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Unfair cost to LI of offshore wind

New York State has committed to developing 9,000

New York State has committed to developing 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035, from turbines like these off Block Island. Credit: Newsday / Mark Harrington

For decades, Long Island has been paying down the $6 billion Shoreham atomic energy plant — built but never opened, a testament to those whose vision of the future was seduced by flawed nuclear technology. Depending on whose math you use, Shoreham’s current debt is now pegged at approximately $9,000 per Long Island ratepayer, and it remains one of the key reasons the cost of power on the Island is among the highest in the nation.

And that burden is about to get far heavier.

The New York State Public Service Commission has issued an order that 75% of the costs of infrastructure upgrades associated with offshore wind generation should be borne by downstate utilities and their customers. Or to put it plainly, a significant cost of the state’s plan to build offshore wind turbines will come out of the pockets of Long Islanders.

That decision, in conjunction with the state initiative to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035, is part of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). As currently proposed, it would unfairly burden downstate ratepayers by placing much of the cost on them, even though the benefits of green energy infrastructure upgrades will positively touch all New Yorkers.

With Long Island and the downstate New York metro area the only region that abuts the Atlantic Ocean, it would suggest that the state’s wind turbine initiative was designed to specifically saddle Long Island with the cost. Without much in the way of recourse, our region would face one more unfunded mandate that is part of a far greater statewide goal of sustainable energy.

The Association for a Better Long Island and the Long Island Builders Institute have jointly submitted official protests to Albany, observing that Long Islanders have a long history of supporting state energy initiatives that have benefited other regions. A January 2020 state comptroller’s report stated that the Long Island Power Authority and its ratepayers could spend up to $820 million over the next decade to subsidize upstate nuclear power plants, via the state Energy Research and Development Authority’s Zero Emission Credits program.

This kind of energy altruism by Long Island ratepayers has never been returned. Long Island did not share the multibillion-dollar cost with state ratepayers when the Shoreham plant was closed and its debt clock began to run. The idea that now all New Yorkers would not equally share in the cost of the offshore wind initiative is regressive and suggests that the PSC believes Long Island ratepayers can be financially punished for living close to a steady and inexhaustible supply of wind energy.

This financial burden would represent, in essence, a significant tax increase not enacted by elected representatives but by PSC bureaucrats based in Albany. Recognizing, perhaps, just how profoundly unfair this is, the PSC has agreed to suspend this wind turbine hike pending public comment, but if past actions are prologue this represents a postponement, not a reprieve.

The Association for a Better Long Island welcomes the arrival of renewable energy but will continue to insist that the PSC reconsider its current order that burdens Long Islanders and issue new instructions that establish a more equitable cost-sharing arrangement in regards to the state’s green-energy goals. The goal of this effort is to combat climate change together, as one state, and not bankrupt a region still digging out from the failed policy of nuclear energy.

This guest essay reflects the views of Kyle Strober, executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island.