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updated 4/24/2024

RAPID Act proposal

The RAPID Act discussed below was passed by both houses of the State Legislature on Saturday, April 21, and singed into law on April 24.

Since its inception in 2021, New York's Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) has routinely waived local laws that protect local communities and land from noise, visual impacts and loss of property value caused by mega-wind and solar projects. In over a dozen cases approving developers' chosen sites for these projects, ORES has denied permission for any host town to defend the reasonability of its local zoning and land use laws.

In yet another attack on Home Rule, New York Governor Hochul has released the Executive Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2025, which includes Part O of the Transportation, Economic Development, and Environmental Conservation budget bill entitled the Renewable Action through Project Interconnect and Deployment (“RAPID”) Act. The RAPID Act seeks to replace Public Service Law Article VII, administered by the Public Service Commission, which governs electric transmission line siting, and replace it with a new Article VIII of the Public Service Law administered by ORES.

Slightly different versions of the RAPID Act have been introduced as "one-House bills" in the State Legislature and are poised for a vote in April 2024. Both versions include eminent domain authority for ORES to take land for transmission projects.

It is important to understand that the massive and costly overhaul of New York's transmission system would not be needed except for the massive and costly build-out of mega-wind and solar projects that climate activists and the renewable energy industry have been lobbying for in New York. Electricity bills have already gone up significantly to pay for Renewable Energy Credits given freely to renewables developers, and Zero Emission Energy credits given to nuclear power plants to help them compete with the below-market offers of electricity from renewables. Below-market rates for their electricity can be offered by renewables only because of substantial New York and federal subsidies. These subsidies exceed by multiples anything provided to other forms of energy on a per-BTU basis. But there is no evidence that intermittent, weather-dependent renewables have done anything to reduce the power sector's greenhouse gases or health-harming emissions. In New York, renewables remain a niche contributor to our energy needs, providing a few percentage-points of total electricity needs. Upstate, most of our electricity--91%--is already zero-emissions, provided by hydropower and nuclear power. The RAPID Act would not change that.

Now that the RAPID Act is poised to be signed into law by Governor Hochu, sound environmental review of major electric transmission facilities will be undermined. Under the RAPID Act, ORES would be required to render a permit decision within a single year, or the facility would be automatically approved. This is regardless of project size or potential impact on public or private conservation lands. These lands would be taken by the developer, and a court would decide only the fair market value for which the landowner would be compensated. The environmental or conservation value of the land would be ignored.

The protection of natural resources by conservation easements would not be taken into account because conservation easements would be extinguished under the RAPID Act.

But more importantly, if decarbonization is the reason for the RAPID Act, the Act's silence on transmission planning dooms it to failure. Transmission projects, like renewable generation projects, must be coordinated so that the power plants match where the lines go. The RAPID Act inherits the myopia of the ORES approach to energy siting: developers site projects, not agencies like ORES. A developer needs only to acquire sufficient land interests before it can submit an application for project approval. Nothing in the RAPID Act or in ORES's regulatory powers stops a developer from siting a project where there is insufficient transmission capacity and then taking land by eminent domain for the transmission connection to the local utility. This has already happened pre-RAPID Act with New York's largest wind farm. The Alle-Catt Wind Energy project was approved in 2020 under PSL Article 10 and the next year disclosed that the local utility would not allow the connection until its lines were upgraded to handle the project. As a result, the project needed an extension of its operations date, pushed out now to 2030. An example of the failure of planning, and confirmation that no state agency in New York  does energy infrastructure planning.

On March 26, Steve Helmin, President of Stop Energy Sprawl and myself presented a program that provides more information on the RAPID Act, and how it fits into New York's plans to replace all conventional energy with unreliable renewables. This is a plan that is doomed to failure because, among other things, renewables require natural gas power plants to back them up when the wind dies down and the sun doesn't shine. Our electric grid cannot operate without steady, reliable sources of power. Unfortunately, the activists behind measures like the RAPID Act don't seem to care that a 100% renewables power grid is physically impossible. They appear to want to wreck the grid and see what happens rather than plan responsibly for a low-carbon future.

Holtec Palisades in Michigan recently obtained a $1.52 billion for a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy to restore electric service at a decommissioned nuclear power plant. A project like this that could serve downstate energy needs would go a long way to improve the health and well-being of New Yorkers. An ideologically driven and impossible dream to achieve a 100% renewable energy system that requires the industrial development of a million acres of rural forests and farmland cannot do that.

More information can be found at Stop Energy Sprawl