New York Focus, March 15, 2022
The power industry is pushing a pair of little-noticed proposals that could shift the course of the state’s climate action.
Published in partnership with City & State.
Last June, in the tumult of the final days of New York’s legislative session, the state Senate passed a bill that almost no one – outside of the power industry lobbyists who crafted it – paid much attention to.
The bill’s one-sentence summary said it would create a program to support “zero emissions energy systems.” It passed unanimously, without any debate on the state Senate floor. But the Assembly didn’t get around to advancing it, and it was shunted to this year’s session.
Only in the fall did environmental groups realize that the proposal, if approved this year, could shift the course of New York energy policy, potentially opening a back door for power plants to keep polluting past New York’s legal deadline to achieve a 100% emissions-free grid.
The proposal seeks to define “zero-emissions energy systems” as ones that do not result in a “net increase in greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere at any time in the process of generating electricity.” That could mean that fossil fuel plants would be allowed if, for example, they were coupled with carbon capture technology, whose track record has been hotly debated nationally.
The technologies most likely to benefit from the bill all involve burning some kind of fuel, whether hydrogen, “renewable” natural gas, or simply fossil gas paired with carbon capture and storage. Environmentalists say that giving the state’s stamp of approval to those technologies would amount to backtracking from the state’s landmark 2019 climate law, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).