New York’s draft energy plan was put to its first hearing on Tuesday, with speakers expressing concern about the state’s plans for natural gas and the future of competitive energy markets.
The hearing Tuesday — the first of six scheduled statewide — drew several dozen attendees at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, including several groups opposed to hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.
The plan “envisions for New York a flexible and clean energy system that empowers residential customers, businesses and communities to receive the reliability and affordability that they value,” John Rhodes, president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said at the hearing.
The plan identifies 15 energy-related initiatives for the state to pursue while reaffirming New York’s goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
Among the initiatives in the draft plan are calls for the state to come up with new incentives to get energy utilities to become more efficient and for local governments to beef up their building code enforcement to require greater energy efficiency.
But the plan’s call for a short-term reliance on natural gas has raised concerns among the state’s well-organized anti-fracking and environmental groups.
One of the document’s initiatives is to expand “access to natural gas in the near term while pursuing strategies to reduce natural gas leakage.” While natural gas has been identified as a cleaner “bridge fuel” to future renewable energy sources by President Barack Obama and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, critics point to studies that have raised questions about methane leakage during the gas-extraction process.
“Based on our assessment, there is no way that New York can hit Governor Cuomo’s goals for climate protection if the state allows fracking or includes an uptick of natural gas production and/or transportation,” Conor Bambrick, air and energy program director for Environmental Advocates of New York, said during the hearing.