With two separate blows, New York State has moved to block energy derived from burning fossil fuels.
After a 5-year battle fought by local environmental groups and eventually the State, plans have fallen through to upgrade a facility at the Port of Albany so it could process heavy crude oil from the Canadian tar sands. Massachusetts-based Global Companies has finally walked away from its legal fight to install boilers at the port, which would have been necessary to prepare the crude for rail transport.
Opponents of the upgrade maintained that the facility would threaten the Hudson River, and contribute to global climate change.
As we reported previously, former NASA scientist James Hansen has argued that burning tar sands crude would be “game over” for the climate.
“Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history,” Hansen wrote in a famous 2012 New York Times op-ed.
Earlier this year, the oil industry’s request for new Hudson River anchorage grounds to facilitate the transport of crude oil was also denied, according to advocacy group Riverkeeper.
In a separate development — Governor Cuomo announced earlier this month that the State Department of Environmental Conservation will draft regulations to finally end the burning of coal in New York energy plants by 2020. The regulations will set new limits on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants across the state, a “first in the nation approach,” the State says.
In October 2017, the Trump administration announced that it would roll-back President Obama’s tighter restrictions on CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions from power plants across the country.
As part of the State’s plan, New York’s remaining coal fired power plants will be required to transition to “cleaner, alternative sources of energy,” or be shut down.
The amount of energy derived from burning coal has been steadily declining in New York State, and coal now represents less than 5 percent of the state’s energy base, according to a 2017 report from the New York Independent System Operator.
Nonetheless, fossil fuels figure heavily as a source of power for our homes and businesses. As this NYISO chart shows, “dual fuel” power plants, which burn gas and oil, make up almost half of the state’s current generation capacity.
The Governor’s office says that it “stands ready” to help workers and communities impacted by the closure of power plants due to the State’s new CO2 regulations.
This includes a mitigation fund and other programs to support the transition away from coal-fired power plants. The State launched a Clean Climate Careers initiative after the U.S. pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord in January 2017.