March 4, 2019 -- Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently (2/28) announced that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released proposed regulations to improve air quality and protect public health with new, stringent requirements on peak-use power plants. The proposal will substantially reduce emissions from the 'peaking' power plants operating on the hottest days with the most air pollution. These plants are also major sources of carbon pollution. Transitioning away from them is a critical component of achieving Governor Cuomo's nation-leading Green New Deal. These regulations are expected to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and shift to 100% clean electricity by 2040.
'Climate change is a frightening reality, and while the federal administration buries its head in the sand, New York is taking action to protect our environment and the health of our residents,' Governor Cuomo said. 'These proposed regulations are a critical step toward getting older, dirty power plants off the grid in the state's most vulnerable areas, and demonstrates New York's leadership in developing a clean energy economy and healthier communities for generations to come.'
The proposal will establish lower thresholds for emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), which contribute to harmful levels of ozone, or smog, on hot summer days. Dozens of simple cycle and regenerative combustion turbines at power plants across the state—many approaching 50 years old and operating infrequently—emit NOx at levels that are at least 30 times more than newer turbine emissions. However, when they do operate, these turbines collectively can account for over a third of New York's daily power plant NOx emissions while producing less electricity for consumers than cleaner sources. In addition, they are often located in proximity to environmental justice areas.
To preserve a reliable electricity grid, the proposal phases in the control requirements from 2023 to 2025, allowing time for a transition to cleaner sources of electricity. It also provides the owners of the plants with an option to meet the new, stringent standards in part through the installation of emission-free renewable energy or energy storage. Storage can reduce the operation of these intermittently-used power sources by dispatching energy when and where it is most needed and reducing emissions of NOx at times when air quality could be compromised.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, 'This proposal will provide millions of New Yorkers with cleaner and healthier air to breathe, particularly in communities located near the state's oldest and dirtiest power plants. It will also support the Governor's nation-leading goal of transitioning to a carbon-neutral economy.'
John B. Rhodes, Chair, NYS Public Service Commission said, 'DEC's proposed regulations represent a smart, bold and necessary step to reduce the adverse health impacts of dirty peak power plants. Reducing emissions from our oldest and dirtiest power plants will not only improve the health of our most vulnerable communities, it will provide new opportunities to deliver innovative clean solutions for New Yorkers to meet the State's goals of clean, affordable and reliable electricity.'
The proposal has been published in the State Register and is available at http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/116131.html. DEC has scheduled public hearings on the proposal in Albany on May 6, 2019; Long Island on May 13, 2019; and New York City on May 14, 2019, and will take written comment through 5 p.m. on May 20, 2019.
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