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OPINION: N.Y.’s Climate Goals Could Produce Reliability Crisis

By Will Barclay


New York Democrats have a longstanding habit of taking an issue like environmental policy and addressing it with the most extreme, unrealistic solutions conceivable. The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) passed in 2019 is one such example of that type of overreaction, and [as of press time] several Assembly committees were set to be meeting to discuss one of the proposals born of the law: all-electric buildings.

The hearing was to examine the feasibility of requiring all new construction to eliminate fuel combustion and move to an all-electric energy system. There are enormous concerns with this type of dramatic shift in energy policy. One such concern, as enumerated by the Empire Center for Public Policy, is a lack of power during the coldest, darkest months of the year. The policy analysts there estimate that energy deficits could lead to a supply shortage of as much as 10 percent by 2040. An energy shortage or blackout during a severe winter storm could be fatal under these conditions.

For example, last year a polar vortex enveloped Texas and the state’s energy grid was unable to keep up with demand. All told, as many as 750 people died and property damage approached $200 billion. We simply cannot have a situation where there is not enough power to go around, and the CLCPA is setting us up for that very scenario.

Broadly speaking, the CLCPA is, essentially, a list of emissions goals. Outside of the obvious risks to the energy grid, the goals are financially unworkable. Estimates of the annual cost to implementing the recommendations in the legislation are in the billions of dollars. Taxes and utility costs are expected to rise dramatically to cover expenses like retrofitting the state’s energy system. The motivation for the law is dubious as well, as New York only contributes about 0.5 percent of global carbon emissions and only 3 percent of emissions here in the U.S. In other words, New York is “green” by any reasonable standard, especially Upstate.

The Assembly Republican Conference has always stood for creating a cleaner, healthier New York, and I believe there are responsible ways to leverage the benefits of renewable energy. But Democrats are forcing through climate policy and a massive overhaul of the utility sector without even the courtesy of telling the average New York household what it’s going to cost.

Unfortunately, the current path we are on is dangerous and unsustainable. I urge the [state legislature] to consider closely the impact this law will have on the individuals asked to pay for and live though its standards; they are the ones most at risk.

William (Will) A. Barclay, 53, Republican, is the New York Assembly minority leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County. 

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