The Long Island Power Authority came under heavy criticism Wednesday after it voted to delay renewable energy projects it had promised and scuttled a $1 billion offshore wind farm.
The utility's board of trustees, meeting in Uniondale, voted to accept recommendations from authority C.E.O. John McMahon to pursue 122 megawatts worth of solar projects, and delay until next year approval of the full 280 megawatts originally planned. The wind project was scrapped due to unknown costs, which McMahon blamed on Congress.
"Offshore wind has many, many potential advantages," McMahon said in his presentation to the board. "The disadvantage of offshore wind is the cost. Offshore wind has been supported for a number of years by an investment tax credit. That credit has expired.
"We strongly believe that the authority's electric customers ought not to bear the risk of Congress not renewing the investment tax credit," he said.
Congress reluctantly extended the wind energy credit until the end of this year but it expires come January.
McMahon vowed to put out requests for proposals next year for the additional 160 megawatts LIPA has promised, but clean energy advocates accused the authority of being too lethargic and ignoring the perils of climate change.
"We can all agree that the status quo has failed the ratepayers," said Southhampton councilwoman Bridget Fleming. "We cannot afford to stand still which is in fact moving backwards."
"You guys are stuck in the past," said Adrienne Esposito, of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, citing the 16 Assembly members, four state senators and thousands of residents who have expressed support for the project.
"Everyone supports it but you," she said. "You're out of step with Long Island."
McMahon's recommendations came after a presentation by Public Service Commission chair Audrey Zibleman, who laid out the precepts of the state's Reforming Energy Vision, which looks to aggressively ramp up the use of renewable energy.
Zibelman did not stay for the vote, but McMahon vowed to follow the R.E.V. guidelines despite the delay in approving renewable projects.
"Make no mistake about it, we are implementing a 280 megawatt R.F.P." he said. "We're going to use R.E.V. principles. Wherever we can, we're going to use renewable energy."
The Alliance for Clean Energy New York, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Environment New York, Environmental Advocates of New York, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, New York League of Conservation Voters, North Fork Environmental Council, NYPIRG, Oceana, Renewable Energy Long Island, Sierra Club, and Working Families Party scolded LIPA and Governor Andrew Cuomo in a joint statement.
"We’re disappointed that Governor Cuomo failed to keep his promise to bring 280 MW of new renewable energy to Long Island this year," the statement said. "Failing to fulfill this promise means we will continue to fall behind as other states embrace the economic and public health benefits of investing in offshore wind. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Long Island knows first-hand that we need a serious commitment—not a half effort—to combatting climate change."
Cuomo controls LIPA and the board's decision came on the same day the governor was winning accolades from environmental groups for blocking fracking in New York State.
Deepwater Wind, the company that would have built the offshore facility remained optimistic for the future of wind off the coast of Long Island.
"While we are disappointed in today’s decision, we continue to advance the project," Deepwater Wind C.E.O. Jeffrey Grybowski said in a statement. "Offshore wind is the most cost-effective source of clean energy for coastal communities in the Northeast, and Deepwater ONE is perfectly positioned to serve those communities."