Advocates Call on Senate Vote Down Cuomo’s Picks  

Over 100 organizations sent a letter to key Senate leaders this morning, opposing Governor Cuomo’s nominations to serve on the New York Public Service Commission (PSC), a powerful agency that is involved in every major decision regarding our state’s electricity grid, utilities, clean energy funding, renewable energy and fossil fuel and nuclear projects. The nominees are David Valesky, former New York State Senator and former member of the Independent Democratic Caucus, and John Maggiore, a Senior Advisor to the Governor.

Letter is linked here

Organizations from across New York are raising concerns that neither appointee has the requisite energy, utility, environmental, environmental justice, or consumer advocacy expertise necessary to provide bold leadership in implementing New York’s landmark climate law: the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act  (CLCPA). The PSC is a 5-7 member board that oversees the gas, electric, and other utilities are responsible for meeting the 70% renewable energy mandate and makes decisions over intrastate gas pipelines.

“As New York State faces the difficult challenge of transforming our utility system from fossil fuels to renewable energy in order to address the climate crisis, it is essential that appointees to the Public Service Commission have the knowledge and experience necessary to make informed decisions about the State’s utility industry, energy needs, and environmental challenges,” explained Yuwa Vosper, Environmental Policy & Advocacy Coordinator at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “We need to appoint visionaries who are able to lay the groundwork for a clean utility system that can meet the State’s growing need for renewable energy and electrification while phasing out the use of fossil fuels, and to do so in a just and equitable way that won’t leave low-income communities or communities of color out in the cold.”

“The PSC is a critical body in helping New York meet the climate and equity mandates of the CLCPA. Appointees to the PSC must show a demonstrated commitment to racial, economic, and environmental justice, and to building a renewable economy that works for all New Yorkers,” said the NY Renews Steering Committee in a statement.

“New York has big decisions ahead in terms of how to make sure we meet our climate and environmental justice mandates outlined in the CLCPA,” said Jessica Azulay, Executive Director of Alliance for a Green Economy. “We need a Commission filled with people who hold serious renewable energy and utility expertise, demonstrated commitment to economic and racial justice, and an understanding of what it will take to meet the climate goals while protecting utility customers from utility abuses.”

“This should be obvious, but being close to Governor Cuomo doesn’t qualify someone to be a Commissioner of the Public Service Commission. The Senate should reject both of the governor’s nominees out of hand and demand he nominate someone with actual expertise,” said Alex Beauchamp, Northeast Region Director of Food and Water Watch.

“350Brooklyn urges our State Senate to exercise its power to protect the people of New York State by declining the nominations of David Valesky and John Maggiore to the Public Service Commission,” said Sara Gronim of 350 Brooklyn. “At a time of high utility prices, utility company malfeasance, and the urgency of the climate crisis, we need PSC Commissioners who are deeply knowledgeable about energy and sincerely committed to the public good. Now is not the time for crony appointments. The next few years will determine how resilient New York State will become in the face of the climate crisis. We need the best possible public servants at the PSC.”

“PUSH Buffalo organizes and mobilizes in and with frontline communities in Buffalo around issues of energy democracy and climate justice because corporations and government institutions all too often align their interests in ways that harm our people through climate and environmental pollution or advance false solutions that perpetuate racialized resource and wealth extraction from our communities. The Public Service Commission should be a first and last defense against these powerful forces within the energy and utility industry. With passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, frontline communities have new tools to wield in the struggle for a just transition to a renewable energy economy. Now more than ever we need a truly representative PSC that is of, from, and for frontline and environmental justice communities,” said Clarke Gocker, Director of Policy and Strategy at PUSH Buffalo. 

“New York is at a critical point in program design and implementation to meet its ambitious climate goals,” said Adam Flint, Director of Clean Energy Programs at the Network for a Sustainable Tomorrow, “and this process is already going far too slowly. We are on the front lines of implementing programs focused on clean heating and cooling and community solar with a particular emphasis on low income communities and communities of color, and the utilities are not meeting their obligations to advance these programs in a timely fashion.  Governor Cuomo must act like the climate leader he has laid claim to being.  Appointing commissioners with experience as consumer, environmental justice, or community advocates in the clean energy space who will hold the utilities accountable to the interests of communities and consumers is essential. The proposed candidates entirely lack the background and expertise required, and their nominations should be withdrawn.”

“Mothers across New York are demanding swift and equitable climate action from our public servants at all levels of government for the sake of our children’s future,” said Lisa Marshall, a volunteer leader with Mothers Out Front NY. “This kind of blatant cronyism at the very top is a betrayal and erodes our faith in the idea of government accountability. We call on the Senate Finance Committee to deny the confirmation of Valesky and Maggiore. We call on the governor to submit names of candidates who have the appropriate expertise and demonstrated a commitment to equity and access for all New Yorkers to broadband, clean water, and affordable clean energy. In order for New York State to meet its ambitious climate goals, the public utilities will require firm guidance and consistent oversight on the delivery of vital energy services, the Public Service Commission’s role has never been more important.”

The vacancies on the PSC present an opportunity to broaden the vision and capacities of this important body. Ideal candidates for the Commission would demonstrate a commitment in their past work  to holding utilities accountable to their obligations, reining in the outsize influence of big utilities and dirty fossil fuel interests, and implementing and enforcing environmental policy.  

Neither appointees possess demonstrated experience related to the work of the Public Service Commission. In light of these nominations, the advocates are calling on the State Senate to reject the Governor’s recent nominations and hope the Governor will nominate people with strong consumer, environmental, and social justice backgrounds – people who can 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 its people, especially those from communities most impacted by energy decisions.