Binghamton, NY. The Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition (BRSC) and our NY Energy Democracy Working Group partners across the state applaud Governor Cuomo’s ban on fracking that denied a false solution to climate change from taking root in New York. The decision was based on a concern for the health of New York’s residents, the protection of our water system, and the lack of clear and strong economic opportunities that fracking could provide given the social costs. And it is a lesson we hope resonates across the nation –any supposed solution to climate change or economic development that would compromise our health and wellbeing is no solution at all.
Within this ban, Governor Cuomo charged New Yorkers with a critical task: Find the alternative economy that can help build and sustain communities that have long-faced economic disinvestment and depression – from the Southern Tier to environmental justice communities in New York City.
The good news is, New Yorkers already have the answer. Residents and communities across the state are clamoring for a climate resilient, racially equitable, and economically just energy system that is rooted in locally owned renewable energy projects. From district-wide energy efficiency and solar projects led by people of color in the Bronx to community-owned wind projects in Tompkins County and green development zones rooted in low-income communities in Buffalo, New Yorkers have the models that can help spur innovation and investment in local economies.
To bring all of these projects to an impactful scale, we need to invest in community capacity, policies and funding that prioritize efficiency and renewable projects in economically stressed communities vulnerable to climate change. We must create a pathway for communities left behind in our current energy policy — those with the highest energy insecurity and the least access to the state’s current regime of energy programs — by creating an integrated pathway from energy efficiency retrofit readiness to community controlled on-site renewable generation.
As we celebrate Governor Cuomo’s decision to ban fracking — and the incredibly strong, courageous and uncompromising movement that won it — we need to seize this momentous opportunity to answer the Governor’s challenge and make these models and ideas a reality. The anti-fracking movement bubbled up from local communities across the state – from towns and cities that declared their democratic right to control their own energy future. The solutions to our climate and economic crises are similarly emerging.
- We can look for leadership from Catskill Mountainkeeper, the Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition, PUSH Buffalo and the Central NY Regional Planning and Development Board, who were among the recipients of funds to help move the state towards community lead solar adoption.
- We can learn from community-based organizations across the state who promote residential home energy improvement through the Green Jobs Green New York program and have lessons to teach about how New York can accelerate energy efficiency retrofit programs in low-income communities.
- We can work with Citizens for Local Power and Vote Solar, whose efforts just last week won key decisions from state regulators that could pave the way for Community Choice Aggregation and Community Solar
- We can look to the leadership of AGREE to engage with the Clean Energy fund and Reforming the Energy Vision proceedings underway at the Public Service Commission to demand adequate funding for and community involvement in clean energy projects, with some resources particularly earmarked for environmental justice, climate vulnerable, and economically disadvantaged communities so they can shape their energy future with the right capacity and tools.
- We can use models developed by PUSH-Buffalo and Center for Social Inclusion to demand that local towns and cities create Green Development Zones or Energy Investment Districts that would allow New York’s most vulnerable communities to lead and participate in the planning and financing of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
Today, we celebrate the Governor’s decision. And tomorrow, emboldened by this victory for energy democracy, we will answer the Governor’s call for solutions that protect our health and environment while creating economic prosperity for New York’s most vulnerable communities.
About the Energy Democracy Working Group:
The Energy Democracy Working Group members currently include:
Alliance for a Green Economy: www.allianceforagreeneconomy.org
Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition: http://binghamtonsustainability.org
Catskill Mountainkeeper: www.catskillmountainkeeper.org
Center for Social Inclusion: www.centerforsocialinclusion.org
Solutions Project: http://thesolutionsproject.org
Syracuse United Neighbors: http://www.sunaction.org/
Pratt Center for Community Development: http://prattcenter.net
PUSH Buffalo: www.pushbuffalo.org
For more information on the Renewable NY project, please visit: www.renewableny.com