amounted to “a bribe, basically”.
Asked about the environmental impact of the projects, a NYSERDA representative said that “environmental issues will certainly be addressed during the permitting and construction phase for both projects to ensure maximum efficiency and minimum disruption to the project. and the environment”.
The Clean Path project has generally won support from Riverkeeper and other environmental groups, after the company responded last summer to concerns over the proposed location of a converter station. But some community organizers have called on the New York Power Authority, one of the project’s partners, to also commit to shutting down its peak power plants, which run on fractured gas and are big emitters of pollution.
A representative for the state-owned company told City Limits it was working with the PEAK Coalition, a group of five environmental justice organizations, to conduct a study on how factories can be shut down without service interruptions.
READ MORE: Bronx residents demand closure of polluting ‘peak factories’ as state ramps up renewable energy
“The New York Power Authority expects to share promising results from its NYPA Small Clean Power Plant Adaptation Study, prepared in consultation with the PEAK Coalition, in the near future,” a company representative said in a statement on Friday. . “NYPA is committed to transitioning its state-of-the-art city factories to low- or zero-carbon technologies.”
Last month, South Bronx Unite and elected officials held a rally outside two state-of-the-art factories in the Bronx, which have been operating since 2001, demanding that NYPA be more transparent about its progress in closing the factories.
“21 years ago, we told the South Bronx that [placing] these fossil fuel power plants in asthma alley would be temporary and would not need a full environmental assessment,” Mychal Johnson, co-founder of South Bronx Unite, said in a statement last month. “Enough is enough.”
Liz Donovan is a member of the Report for American body.