The Department of Public Service on Tuesday held public hearings in New York City on its much debated, Reforming Energy Vision—a comprehensive plan to reorganize the state energy grid to include more renewable energy and energy efficiency.
More than 100 residents and environmental advocates crowded into a lecture hall at CUNY’s Borough of Manhattan Community College for the first of two question-and-answer sessions followed by lengthy periods of public comment.
The event started with a brief presentation by D.P.S. staffers explaining the basics of R.E.V.
“The current regulatory framework does not encourage innovation and relies too heavily on traditional business models and infrastructure,” D.P.S. staffer Tony Belsito said.
Some consistent themes in the public comment portion included making renewable power accessible to low-income residents, checking the influence of utilities in deploying renewable energy and making the state’s R.E.V campaign more accessible to the lay person.
“R.E.V. should guarantee affordable access to renewable energy,” said Mark Dunlea of the Green Education and Legal Fund. “The capitalist system is unsustainable.”
Patrick Robbins, with the clean energy advocacy group Sane Energy, asked state officials to ensure that “low-income, front-line communities,” such as those hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy, have a voice in the R.E.V
He and several others also asked the state to set specific goals in terms of renewable power genration and greenhouse gas reductions
“We have not heard specific targets for renewable energy,” he said. “The climate crisis demands nothing less than full renewable energy. We need you to put us on the right path.”
Others plugged their preferred renewable energy source, such as geothermal, solar and wind.
“When this was New Amsterdam, windmills were all around,” resident Bruce Rosen said. “We want windmills off the shore of the city and Long Island.”
Ling Tsou, a city-based environmental advocate, urged the state to not allow utilities to control the state’s power markets under the R.E.V.
“The P.S.C. should not hand over the energy markets to large industry owned utilities,” she said.
Several commenters also asked the state make their website and regulatory language less wonky so lay people could better understand what’s going on.
Tuesday’s heaings were the third and fourth held around the state. Hearings have also been held in Buffalo and Syracuse. In the coming weeks, hearings will be held Kingston, Albany, Yonkers, Rochester and Binghamton.
“Throughout this process and through these hearings, the public has a direct opportunity to be heard and provide input concerning potential changes to our electric grid, restructuring the way electricity is produced, distributed and used in New York State,” P.S.C. spokesman James Denn said in a statement. “These public comments will play a key role in helping to inform and strengthen the P.S.C.’s decision-making process to ensure a good outcome for all New Yorkers.”