Governor Cuomo recently announced the creation of New York’s Green Energy Program aimed at building New York’s green economy. Urging that the program will combat global climate change while stimulating New York’s COVID-19 stressed economy, the Governor’s proposal includes the development of the largest offshore wind program in the nation, upgrades to five dedicated port facilities (in Albany, Coeymans, South Brooklyn, Port Jefferson and Port of Montauk Harbor), and the construction of a “green energy transmission superhighway” to transport clean energy generated upstate to under-serviced downstate areas (with projects in Western New York, Mid-Hudson and the Capital Region). He estimates that the green energy program will “… create a total 12,400 megawatts of green energy to power 6 million homes, directly create more than 50,000 jobs, and spur $29 billion in private investment all across the state.”
The cornerstone of the Governor’s proposal is his call for the acceleration of renewable energy development programs. Indeed, the New York State Legislature recently enacted the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act (the Act) to facilitate siting and construction of clean energy projects. The Act establishes a new Office of Renewable Energy Siting (the “ORES”) to review siting applications for renewable energy facilities whose capacities exceed 25 megawatts, and those between 20-25 megawatts who opt into the new process. According to ORES’ website, it will “… implement the timely consolidated review and permitting of major renewable energy facilities in a single forum that takes into consideration local laws, public health and safety, environmental, social and economic factors pertinent to the decision to permit such facilities.” Notably, under certain circumstances, the Act permits ORES to disregard local laws and regulations when approving siting applications. ORES issued draft regulations, and uniform standards and conditions for public comment on September 16, 2020.
It remains to be seen how (or whether) ORES will balance the State’s interests in developing New York’s wind program against impacted municipalities’ interests, in particular, those articulated in local land use and zoning regulations, as well as siting and permitting processes. Even if ORES does manage to streamline the process for certain projects, it is unlikely that local municipalities will simply go quietly into the night when a project hits home. After all, isn’t that precisely why municipalities maintain local siting control over land use and zoning matters?
Should you have questions or inquiries regarding renewable energy siting and procurement processes, please contact Simone M. Freeman in our Zoning and Land Use and Municipal Law Groups at 516-746-8000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.