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Department of State to oversee renewable siting office

Sen. Kevin Parker, chair of the chamber’s Energy Committee, said the budget will include a landmark shift to how new renewable projects get sited – and the process will be overseen by the Department of State.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed to rewrite the permitting process for large-scale wind and solar projects, which have faced delays and drawn-out battles under the Article 10 process he signed into law in 2011. The final deal is set to mirror Cuomo’s plan in substance, although he wanted Empire State Development to oversee the new siting office. It will include provisions to identify shovel-ready sites and changes to transmission siting.

The deal includes a requirement for community benefit agreements for local governments, according to two sources familiar with the agreement, but not other major concessions. Municipalities raised significant concerns about the proposal because it strips away local control of some smaller projects and limits their input compared to Article 10.

“I don’t think they’re going to be very happy,” Parker said of local governments. “It was a tough decision but I think ultimately for us to get where we need to get to, you couldn’t have 217 local governments making decisions on siting clean energy projects.”

Parker said his concerns about a potentially outsized role for the New York Power Authority had been addressed. Changes to transmission siting are also included, Parker said.

Environmental advocates who pushed the siting plan were pleased it appears to be included. Changes will help speed achievement of the state’s climate goals, said New York League of Conservation Voters’ Julie Tighe.

“We know that as the economy starts moving and we try to get people out in jobs, this is an area where we can help communities, where we can get people to work at green jobs and we can start tackling climate change,” she said. “We know that Article 10 has been broken and it needs to work better if we’re going to meet our goals.”

The details are expected in budget bills that have not yet been released.