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New Power Generation Facility Expected to Save Plaza More Than $2.7 Million in Annual Energy Costs

Resilient, Grid-Independent Power Source Will Enable Plaza to Be Used as Emergency Shelter for Albany Residents

Supports the Governor’s Reforming the Energy Vision Plan by Removing More Than 25,600 Tons of Emissions From the Atmosphere Each Year

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced plans to construct a new state-of-the-art, locally-sourced mini-power grid that will be connected to the statewide grid, and also be able to operate independently, to power the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza in Albany. The energy-efficient co-generation plant and microgrid will supply 90 percent of the power for the 98-acre downtown Albany complex and is expected to save the Plaza more than $2.7 million in annual energy costs. The project will also remove more than 25,600 tons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere each year – the equivalent of taking more than 4,900 cars off the road – supporting New York’s goal to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels.

"New York is aggressively working to cut greenhouse emissions and reduce the state’s carbon footprint, and with the addition of this new microgrid, the Empire State Plaza will support our ongoing efforts to combat climate change," Governor Cuomo said. "By utilizing the vacant Albany steam plant, this project will bolster our efforts to cut energy costs and harden our vital facilities to withstand what Mother Nature throws our way."
 
The new microgrid will be a clean energy technology upgrade and reuse of a former downtown steam plant and will be linked to the state’s overall power grid. It will also have the capability to operate independently from the grid in the case of an emergency or power outage. The microgrid will provide reliable power, heating and cooling for continuous operation of the entire plaza as a self-sustaining, power-generating island unto itself, enabling state operations and services to continue during an emergency.
 
The power generation facility will be located on Sheridan Avenue in a dormant waste-recovery steam plant that was decommissioned in 1994 and is attached to the steam plant currently in use. The upgraded system will allow on-site power generation from two new 8 megawatt, clean-burning, natural gas-fired turbine generators that will also have dual fuel capabilities. As a byproduct of the electrical generation, the natural gas turbines will generate steam to serve heating and cooling needs of the entire plaza.

A video showing the benefits of the microgrid is available here, along with photos of the downtown facility to be repurposed.

Equipment at the new facility will also have the capability to serve as the source of off-grid electrical power that will allow the Plaza microgrid to be expanded into a larger community-based system for downtown Albany under NYSERDA’s NY Prize Competition. A feasibility study was completed in July 2016 as part of the NYSERDA NY Prize Competition and additional funding was recently awarded to conduct detailed engineering design and business plans for this future expansion project.

The New York State Office of General Services and the New York Power Authority are partnering on the design and construction of the new 16 megawatt combined heat and power system that will act as a microgrid to power all buildings in the Plaza, including Corning Tower, agency buildings, the Egg, the New York State Museum, the Legislative Office Building and the Justice Building, and others. NYPA will oversee the design and construction process, which is expected to begin in late 2017 and completed by the end of 2019.

OGS will finance the project and will save $25 million by avoiding replacement costs of the current aging emergency power system. The project will be supported by $2.5 million in funding from NYSERDA. Request for Proposals for the project has been issued by NYPA and is currently being reviewed by pre-qualified developers. Project costs will be established by responses to the RFP. Proposals are due to NYPA on July 13 with awards expected to be announced in the fall. The project is also subject to the State Environmental Quality Review process.

The new microgrid is the latest in a series of energy-saving and energy efficiency improvements that the two state entities have completed together in recent years at the Plaza. This planned upgrade is one more example of the Governor’s Reforming the Energy Vision plan to a statewide energy system that is clean, resilient and affordable for all New Yorkers.

New York State Energy and Finance Chair Richard Kauffman said, “Microgrids are an important component in how we are going to modernize our energy infrastructure. By updating the Empire State Plaza energy system with a microgrid, under Governor Cuomo’s nation-leading clean energy plans, we are improving energy efficiency and power reliability at downtown Albany’s centerpiece public gathering place. At the same time, we are making sure that more New Yorkers have resilient, reliable and energy efficient power today and into the future.”

NYPA President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones said, “The Office of General Services has been a long-time partner with NYPA in improving energy efficiency in state buildings and this latest project at the Empire State Plaza is the pinnacle of those dedicated efforts. Through projects like this, we are investing in our capital’s infrastructure and simultaneously improving energy efficiency, reducing energy costs, and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. This project is a great example of Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision plan in action. Under the Governor’s leadership, we are implementing smart projects like this one that make our energy production more reliable and efficient.”

OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito said, “Reducing our energy footprint has long been a priority for OGS, and since 1990 we have reduced our overall energy consumption by 41.6 percent including projects under Governor Cuomo’s BuildSmartNY program. Current projects underway including co-generation and the microgrid will allow OGS to exceed Governor Cuomo’s 20 percent energy reduction target by 2020. We are extremely excited to engage in the microgrid project with our partners at NYPA and NYSERDA. When complete, it will provide vital emergency power and help reduce our energy use even further.”
 
NYSERDA President and CEO John B. Rhodes said, “The Empire State Plaza microgrid will provide critical power when needed most during extreme weather events and allow the local community a place of refuge. This project can serve as an innovative clean energy model which can be replicated across the State by other communities. Governor Cuomo has made it a priority to modernize our energy infrastructure by ensuring reliability and resiliency are built into a cleaner energy system that can serve communities across the State.”

Senator Neil Breslin said, "I commend the efforts this partnership has put forth to reduce carbon emissions. It is a great day for the State of New York when a cost-effective, energy efficient and environmentally conscious improvement can be identified and implemented."

Assemblymember Patricia Fahy said, "The new Empire State Plaza microgrid signals a significant step towards greater energy efficiency for New York and the Capital Region. In addition to the significant environmental benefits of the new microgrid, its ability to continue to operate in the case of a larger power outage will help protect New Yorkers’ access to state services in emergency situations. I applaud NYPA, OGS, and Governor Cuomo for their commitment to reducing emissions and completing this milestone project."

Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy said, "I commend Governor Andrew Cuomo, OGS and NYPA for collaborating on this innovative project that will introduce new technology while saving on the cost to produce energy at the Empire State Plaza. If we are to reduce carbon emission and reduce the output of greenhouse gases, we must embrace these initiatives."

This project builds on the significant progress already made by OGS in reducing its overall energy imprint through the Governor’s BuildSmartNY energy efficiency initiative for public buildings. The agency is also making headway in meeting the Governor’s Executive Order 88, which calls for a 20 percent reduction in energy consumption by all state agencies by 2020. To date, OGS has worked with NYPA to implement energy efficiency improvements at the Ten Eyck State Office Building, the W. Averell Harriman State Office Building Campus, the Suffolk State Office Building, the Executive Mansion, the Senator Hughes State Office Building in Syracuse, and the Eleanor Roosevelt State Office Building in Poughkeepsie, to name a few.

About Reforming the Energy Vision
Reforming the Energy Vision is Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's strategy to lead on climate change and grow New York's economy. REV is building a cleaner, more resilient and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers by stimulating investment in clean technologies like solar, wind, and energy efficiency, in support of the recently adopted Clean Energy Standard, which requires that 50 percent of the state's electricity needs be generated from renewable energy by 2030. Already, REV has driven 800 percent growth in the statewide solar market, enabled over 105,000 low-income households to permanently cut their energy bills with energy efficiency, and created thousands of jobs in manufacturing, engineering, and other clean tech sectors. REV is ensuring New York State reduces statewide greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and achieves the internationally-recognized target of reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050. To learn more about REV, including the Governor's $5 billion investment in clean energy technology and innovation, please visit www.ny.gov/REV4NY and follow us at @Rev4NY.

Forget the climate warriors of California. The state best positioned to spoil Donald Trump’s plan to unleash America’s fossil-fuel resources may be New York.

In the past year, New York regulators have blocked two major natural gas pipelines -- a $455 million proposal by National Fuel Gas Co. and a $925 million one from Williams Partners LP -- on the grounds that they pose environmental risks. One bank’s saying investors have no choice but to assign “elevated risk premiums” to energy projects in the state, National Fuel Gas is threatening to take its money elsewhere and Williams’s chief executive officer said Wednesday that he’s in talks with the White House on how the administration can help.

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What makes New York so pivotal in the fight against fossil fuels is its location, next-door to the nation’s most-prolific shale gas formation. That’s turned it into a crucial link in the vast U.S. network of oil and gas pipelines and a major consumer of the heating and power-plant fuel. By blocking projects, New York is testing the limits of states’ rights by running head-on against Trump’s call for more energy infrastructure.

For more on how Trump helped Energy Transfer finish the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline, read this story.

“States and cities are going to be expected to carry the load since it’s apparent the federal government has backed away from that responsibility” of protecting the environment and fighting global warming, Basil Seggos, who leads New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, said by phone, acknowledging the growing rift between the state and those in Washington. “I would not dispute that New York and the federal government have different approaches on climate policy.”

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While Trump is working to undo Obama-era regulations requiring power plants to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, New York is working on a plan to get half of its electricity from renewable energy sources. Its goal is to cut emissions 40 percent from 1990 levels.

“New York’s recalcitrance to new pipeline infrastructure is unique versus other regions because the state has a real need for cheap natural gas and acts as a gateway to other similarly-situated areas like the Northeast,” said Brandon Barnes, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.

‘Environmentally Focused Leader’

Even before the election, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was taking great pains to distance himself from Trump and “carve out an image as a particularly progressive and environmentally focused leader,” said Katie Bays, an analyst at Height Securities LLC.

Arguably now more than ever, she said, there’s “political will” in Washington “to strip New York of its permitting authority.” 

Williams CEO Alan Armstrong said in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York on Wednesday that the pipeline giant is talking to several people within the Trump administration about moving its Constitution gas line forward after it was denied a water certificate from New York. The White House’s Council on Environmental Quality has taken “serious interest” in the effort and labor unions have voiced support because of the potential for thousands of jobs, he said.

‘Purely Political’

“People really want jobs there and they don’t like being denied good-paying jobs,” Armstrong said. New York’s decision was “purely political,” he said, adding that he didn’t know of a “more difficult place” to build a pipeline than the state.

Armstrong said he believes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could issue a permit without a certificate from New York. The White House declined to comment.

Jefferies Group LLC meanwhile described New York’s regulatory environment as “ill defined, impossible to meet, and more onerous for private enterprise” than the regulations for public works projects. Investors have no choice but to assign “risk premiums” to all potential lines there, analysts at the investment bank including Christopher Sighinolfi said in a May 4 note.

It’s the kind of criticism that energy companies have typically reserved for California’s environmental regulations. So it’s perhaps telling that New York-based National Fuel Gas said the company’s now considering stepping up investments in California. At least in the Golden State, Chief Executive Officer Ronald Tanski said, it knows what to expect.

Pushing Forward

New York rejected a water quality certificate last month for National Fuel Gas’s Northern Access pipeline expansion, which would’ve shuttled gas supplies from the Marcellus shale of the eastern U.S. to markets in New York, New England, Canada and the Midwest. Tanski told analysts in a call earlier this month that Cuomo didn’t respond to repeated requests from him. Armstrong said he had a similar experience.

Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday that New York will protect its natural resources and public health “in the absence of federal leadership on environmental protection.” The state is committed to “pushing forward progressive, nation-leading policies that create jobs and expand our clean energy economy,” he said.

While trade groups say New York’s resistance is costing the U.S. Northeast jobs and cheap energy, the environmental group Sierra Club sees it as necessary to protect the environment in areas where the federal government no longer is.

“The states will gain more and more power under Trump to stop these projects,”  said Roger Downs, conservation director of Sierra Club’s Atlantic chapter. “A lot of states will finally wake up and take charge of some of their languishing environmental issues.”

New York has always led the way on environmental issues, said Seggos, the state’s environmental commissioner. “We believe that a strong economy and clean environment are inseparable.”

National Fuel Gas was down 0.4 percent at $56.29 at 10:10 a.m. in New York. Williams Partners fell 1.8 percent to $40.73.

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A new study by researchers at Duke University has found fracking does not pose a significant risk to groundwater. (Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)
 

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as “fracking,” has been the target of numerous environmental groups and climate change alarmists since becoming a significant part of the U.S. economy. Fracking has allowed companies to extract oil and natural gas from the ground in areas that were once thought to be impossible to get to, which means in the minds of environmental extremists, it’s helping to contribute to man-caused global warming.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, if fracking were banned, as many environmentalists have suggested, there would be 14.8 million fewer jobs by 2022 and the price of gasoline and electricity would double compared to what they would otherwise be.

Because fracking has provided incredible economic benefits, especially in many states in the Midwest and West, environmentalists have attempted to argue it should be banned based on other potential risks. One of the most cited “problems” fracking allegedly causes is the contamination of drinking water. Environmentalists have long claimed the fracking process causes dangerous chemicals and other damage to natural water sources, and in some areas, as a result, environmentalists have been successful in convincing lawmakers to pass bans.

Well-crafted studies, however, have shown these fears are completely overblown and unnecessary, and a new study by researchers at Duke University confirms these findings. According to the researchers, hydraulic fracturing processes do not pose a systemic impact on groundwater.

Incredibly, the study was funded in part by the far-left Natural Resources Defense Council, an organization that has historically been an adamant opponent of fracking.

On its website, the NRDC wrote, “While the exact mixtures of chemicals used for fracking are often withheld as trade secrets, we do know that many of them have been associated with a whole host of health issues, including cancer. Moreover, fracking can cause some severe environmental impacts and public health threats.”

“Even on good days, a fracking operation does not make for a great neighbor,” NRDC also said. “Drilling and fracturing cause loud noises and require bright lights. … On bad days, things get even worse. Chemical-laced wastewater can spill and pollute drinking water as well as cause earthquakes when massive amounts of it are disposed. Fracking is also not immune to mishaps like dangerous and climate change–aggravating methane leaks and even explosions.”

Tim Benson, a policy analyst at The Heartland Institute, where I also work as an editor, wrote earlier in May, “The existing peer-reviewed evidence shows hydraulic fracturing processes do not pose a systemic impact on groundwater. Since 2010, at least 18 of these studies have been produced, including ones by the Bureau of Economic Geology at the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas-Austin, the Department of Geology at the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Cincinnati, the California Council on Science and Technology and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, and Germany’s Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources.”

Perhaps the NRDC and other environmental groups will reexamine their positions on fracking in light of the mounting evidence showing fracking is, generally speaking, a safe and effective way of extracting oil and gas.

Frank Keating “Big Mistake” 60 Sec. Ad from Windfall on Vimeo.

The Windfall Coalition Ad: "Big Mistake" Gov. Frank Keating 60 Second

Saqib Rahim
E&E News reporter

New York gets 57 percent of its power from gas. But even though the state sits over part of the Marcellus Shale,it has chosen to be a consumer rather than a producer.

In 2014, after several years of evaluation, the Cuomo administration signaled it would ban high­volumehydraulic fracturing, citing its risks to the environment and public health.

Then Cuomo moved to limit pipelines. Last year, the state Department of Environmental Conservation rejectedthe Constitution pipeline, a 124­mile line from Pennsylvania. Last month, DEC turned down the Northern Access 2016 project, a 96­mile line from Pennsylvania.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had approved both projects. But in both cases, the state denied a water permit under the Clean Water Act.

The rejections incensed the pipeline companies, which claimed they had done everything regulators asked of them but were being denied for political reasons. Cuomo is reportedly interested in running for president in
2020.

The pipelines' sponsors, Williams Partners LP and National Fuel Gas Co., have both joined the Business Council of New York's new lobby group.

Does the Northeast need more gas?

Yet the question of whether the Northeast actually needs more gas is hardly a straightforward one. It's closer to a paradox.

On the one hand, the region is vulnerable to dramatic swings in gas prices. Jacob Fericy, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said the Northeast becomes "one of the most pipeline­constrained markets in the world" each winter.

Gas prices have been at least $3 above the Henry Hub benchmark for four of the last five winters, he said. On the other hand, power demand is fairly flat, so it's hard to muster a sense of urgency. Grid operators in New England and New York consider the regions well supplied on gas, at least for the near future.

Getting gas by sea has also become cheaper over the last five years, giving New England states an à la carte option in a pinch, Hanger said.

"LNG on a unit basis costs more, but you just buy what you need when you need it," he said. "In order to meet that short­term cold period need, LNG imports may be better than building a pipeline that operates for every day and every hour and every minute of every year."

That's cold comfort for gas advocates, who say the Northeast is shortchanging workers and industry. Suarez, of the Business Council, said New York factories that make auto parts, forklifts and paper want to convert to gas to save money.

"Those energy­intensive businesses, they can be located anywhere in the world," he said. "They're challenged by competitors throughout the world that have greater access to natural gas."

Karen Moreau, API's executive director in New York, said Cuomo's policies have left the state's Southern Tier impoverished.

The region had hoped to enjoy royalties from fracking and jobs and tax revenue from building pipelines, she said in a press call last month.

"What's the legitimate reason here? Is there one?" she asked. "What is his plan for natural gas? And how does he intend to provide safe, reliable, affordable energy to all New Yorkers with the program we're currently seeing? In our view, it doesn't add up."

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