New York governor wants to speed up solar permitting and construction
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced he is advancing a 30-day budget amendment to dramatically speed up the permitting and construction of renewable energy projects, combat climate change and grow the state’s green economy. If adopted, the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act will create a new Office of Renewable Energy Permitting 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. Today’s announcement will accelerate progress toward Governor Cuomo’s goal of 70% of the state’s electricity from renewable sources — as identified under the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).
“Climate change is the existential challenge of our time, and New York State has risen to the occasion by enacting the strongest laws in the nation to protect and preserve our environment,” Governor Cuomo said. “This legislation will help achieve a more sustainable future, invigorating the green economy and reaffirming New York’s position as a market leader with a revamped process for building and delivering renewable energy projects faster.”
The state’s existing energy generation siting process was designed for permitting fossil-fuel electric generating plants and created prior to the state’s current clean energy and environmental goals under the CLCPA. This new robust siting process will create modernized standards for developing renewable energy projects at an expedited pace to meet the urgency of the climate crisis. By aligning New York’s leading climate and economic development strategies, the legislation will also ensure that renewable energy development is a central part of the state’s economic future and will spur an even greater growth of green jobs. The new structure created by the Act centralizes renewable energy siting and permitting activities within the Department of Economic Development. The structure also creates, separately, a new program through which the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will collaborate with the Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Public Service to develop build-ready sites for renewable energy projects. This comprehensive legislation reframes the renewable energy development process with the following major components:
Establish Office of Renewable Energy Permitting
The Act will consolidate the environmental review and permitting of major renewable energy facilities to provide a single forum in which the Department of Economic Development’s (the state agency arm of Empire State Development) new Office of Renewable Energy Permitting, or “Permitting Office,” will ensure permitting decisions are predictable, responsible, and delivered on pace to help the State achieve the CLCPA goals.
The new office will:
Utilize project siting standards that reflect the environmental impacts common to types of renewable projects, and include upfront mitigation measures to address those impacts.
Develop draft permits for public comment and ensure that complete applications are acted upon within one year, except in the case of certain former commercial and industrial sites, which will be reviewed within six months.
Municipalities will have an opportunity to advise the Office on compliance with local laws and the Permitting Office will consider and may apply local laws in light of the State’s clean energy and environmental goals under the CLCPA.