The New York Energy Democracy Alliance (EDA) is deeply disappointed by the lack of integrity and transparency in Governor’s Cuomo’s process for making appointments to the Public Service Commission (PSC), and last-minute confirmations in the final two days of the Senate’s session. The Senate Energy Committee heard testimony last Tuesday from PSC nominee Phil Wilcox and from current Commissioner Diane Burman, who the Governor nominated for another 6-year term at the last moment without a public announcement. Another 11th-hour appointee, James Alesi, was absent from last Tuesday’s hearing. The EDA is dismayed by the State Senate’s rushed confirmation of these nominees without a thorough and transparent vetting process.
The Governor’s slate of nominees has created a PSC that is all-white and 80% male, with no consumer or environmental justice advocate among them. These new Commissioners risk derailing efforts towards Governor Cuomo’s stated goals for a renewable and sustainable energy future through the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV). This slate of commissioners does not meet the needs of everyday New Yorkers – the 1 million families in NY who struggle to pay their energy bills, the neighborhood groups that works hard to put a solar panel on a community center roof but are stalled by unwieldy regulation; the residents living in neighborhoods overburdened by air pollution due to environmental racism; the local renewable energy installers that want to bring more jobs to our state; or the generations to come that will suffer the ravages of climate change.
Instead of prioritizing advocates of forward-looking community-owned renewable power, the Governor chose IBEW local 97 representative Phil Wilcox, whose strong labor background cannot eclipse his enthusiasm for fossil fuels and nuclear power. Former Republican Senator Jim Alesi lacks any deep experience in energy policy, technical knowledge, and experience for this role. We are also troubled by the renomination of Diane Burman, who in her time on the PSC has supported gas expansion and voted for consumer subsidies for nuclear plants. John Rhodes, newly-confirmed PSC Chair, has a strong background and expertise in renewable energy and efficiency, but shares an orientation toward market solutions that has thwarted progress toward clean energy in New York in his tenure leading NYSERDA.
As the body that makes many critical and lasting decisions about the cost of energy and opportunities for energy efficiency and renewables in our state, the PSC has a responsibility to put New Yorkers first and to protect consumers and the environment from predation and pollution by Wall Street, or utilities, and dirty energy interests. The Energy Democracy Alliance has been advocating for the appointment of People’s Commissioners who would serve the interests of the people and environment of New York State, and will continue to fight for a just and participatory transition to a renewable, equitable, affordable, and local energy system for all New Yorkers.
About the Energy Democracy Alliance
The New York Energy Democracy Alliance (EDA) is a statewide alliance of community-based organizations, grassroots groups, and policy experts working together to advance a just and participatory transition to a resilient, localized, and democratically controlled clean energy economy in New York State. The EDA formed in response to New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding – a state overhaul of energy policy and renewable energy funding. The REV is a historic process that will shape our energy future for generations to come. The EDA holds regulators, political leaders, and energy companies accountable, and works to ensure that the benefits of our energy system flow to all New Yorkers, especially poor, working class people, and communities of color. All New Yorkers, regardless of their background, should have access to the benefits of renewable energy and a sustainable and equitable energy future.
Affordable Housing Partnership Homeownership Center
Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE)
Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition
Center for Social Inclusion (CSI)
Citizens’ Environmental Coalition
Citizens for Local Power
Citizen Action of New York
Fossil Free Tompkins
Good Old Lower East Side
Hudson River Sloop Clearwater
Long Island Progressive Coalition
New York State Sustainable Business Council
Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson
Northwest Bronx Community Clergy Coalition
People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH Buffalo)
Sane Energy Project
Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development
Syracuse United Neighbors (SUN)
WE ACT for Environmental Justice