EDA Dismayed by Cuomo’s PSC Nominations

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.

EDA Members:

Affordable Housing Partnership Homeownership Center
Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE)
Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition
Catskill Mountainkeeper
Center for Social Inclusion (CSI)
Citizens’ Environmental Coalition
Citizens for Local Power
Citizen Action of New York
Co-op Power
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
Solstice
Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development
Syracuse United Neighbors (SUN)
WE ACT for Environmental Justice

Energy Democracy Alliance Renews Call for a People’s Commissioner on Powerful State Agency

The Senate Energy Committee held a confirmation hearing on June 6 of John Rhodes, one of Governor Cuomo’s appointees to serve on the New York Public Service Commission (PSC), a powerful agency that oversees utility regulations and rates, as well as funding for most of the state’s clean energy programs. Rhodes is currently a member of Cuomo’s administration as the head of the state’s clean energy agency, NYSERDA.  

Last week, news broke that Cuomo will nominate Phil Wilcox – a Cuomo ally and the Business Representative for labor union IBEW Local 97 – to fill the second of three PSC vacancies. In response to these nominations, the New York Energy Democracy Alliance (EDA) urges State Senators to ask Rhodes and Wilcox tough questions about how, if confirmed, they will approach utility regulations, the state’s transition to a renewable energy system, and energy affordability for all New Yorkers.

The EDA harbors reservations about both nominees. Rhodes has demonstrated a commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency, and has extensive experience in energy issues. His agency, though, has embraced an ideology of markets over public programs and rebates that has slowed the state’s renewable energy growth. Wilcox is a strong labor advocate, and the EDA fully supports just transitions for workers displaced from good union jobs and communities threatened by the loss of tax revenue that supports vital public sector institutions like local school districts. However, we stand opposed to ratepayer bailouts of large nuclear and fossil fuel generators that serve to enrich corporate CEOs and private shareholders. Wilcox has advocated for consumer subsidies for nuclear and coal plants in upstate New York, as well as for increased state support for large transmission infrastructure. Adding these candidates to the existing Commissioners will not result in the representative and dynamic Public Service Commission the state needs.

“After three years of talking with the state’s energy leaders, we’ve yet to see action that makes clean energy access, ownership or control for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers a reality,” said Adam Flint, Southern TIer Solar Works Program Manager at the Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition. “In the wake of Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accord, it’s past time for Governor Cuomo to show that his stated commitment to climate policy with equity is more than words. His  first two picks for the Commission do not inspire confidence. The appointment of a ‘People’s Commissioner’ is critical in giving energy democracy advocates evidence of the sincerity of his leadership in delivering on his promise of access to renewables regardless of income or zip code. “

To support a robust examination of PSC nominees’ experience, positions, and ties, the EDA has produced a Confirmation Hearing Worksheet for senators to use during the process. This week, the Alliance circulated this worksheet to the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee members and will distribute the Worksheet to other senators in the coming days.

The vacancies on the PSC present an opportunity to broaden the vision and capacities of this important body. The EDA continues to call on Governor Cuomo to appoint – and for the Senate to confirm – “People’s Commissioners” to the PSC committed to working for the benefit of all New Yorkers and to build a green, sustainable New York. These consumer-centric regulators would hold utilities accountable to their obligation of providing reliable service at just and reasonable rates, and would rein in the outsize influence of big utilities and dirty fossil fuels interests. People’s Commissioners would work to grow New York’s renewable energy economy so the state can lead nationally. A People’s Commissioner would also prioritize green jobs and local, community renewable power generation in neighborhoods across New York– so that everyone, not just the wealthy or big utility companies, can benefit.  People’s Commissioners would reflect the diversity of the people of our state, bringing strength and balance of perspective and experience to the PSC. Given the ongoing and inevitable transition to a renewable energy based economy, the state needs People’s Commissioners who understand how to guide that transition toward local and democratically controlled clean energy solutions so that that all communities can have a say in and benefit from this transition.

Neither Rhodes nor Wilcox meet the criteria for People’s Commissioners. In light of these nominations, the EDA renews its call on the Governor to appoint a strong consumer, environmental justice, and community advocate to the Commission – someone to be the voice of the millions of New Yorkers who suffer unaffordable energy rates, the harms of pollution,  and lack of access to clean, renewable energy benefits. New York State needs Commissioners that represent and reflect all it’s people, especially those from communities most impacted by energy decisions.

 

###

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.

EDA Members:

Affordable Housing Partnership Homeownership Center

Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE)

Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition

Catskill Mountainkeeper

Center for Social Inclusion (CSI)

Citizens’ Environmental Coalition

Citizens for Local Power

Citizen Action of New York

Co-op Power

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

Solstice

Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development

Syracuse United Neighbors (SUN)

WE ACT for Environmental Justice

 

Advocates Renew Call for People’s Commissioner on PSC

 

NEW YORK – Consumer advocates have renewed their call for a people’s commissioner to serve on the state’s Public Service Commission.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has chosen nominees for two of the three vacant seats on the PSC: John Rhodes, the current head of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and Phil Wilcox, business representative for IBEW Local 97, a labor union.

Now Ceci Pineda, resiliency training and policy coordinator for the social services group Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), wants the governor to fill the final seat with someone who will represent the people and the environment.

Read more here

Cuomo Urged to Appoint “People’s Commissioners” to PSC

ALBANY, N.Y. – The people need a voice on the Public Service Commission. That’s the message community leaders delivered to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday. Three of the five seats on the powerful Public Service Commission are vacant, and they’re usually filled with people who represent the needs of the energy industry.

But Kelly Roache senior program manager at Solstice, an organization that promotes community solar power, was among those in the State Capitol calling on the governor to appoint a “people’s commissioner” to serve the interests of the public and the environment.

Read more here

Activists want a ‘People’s Commissioner’ on the PSC

 

A group of activists representing low-income customers and environmentalists are calling for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to nominate what they term a ”People’s Commissioner’ to the Public Service Commission.

While they have submitted a list of names of potential nominees to the governor, members of The Energy Democracy Alliance haven’t made that list public.

But they say they want at least one commissioner who is tuned into the issues facing needy New Yorkers as well as someone who will push for the energy efficiency goals that Cuomo has called for.

Read more here

A Push for a “People’s Commissioner” for the PSC

 

By month’s end, Audrey Zibelman and Patricia Acampora are expected to leave the PublicService Commission. With this turnover, some clean energy advocates are now asking for Governor Andrew Cuomo to appoint a “People’s Commissioner” to make renewable energy more accessible to lower income New York residents. Kelly Roache of Solstice, a non-profit organization looking to drive down the price of solar energy, explains what that would mean.

Watch interview here

New York Energy Democracy Alliance

And Ceci Pineda, the Resiliency Training & Policy Coordinator with the Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), a member of the New York Energy Democracy Alliance (EDA), will discuss the EDA’s request for a people’s commissioner in the PSC vacancies.

Read more here