Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Thursday that will allow New York to increase its power production and provide low-interest loans to homeowners and businesses for the cost of energy efficiency projects.
The Power N.Y. Act will allow for the first significant increase in power plants to be built in New York since a previous plant siting law expired in 2003. The Cuomo administration said the new law will promote expansion of businesses and result in tens of thousands of new jobs.
It will also authorize several new environmental protection measures, including an “environmental justice” provision to guard against building more plants in urban, often low-income neighborhoods that have been hit by air pollution from power plants.
The new program for homeowners and businesses will allow them to take out low-interest loans from the state for energy efficiency improvements and pay back the loans through their utility bills. The Cuomo administration said it is the first program of this scale in the nation.
“We must rebuild and expand New York’s energy infrastructure to meet the demands of the 21st century and grow our economy,” Cuomo said. “Power is key to almost every region’s economic development issues.”
He said the law could provide enough power to eliminate one of the obstacles to shutting down the Indian Point nuclear plant in Westchester County. Cuomo has sought to close the plant over safety concerns of a nuclear facility in a heavily populated suburb of New York City.
The New York Public Interest Research Group was one of several environmental and citizen advocacy groups involved in the bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year.
NYPIRG said the bill has far more environmental protections than the siting law that expired in 2003.
“It’s what the industry wanted, and only time will tell what will come out of this,” NYPIRG’s Laura Haight said in an interview. “But there are definitely incentives there for repowering facilities with cleaner fuel, it will overcome the obstacles for siting more wind power farms, and it will have environmental justice for communities already overburdened with pollution.”
She credited the Democrat-led Assembly for pushing for the protection of urban neighborhoods.
“This new siting process demonstrates that it is possible to protect the environment while encouraging economic development,” said Assembly Energy Committee Chairman Kevin Cahill, a Kingston Democrat.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.