ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Environmental activists delivered more than 50,000 comments to the Cuomo administration on Friday, urging officials to recast the state’s energy plan with specific strategies for burning less fossil fuel and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
The comments, filed on the deadline for responding to the draft plan issued in January, urge the New York officials to reject additional natural gas drilling as any sort of environmental solution, calling instead for a much stronger push for renewable and cleaner solar and wind power.
The 2014 draft from the state Energy Planning Board says it’s meant to put New York on track to reduce emissions and their impact on climate change, meaning global warming. It also calls for keeping New Yorkers’ bills below the national average as a percentage of median household income, keeping energy supplies reliable and affordable for business, investing in clean production and driving economic growth.
The plan calls for a 50 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2010 levels by 2030, meant to put the state on a path to an 80 percent cut in total greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. One of its 15 proposed initiatives is a $1 billion so-called green bank to help generate private sector capital in clean energy projects.
“There are many promising initiatives in the plan,” said Jessica Azulay of the Alliance for a Green Economy, asking those be clarified and strengthened. “But the plan steps on its own feet by also endorsing increased use of natural gas in the state, as well as too much of a hands-off approach to coal, nuclear and oil.”
Keith Schue, a former engineer now with Otsego 2000, said the plan fails to adequately address the greenhouse gas methane, released in drilling for natural gas and leaking pipes, which he said is far worse than carbon dioxide. “Instead of becoming more dependent on another fossil fuel, New York needs to go all-in on renewable energy,” he said.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority reports the state accounted for about 212 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2011, with 86.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal, natural gas and petroleum products for generating electricity, transportation and heating. The 2011 data attributed 7.4 percent of total statewide emissions to methane — saying it has a global warming potential 25 times greater than carbon dioxide — from landfills, natural gas leakage, farm animals, municipal sewage and manure management.
In its comments, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, an advocacy group for exploration and production companies, says the state’s draft plan recognizes that natural gas is “the cleanest fossil fuel” and “capable of performing effectively.” However, “disappointingly,” the draft plan assumes “no development of New York’s abundant shale gas resource.”
State officials have prohibited hydraulic fracturing for those deep gas deposits while conservation and health officials for five years have been studying possible regulations and potential impacts on water, land, air and people.