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Lifton: Ban more fossil fuel development in NY


Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca, and Walter Hang of the Ithaca-based Toxics Targeting Inc., announce in Binghamton on July 7, 2016 an initiative to halt further fossil fuel infrastructure development in New York.
(Photo: Jeff Platsky/Press & Sun-Bulletin)

Stop further fossil fuel development in New York, say 22 state legislators who are asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to halt New York's reliance on "highly polluting" energy sources.

On Thursday, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca, unveiled a campaign to convince Cuomo to "adopt a moratorium on state approvals for new pipelines, compressor stations, power plants, gas storage facilities" and other fossil fuel-related development.

She introduced the proposal during a press conference in front of the Binghamton State Office Building, accompanied by Walter Hang, an Ithaca-based environmental activist who led a successful effort in New York to ban natural gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing.

Lifton's request comes as the New York Independent System Operator, which operates the state's electric grid and coordinates the distribution of adequate electric supplies from Montauk to Niagara Falls, expresses concern about the adequacy of the state's natural gas infrastructure.

The member of the Assembly majority called on Cuomo to shape an aggressive energy conservation program to drastically reduce usage in a strategy to cut carbon emissions. She called projections that New York will soon rely on natural gas for 70 percent of its electric generation capacity "very bad news for global warming."

An initiative to place a moratorium on fossil fuel infrastructure build-out met a swift and bitter reaction from the New York State Business Council, which called the plan "unworkable."

"Climate change occurs on a global scale, not on a local scale," said Darren Suarez, director of government affairs for the Business Council. "This could put every industrial expansion plan in jeopardy."

Today, 57 percent of all proposed generating capacity use natural gas, according to a report from NYISO. In the coming years, reliance on natural gas for electric generation will only rise before sufficient supplies of renewable energy sources come on line, gas transmission line operators said.

"The growing demand for natural gas by power generators, coupled with the uncertainty over the likelihood of future natural gas infrastructure expansion, raises strategic concerns over the gas system's ability to keep pace with the needs of natural gas utilities serving residential, commercial and industrial customers," NYISO said in its recently released report on power needs in New York.

Recently New York rejected the Constitution Pipeline that would bisect upstate New York from Pennsylvania to the Capital District. Development of a natural gas and propane storage and distribution hub on Seneca Lake is still in limbo and facing fierce opposition by environmentalists.

New York is the largest consumer of natural gas east of Louisiana, accounting for 5 percent of the nation's consumption.

Lifton could offer no estimate for the cost of a "demand-side" energy management program, saying she is still fleshing out the details of the proposal. Keys to the effort include conservation through weatherization and a comprehensive plan to increase the energy efficiency of every utility customer class.

"In its current format, there's no way the (Cuomo) administration can embrace this," Suarez said.