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Senator proposes ban on new fossil fuel plants

A new proposal in the state Senate would ban new power plants that use any fossil fuels.

State Sen. Jessica Ramos, D-East Elmhurst, has proposed the Clean Futures Act (S.5939) in the Senate. Ramos’ bill would allow a process where fossil fuels could be used, but the developer would have to show the project is necessary to provide reliable electricity to the state power grid, that existing transmission system upgrades aren’t available to meet the need, that the new plant meets the reliability need and that system reliability can’t be achieved through any combination of renewable energy upgrades.

“Additionally, this legislation is comprehensive in that it disallows the permitting of all new major facilities that burn fossil fuels, not just those that sell power to the energy grid,” Ramos wrote in her legislative justification. “In the event that the applicant for a new large fossil fuel-burning plant can show that the energy grid cannot adequately meet demands with- in the relevant time frame by any combination of transmission, energy storage, zero carbon electric generation, demand response, and energy efficiency, this bill includes a transparent process by which the applicant may request an exception to the ban.”

Due to passage of the crucial Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), New York has 19 years to transition to an emissions-free grid. The CLCPA mandates that New York state achieve a 70% renewable energy grid by 2030, a zero-emission grid by 2040 and near- elimination of all greenhouse gases by 2050.

Ramos wrote that the state can’t meet the CLCPA’s goals if the state continues to build new gas or fossil fueled power plants, but said the state DEC and state Board on Electric Generation Siting are still processing permits for new fossil fuel power plants. Among those plants is NRG”s Astoria plant in New York City that the utility plans to upgrade from 50-year-old turbines to a new natural gas-fired generator that the company says will reduce emissions, according to the Astoria Post. NRG’s plan has been opposed by state and federal Democrats, though NRG says the upgrade is needed to provide power while renewable power options come online. The plant will be required to have no carbon emissions by 2040 or it will be shut down, according to the Astoria Post.

“Construction of new fossil fuel plants is not aligned with the pollution reduction goals of the CLCPA,” Ramos wrote in her legislative justification. “New York must instead devote its resources to rapidly phasing out existing oil and gas from the grid and replacing them with solutions like improved transmission, utility-scale and distributed renewable energy, demand-side and energy efficiency measures and battery storage. This legislation bans the approval of such projects immediately by giving state agencies the authority to reject regressive energy projects that would slow down a just transition.”

Companion legislation has not yet been introduced in the state Assembly.

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