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Cuomo’s pricey wind-power gift to unions

New York electric rates are among the highest in the nation, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo is intent on making them higher still, not just by pushing renewable energy but by requiring cozy – possibly illegal – arrangements to benefit labor unions.

“The Cuomo administration appears to have violated state law” by forcing developers of state-subsidized offshore wind-power plants to cut costly deals with construction unions, the Empire Center’s Ken Girardin reported last week.

Under New York law, a project can’t require such an arrangement – known as a project labor agreement, or PLA – unless officials first “determine” that it’s in the state’s best interests.

That’s because such deals force companies to agree to union rules and pay scales and keep non-union shops from bidding, which jacks up the cost of projects.

Yet the state nonetheless made clear that bidders for the project must have a PLA with the unions, even though, says Girardin, it never conducted the “legally required studies” to determine if one is warranted.

“The state’s bid solicitation strongly encouraged PLA use without saying it was mandatory,” he reports: Bidders had to submit a plan to negotiate a PLA. And a press release actually said it would be required.

The unions are thrilled. But guess who’d pick up the extra tab if the arrangement sends costs soaring? That’s right: New Yorkers, through even higher electric bills.

And the added expense would be tacked on to rates already reflecting the cost of wind power – the most expensive form of renewable energy.

There’s some hope: In 2012, a state judge ordered the Department of Transportation to rebid a project after it pulled this stunt. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli could void the deals if the state fails to prove the PLA is needed. But DiNapoli is also a union ally.

Prepare to be zapped.