ALBANY — The State Assembly gave final legislative approval Wednesday to a bill that would expedite offshore wind power development and allow a Long Beach proposal to proceed for now.
After a contentious, nearly three-hour debate, the Democrat-led Assembly approved “Planned Offshore Wind Transmission Act,” 85 to 50, in a largely party-line vote.
The bill is part of the state’s broad effort to boost offshore wind power by allowing regulators to standardize and coordinate proposal and transmission issues, supporters say.
But it also contained a passage specific to Long Beach, where Equinor, a Norwegian power company, wants to land a transmission cable from an offshore turbine and run it to a transfer station in Island Park.
Because the beach is considered parkland, the state would have to give Long Beach permission to “alienate” a parcel to land the cable. Language to do so was tucked into the statewide wind power bill — over the objections of Republicans who represent Long Beach who, among other things, said Democrats were trying to take over a land-use issue in their home districts.
“This is a shameful, shameful situation,” Assemb. Ari Brown (R-Cedarhurst). “I have great concerns about the backdoor channeling to undermine the citizens of Long Beach.”
Brown and Sen. Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick (R-Malverne) sponsored a bill solely dealing with the parkland alienation issue in Long Beach but had put it on hold, saying there were too many unanswered questions about Equinor’s plans.
Brown also said Equinor’s “community benefits” package — $7.5 million each to Long Beach and Island Park — was insufficient.
When it became clear the GOP bill would not be advanced before the legislature adjourned for the year, Democrats amended the Offshore Wind Transmission Act to include language to cover the Long Beach land-use issue, multiple sources said.
The Senate passed the bill June 9.
Supporters of the bill — including four members of the Long Beach City Council — have said it doesn’t obligate the city to green light the cable. Rather, they say, it allows discussions to continue.
More broadly, environmental and labor groups — who pushed hard for the bill — said the legislation was needed to keep the state on track for meeting its mandate to have 70% of its power come from renewable energy by 2030.
Failure to approve the bill, the groups said, not only would be jeopardizing the Equinor project “but also creating a domino effect delaying and potentially derailing other crucial projects" in the energy pipeline.
Further, “Outside of short-term construction impacts, this cable should not interfere with residential or commercial usage of the beach or boardwalk where the cable comes ashore, [Equinor] would be responsible for fully restoring the park land upon the completion of the work,” the Citizens Campaign for the Environment wrote in a letter to Assembly leaders.
When the bill was called to the Assembly floor, Republicans tried multiple parliamentary moves to stall or kill the bill. They tried to amend the bill or table it temporarily.
“All we’re asking is to delay this bill till next session,” Brown said, referring to the 2024 legislative session.
They contended Democrats violated house rules by not having a “home rule request” for the bill — not necessary, Dems said their legal counsel advised. In the end, all the GOP objections were batted aside and the vote proceeded.
“I respect home rule, but this is about making sure we have energy independence for New York state,” Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont) said. “We’re just giving local government the option to negotiate with Equinor. This is not the end all. This is not saying we’re have a project today.”