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Electric Power Generation under NYS Article X

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Electric Power Generation under NYS Article X

The New York State Public Service Commission draft (link for comments) from the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment for the proposed regulations to the Power NY Act 2011, known as Article X is deficient in its mandate. Since a SEQR review for electric generation projects that fall under the new regulations is no longer a requirement, New York State is effectively writing new regulations that abdicate the oversight role of the Department of Environmental Conservation. The motive to fast track permitting approval at the expense of environmental protection demonstrates a bias in favor of developer projects. Therefore, in order to establish an equitable balance in interests, it is prudent to include a comprehensive citizen participation process within the administrative structure of the DPS.

The initial draft of the Article X regulations cite the following needs.

To ensure that the public and interested parties are fully assisted and advised in participating in the Article 10 process, an office of public information coordinator has been created within Department of Public Service.

Public information (page 9) coordination shall include:
(a) To ensure throughout the Article 10 process that the Board is fully aware of the concerns of stakeholders and that the Board’s consideration of an application is not delayed, it is the Board’s policy to require applicants to actively seek public participation throughout the planning, pre-application, certification, compliance, and implementation process. It is also the Board’s policy to encourage stakeholders to participate at the earliest opportunity in the review of the applicant’s proposal so that their input can be considered.

(b) To ensure that the public and interested parties are fully assisted and advised in participating in the Article 10 process, an office of public information coordinator has been created within DPS. Public information coordination shall include:

(1) implementing measures that assure public participation in matters before the Board;

(2) responding to inquiries from the public for information on how to participate in matters before the Board;

(3) assisting the public in requesting records relating to matters before the Board;

(4) ensuring all interested persons are provided with a reasonable opportunity to participate at public meetings relating to matters before the Board;

(5) ensuring that all necessary or required documents are available for public access on the DPS website; and

(6) any other duties as may be prescribed by the Board, after consultation with DPS.

(c) Each Applicant shall conduct a Public Involvement Program that includes:

(1) consultation with the affected agencies and other stakeholders;

(2) pre-application activities to encourage stakeholders to participate at the earliest opportunity;

(3) activities designed to educate the public as to the specific proposal and the Article 10 review process, including the availability of funding for municipal and local parties;

(4) the establishment of a website to disseminate information to the public;

(5) notifications; and

(6) activities designed to encourage participation by stakeholders in the certification and compliance process.

(d) Applicants shall submit a proposed Public Involvement Program plan in writing to DPS for review as to its adequacy at least 150 days prior to the submittal of any preliminary scoping statement, except that for good cause.

In order to facilitate the objectives of the public information coordinator office, Senator Pat Gallivan submitted, S-6924-2011. The essential elements of the legislation would create a citizen advisory panel within the Public Service Commission. Highlights and functions follow.

Section 1. The public service law is amended by adding a new section 174 to read as follows:

S 174. CITIZEN ADVISORY PANEL.

1. A CITIZEN ADVISORY PANEL IS HEREBY ESTABLISHED.

2. A. THE PANEL SHALL CONSIST OF SIX PERMANENT AND THREE ROTATING MEMBERS APPOINTED BY THE CHAIR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SERVICE TO FOUR YEAR TERMS AS FOLLOWS: ONE PERMANENT MEMBER SHALL BE A RESIDENT OF LONG ISLAND; TWO PERMANENT MEMBERS SHALL BE RESIDENTS OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK; THREE PERMANENT MEMBERS SHALL BE RESIDENTS OF UPSTATE NEW YORK; ONE ROTATING MEMBER SHALL BE A RESIDENT OF LONG ISLAND; ONE ROTATING MEMBER SHALL BE A RESIDENT OF NEW YORK CITY; AND ONE ROTATING MEMBER SHALL BE A RESIDENT OF UPSTATE NEW YORK. FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION:

E. IN ADDITION TO THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE PUBLIC OFFICERS LAW, NO PERSON SHALL BE ELIGIBLE TO BE AN APPOINTEE TO THE PANEL WHO HOLDS ANOTHER STATE OR LOCAL OFFICE. NO MEMBER OF THE PANEL MAY RETAIN OR HOLD ANY OFFICIAL RELATION TO, OR ANY SECURITIES OF AN ELECTRIC UTILITY CORPORATION OPERATING IN THE STATE OR PROPOSED FOR OPERATION IN THE STATE, ANY AFFILIATE THEREOF OR ANY OTHER COMPANY, FIRM, PARTNERSHIP, CORPORATION, ASSOCIATION OR JOINT-STOCK ASSOCIATION THAT MAY APPEAR BEFORE THE PANEL, NOR SHALL EITHER OF THE APPOINTEES HAVE BEEN A DIRECTOR, OFFICER OR, WITHIN THE PREVIOUS TEN YEARS, AN EMPLOYEE THEREOF.

The Citizen Advisory Panel has the functions and SHALL CONSIST OF THE FOLLOWING SECTIONS:

A. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY;
B. PROJECT LOCATION AND DESCRIPTION;
C. INPUT FROM LOCAL OFFICIALS AND GENERAL PUBLIC;
D. ANALYSIS OF ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS;
E. ANALYSIS OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS;
F. AREAS OF CONCERN;
G. REVIEW OF ALTERNATIVES;
H. RECOMMENDATION TO THE BOARD; AND
I.  ANY NECESSARY APPENDICES.

The purpose of incorporating a Citizen Advisory Panel within the PSC is to have access, in a timely manner to the entire database of relevant information on each project. A review of applications and stakeholder input from representatives of citizen organizations is in keeping with the Article X mandate. Recommendations by the panel have the value of experience and expertise that deserves consideration by the Article X Siting Board.

The Citizen Power Alliance is a coalition of concerned citizen organizations that have years of involvement within the electric permitting process. From the perspective of local community interest, the spirit of Home Rule will remain in practice with the support of the multi-agency Siting Board. Individual municipalities, hard pressed to engage as an intervener or challenge the new Article X application process, will benefit from a central resource function of the Citizen Advisory Panel.

As part of the stakeholder submission process, specific comments and recommendations, previously submitted, need to be included in the final regulations. Absent from the PSC draft regulations are specific minimum standards for protecting the public safety. Local communities with existing industrial wind regulations that fall below inadequate siting requirements must adopt practices that are more protective. New York State must ensure that jurisdictions without specific legislation fall under regulations that conform to manufacturer safety standards, excess noise limits, verifiable usable electric generation monitoring and fiduciary solvency of developers with guaranteed bonding for de-commissioning costs.

NYS needs to demonstrate environmental leadership and resist acting as an agent that facilitates developer interests.

James Hall - May 23, 2012

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