Community Groups React to Governor Cuomo’s Reported Plans to Nominate NYSERDA Director John Rhodes to the Public Service Commission

Also renew their call for the governor
to appoint “People’s Commissioners” to the PSC

In response to news reports that Governor Cuomo will nominate NYSERDA Director John Rhodes to serve on the Public Service Commission (PSC), the New York Energy Democracy Alliance — a statewide coalition of community-based organizations, grassroots groups, and policy experts working to advance a just and participatory transition to a clean energy economy — issues the following statement:

“If the reports are true, we congratulate John Rhodes on his nomination to the New York Public Service Commission, and we call on the Governor to move with haste to nominate consumer advocates and other public interest-minded candidates for the remaining two seats on the Commission. While Rhodes possesses an impressive background in renewable energy and energy efficiency advocacy, he is too out of touch with the issues that low- and moderate- income New Yorkers in particular grapple with on a daily basis, such as utility shut offs and ongoing exposure to dangerous air pollution that puts their health and safety at risk.

“Through a letter, a petition, and other efforts, the Alliance has called on the Governor to reshape the Commission to reflect a variety of perspectives and experiences by nominating ‘People’s Commissioners’ committed to serving the interests of the people and the environment of New York. More than 1,200 people across the state have signed the petition. Rhodes meets some of the criteria we have advanced for “People’s Commissioners,” but with his nomination, there are still important perspectives and experience missing.

“As the director of the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, Rhodes possesses in-depth knowledge of the energy landscape and experience working with key stakeholders who regularly weigh in on energy policy decisions. This background would serve him well on the PSC.

“Members of the Alliance have worked with John Rhodes for years. We appreciate his track record of supporting renewable energy, giving different viewpoints strong consideration, and implementing programs intended to expand clean energy access to low- and moderate-income communities. However, many of these programs have failed to deliver the promise of energy efficiency and renewables at scale, and have excluded marginalized communities. NYSERDA, under Rhodes, has not adequately heeded the expert advice of energy practitioners working on the ground in low-income communities and communities of color. And, NYSERDA, under Rhodes, has bought into a dangerous ideology that elevates theoretical ‘market solutions’ above practical and time-tested incentives, binding mandates, and other government support for renewable energy and efficiency.

“Should Rhodes be confirmed to the Public Service Commission, we hope he will place an even greater priority on protecting the environment and putting the people of New York first. We call on him to support renewable energy over natural gas, coal, oil, and nuclear energy in all cases, and work with community experts on the ground to ensure that poor and working-class communities and communities of color can access and take part in projects that generate clean, affordable energy going forward, including community solar.

“Corporate utilities and big business have the greatest influence on the PSC, and deeply shape its policies. We need People’s Commissioners who will change that. The governor must not miss the opportunity to bring balance and transparency to the Commission. People’s Commissioners are needed to promote energy democracy, to shift the PSC’s approach to accelerate locally owned renewable energy, and to meet the needs of New Yorkers who have long suffered the greatest burdens of the dirty energy economy, and are demanding to be meaningfully included in the renewable and sustainable energy economy. ”