State adopts new regulations to speed up renewable energy projects

Posted 5 March 2021 at 9:38 am

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

File photo by Tom Rivers: This photo from Oct. 14, 2015 shows some of the 400-foot-high turbines in Sheldon, Wyoming County.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that new regulations have been adopted to dramatically accelerate the siting and construction of major renewable energy facilities across New York State.

Projects advanced under the new regulations, which are part of the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act, will help the state combat climate change and jumpstart its economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. The Act and its implementing regulations will also drive progress toward the Governor’s nation-leading clean energy and climate goals – including the directive to obtain 70 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030 – as required under the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

“We’re working against the clock to protect New York State from the effects of climate change, and cutting red tape so that renewable energy sources can be built and distributed more easily is part of that effort,” Cuomo said. “These new regulations will dramatically reduce the time it takes for government to approve transformative renewable projects, helping us save the environment and fostering new jobs and investment to bring our economy back from Covid-19. New York has long been a national leader on the climate change front, and this is next in a series of concrete steps our state has taken to protect the planet.”

As part of the Act, New York State created the nation’s first Office of Renewable Energy Siting to improve and streamline the process for environmentally-responsible and cost-effective siting of large-scale renewable energy projects across New York while delivering significant benefits to local communities. The Act consolidates the environmental review and permitting of major renewable energy facilities larger than 25 megawatts in New York State and provides a single forum in which ORES will serve as a one-stop-shop for the coordinated and timely review of proposed major renewable energy facilities.

Through these regulations and streamlined process, ORES will play a critical role in meeting the State’s renewable energy goals, while also ensuring the protection of the environment and consideration of all pertinent social, and economic, and environmental factors in permitting of renewable energy such facilities. ORES must issue a permit within one year of the date on which an application is deemed complete and within six months if the facility is proposed to be located on brownfield, former commercial or industrial, landfill, former power plant, and abandoned or underutilized sites. New projects sized between 20 and 25 megawatts will also be able to opt-in to the ORES process.

“I greatly appreciate the public participation throughout the rulemaking process and look forward to working hand-in-hand with all stakeholders to implement the new regulations,” said ORES Acting Executive Director Houtan Moaveni. “New York is at the forefront of clean energy leadership. The adoption of the regulations today is further evidence of New York’s sustained commitment to both strike a balance between protecting our communities and the environment and spurring the need for faster renewables development.”

The Act requires ORES to create regulations to implement the statute within one year of its effective date. On September 16, 2020, ORES issued draft regulations and uniform standards and conditions for public comment pursuant to the State Administrative Procedure Act. ORES accepted public comments on the draft regulations from September 16, 2020 until December 7, 2020.

ORES received oral comments from nearly 200 individuals during public hearings and over 5,000 letters and emails containing comments and questions from various stakeholders. Transcripts of the public hearings and all public comments received are available by clicking here.

ORES reviewed all comments received during the hearings. After careful consideration and further analysis of all comments received, ORES made several non-substantive changes to address the comments and to clarify the proposed regulations in consultation with the New York State Department of Public Service, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Agriculture and Markets, and New York State the Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation. Copies of the assessment of public comments and the final regulations are available on the ORES website.

The regulations will encourage local governments and communities to participate in the permitting process by requiring project applicants to consult with local governments and community members before filing an application, provide public notices at various milestones throughout the permitting process and make application materials available in both electronic and paper format.

Draft siting permits will be subject to public review and comment and adjudicatory hearings will be required when significant and substantive issues are identified. Additionally, for each project, municipalities and community interveners will have access, as appropriate, to funds that will defray certain expenses incurred in their review of the project.

The new siting process provides a one-stop process with increased certainty and predictability to develop renewable energy projects in New York State. The ORES approach proactively addresses the key recurring issues in siting and permitting large-scale renewable projects, simplifying the permitting process. By creating a new siting process specifically designed for renewable energy facilities, the Act will accelerate new private investment and job growth in the green economy at a time when New Yorkers need it most. As the state seeks solutions to getting the economy back on track after overcoming the COVID-19 crisis, accelerating renewable energy construction will play a central role in the green economy.

New York State’s Nation-Leading Climate Plan

Governor Cuomo’s nation-leading climate agenda is the most aggressive climate and clean energy initiative in the nation, calling for an orderly and just transition to clean energy that creates jobs and continues fostering a green economy as New York State recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enshrined into law through the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York is on a path to achieving its mandated goal of a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and to reach economy wide carbon neutrality.

Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York will build on this progress and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, while ensuring that at least 35 percent with a goal of 40 percent of the benefits of clean energy investments benefit disadvantaged communities and advancing progress towards the state’s 2025 energy efficiency target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 trillion BTUs of end-use energy savings.