Political Pressure Mounting for New York Offshore Wind Power

NWF's Catherine Bowes at yesterday's rally on Long Island

As the second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy reminds us, America needs bold action to advance solutions to climate change. New York has a long way to go in ramping up clean energy, but fortunately there is a massive, untapped source of carbon-free power available right off our shores.

Yesterday, I was proud to stand with New York Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Senator Phil Boyle, state conservation, labor, and community leaders, and over 80 local residents outside the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) headquarters, united in a strong call for action to power Long Island with offshore wind.

National Wildlife Federation supports the responsible development of offshore wind power as a critical solution for protecting wildlife from the dangers of climate change, and we are working with a broad set of diverse allies to spur New York to finally make it happen. With a major decision due from the LIPA Board in December regarding new sources of renewable power, political pressure is clearly mounting for LIPA to commit to bringing offshore wind power online.

New Yorkers Are Counting on LIPA, Gov. Cuomo

Following the morning rally, we all filed into the LIPA Board meeting and voiced our support for offshore wind power directly to the Trustees in a standing room only, packed hearing. Attendees spoke passionately about their experiences during Sandy, and their fears for the future of Long Island if climate change is not addressed. Local community leaders and college students all highlighted the incredible job opportunities that will result as Long Island meets the high tech, research, manufacturing, construction, and operations needs of this new industry. Petitions from over 20,000 New Yorkers calling for offshore wind power were delivered by the Sierra Club, and conservation leaders including Renewable Energy Long Island, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, and myself called for action to reach this new clean energy frontier. Assemblyman Englebright read a letter supporting offshore wind power from a bipartisan coalition of the LI delegation into the record, and as Senator Boyle commented in his remarks, “these guys don’t agree on anything.”

The overwhelming message to the LIPA Board was this: New Yorkers are tired of waiting for offshore wind power and the tremendous environmental and job creation benefits it will bring to Long Island.

Over 80 Long Islanders Rallied in Front of LIPA Headquarters – 10/30/14 (Photo by Catherine Bowes, NWF)

LIPA, PSEG-LI, and Governor Cuomo have a critical decision before them, and the political support for choosing offshore wind power could not be more clear. Deepwater ONE, a project proposed 30 miles east of Montauk, has submitted an application to LIPA which has received broad public support – including the endorsements of a bipartisan coalition of the New York state assembly, numerous local town supervisors, the Long Island Federation of Labor, the Association for a Better Long Island, and a large coalition of national, state, and local conservation organizations representing hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.

Offshore Wind Power: A Golden Opportunity for New York

Across the Atlantic, offshore wind has been advancing for more than 20 years... it's time for the US to catch up! (photo: London Array)

Across the Atlantic, there are over 70 offshore wind projects online. It’s time for the US to catch up! (photo: London Array)

Offshore wind power is a proven, commercially available technology with an over 20-year history of creating clean energy and tens of thousands of jobs overseas. It can be deployed right here, right now with significant environmental and economic benefits. Offshore wind power can deliver electricity to LIPA right when and where we need it, providing valuable diversity to our energy portfolio that will buffer ratepayers from the volatility of fossil fuel price spikes, and reduce local pollution. It is cost-competitive with other sources of energy, and launching offshore wind power will spark transformational economic development on Long Island and across the state. The booming offshore wind industry in Europe currently employs approximately 60,000 people with quality careers in a range of sectors. NWF recently published a report outlining the many benefits of offshore wind power and the status of offshore wind development in the US.

Of course, as a wildlife advocacy organization, NWF is following America’s pursuit of offshore wind power very closely to ensure that strong environmental protections are in place as we develop this critically needed clean energy. Offshore wind projects can and must be developed responsibly, and the Deepwater ONE project offers a shining example of what’s possible when industry and wildlife advocates come together to craft workable solutions. A multi-year, comprehensive stakeholder process has guided the siting of the project, and in May developer Deepwater Wind signed an agreement with National Wildlife Federation and our partners to go beyond federal requirements and implement additional measures to protect endangered whales in the area.

Now is the time to usher in a clean energy future for New York’s communities and wildlife, and responsibly developed offshore wind power must be part of the strategy. We are counting on LIPA, PSEG-LI, and Governor Cuomo for a commitment to New York offshore wind power this year.

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