Sen. Charles Schumer ventured into the hills of Wyoming County Tuesday to celebrate one victory in his support for wind energy and push for another one.
Schumer went to Noble Environmental Power’s project in progress, where 84 wind turbines are going up amid the hay fields and pastures.
He was able to announce the state Public Service Commission had dropped its objections to the Spanish company Iberdrola’s acquisition of Energy East, the parent company of New York State Electric & Gas and several other energy suppliers.
“At long last, the Public Service Commission staff has come to its senses and acknowledged that wind power is a big part of New York’s future,” the New York Democrat said in a statement. “. . . The acquisition can reduce rates for customers and help to create jobs and billions of dollars of investment in upstate New York.”
Iberdrola has pledged to invest $2 billion in wind energy in New York State if its purchase is approved by the PSC.
Schumer said Iberdrola also has agreed to spend $600 million to keep energy prices stable through the transition.
With a pair of 280-foot-high towers with 120-foot-long blades rising behind him, Schumer used the opportunity Tuesday to press the flesh with the union steelworkers, electricians and operating engineers putting together the Noble project. About 170 people are involved with constructing it.
Noble constructed 67 turbines in nearby Eagle last summer; it expects to complete the Wethersfield project this summer.
Schumer, who initially had been skeptical of the Iberdrola deal, said the company also has said it will bring manufacturing of turbines to the state. The Spanish company is the largest producer of wind energy in the world.
On his second big point for the day, the senator made his argument that the United States can’t wait any longer to invest in renewable energy.
“We need to give some tax incentives for wind energy the way we give it to oil,” Schumer said. “Right now, we give huge tax breaks to the oil companies, and they’re making record profits.”
Schumer said the bill to give similar breaks to wind and other renewable energy sources has been stuck in the Senate, where it has been filibustered. There have been two 59-41 votes in its favor, but the bill needs 60 votes to break the filibuster by senators from oil states.
Schumer said New York has been behind other parts of the country in wind production.
“New York should be doing more. We have very, very cumbersome siting laws and all that,” he said. “But if people want the prices of energy to come down, we have to change them.
“No one is going to force any community to put windmills in. It’ll happen by democratic process. There are advantages. The town taxes in Eagle are going way down. But every community will have to make that decision.”
Tom Walczak, the owner of the property where Schumer saw the turbines, said he’s a believer. A retired farmer, he said what the turbines stand for is just as important to him as the income, and he came to watch the hubbub around the senator’s appearance.
“I see the future when I look at them. Those, and that hybrid car,” he said, pointing toward a Toyota Prius at the entrance to the site.
By Elmer Ploetz
2 July 2008
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