NY Governor’s Veto of Wind Power Bill “Undermines Industry,” Critics Say

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New York State is being widely criticized by the renewable energy industry after Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed a bill on Friday, October 20, designed according to the industry to expedite the development of offshore wind farms for renewable energy. The move comes as the latest in a series of steps that are seen as setbacks for the offshore wind industry in the Northeastern United States.

The bill known as the “Planned Offshore Wind Transmission Act” has been working its way through the state legislature since April 2023. It passed the state senate in June on a floor vote, which went 2-to-1 in favor of passage. The act would have required the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) to establish a plan for improved transmission planning and coordinating systems for an offshore grid and to undertake a benefit-cost-analysis and ratepayer impact study.

The controversial sections of the bill however centered on Equinor’s efforts to run the transmission cables from a planned offshore wind farm through a beach and park as well as local streets in the City of Long Beach on Long Island’s south shore. The bill would have authorized the City of Long Beach to temporarily discontinue the use of certain parklands to permit the expedited installation of the transmission lines coming from the Empire Wind project.

Empire Wind, which is to be developed in two phases by Equinor in partnership with BP, would be positioned approximately 20 miles offshore. The plan calls for up to 147 turbines to provide up to 2.1 GW of wind energy with the transmission lines landing on a public beach and park in the city. Residents opposed the plan citing a range of issues and protested the state’s efforts to bypass local elected officials and community sentiment.

The governor in her veto message sided with the local opponents saying, “It is incumbent on renewable energy developers to cultivate and maintain strong ties to their host communities.”

Equinor quickly responded saying it believes the governor is “undermining the state’s renewable energy mandate.” The company called the governor and regulators’ recent actions “another troubling signal to renewable energy developers.”

The American Clean Power Association’s local director was also critical of the state’s actions. “New York is coming dangerously close to serving a death knell for the promise of offshore wind development in the region,” wrote Moira Cyphers, ACP Director of Eastern Regional State Affairs. The trade group warns New York is working against its declared goal of having 70 percent clean energy by 2030.

The governor’s veto sets back planning for Empire Wind creating another cost and hurdle for the developers. This comes as three of New York’s offshore wind projects in development have already joined the chorus of projects complaining about the impact of inflation and higher costs from the problems in the supply chain for offshore wind as well as U.S. regulations. New York’s regulators, however, turned down applications to raise the price for power in the previously set power purchase agreements. The regulators wrote that they viewed the actions as a step that did not recognize the competitive process of the auctions. 

Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have also been facing similar challenges and pressures from the developers. Developers in two of the states are paying fees to cancel power purchase agreements while Rhode Island rejected a plan and has reworked its upcoming wind power solicitation. It is unclear how the developers will proceed in New York, with Equinor responding on Friday that it would be reviewing the decision and the project.

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