FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 22, 2019
Rochester: Neely Kelley, [email protected] 585 451 9875
Buffalo: Clarke Gocker: [email protected], (716) 884-0356 ext. 230
Community Groups and Renewable Energy Advocates from Across New York State Issue “Midterm Report Card” for Energy Efficiency at Forum in Rochester
Regulatory Agencies Get a “D” for Failing to Secure Equitable Energy Efficiency Policy
Rochester, NY - Today in Rochester, community groups and renewable energy advocates gathered and held a press conference at the Low Income Forum on Energy, hosted by the Public Service Commission (PSC) and NYSERDA (the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority). The advocates came bearing a “Midterm Report Card on Energy Efficiency,” calling attention to the agencies’ failure to create a process that guarantees real accountability and benefits for low income New Yorkers - the full report card can be found HERE. Today's press conference in Rochester is just the first event in a statewide series; communities and advocates all over New York are calling on NYSERDA and the PSC to make the promises and potential of Governor Cuomo's efficiency policies a reality for low income communities and communities of color across the state.
Community leaders like Luz Velez of Buffalo, NY have called attention to the Public Service Commission’s pattern of engaging communities without substantially incorporating their feedback into policy. “We, the marginal, frontline community—heck, the most needy and affected by unfair marketing practices—are tired of being used by utility companies and by state watchdogs that promise to include us in decision making and hearings, and then design policies and programs that we can’t qualify for or aren’t designed or offered to us! How many times can we—as experts of what can work for us—be asked to give testimony, only to not be heard? We are tired of being shut off and shut out!”
Bob Jahnke, PUSH Buffalo Board member and resident of Buffalo’s West Side, participated in the forum and added, "Thanks to PUSH Buffalo, I'm now able to live in an affordable, energy efficient apartment on Buffalo's West Side. That wasn't always the case. For years I lived in unsafe, unaffordable, and unhealthy rental housing and paid way more than I could afford on utility bills. As a community leader, I've been advocating for comprehensive investments in weatherization and health and safety improvements to buildings in my neighborhood for far too long without seeing conditions improve. The PSC, NYSERDA, and the investor-owned utilities need to be held accountable. I've participated in my fair share of stakeholder processes and haven't seen action by the State to implement community recommendations and solutions. We need real action now to advance equitable reinvestment in my community and communities like mine across NYS."
Local Rochester energy efficiency professionals spoke out as well. Building Analyst Ryan Puckett from Wise Home Energy called attention to the need for equity and funding for holistic building upgrades for low income communities: “NYSERDA's low income efficiency programs play a key role in reducing the economic burden of lower income New Yorker's while making our existing housing stock safer and more energy efficient. As a building analyst, I see first-hand the benefits and shortcomings associated with these projects. We now have the opportunity to advance and expand these programs to go beyond energy efficiency and include measures such as asbestos, mold remediation, and indoor air quality improvements that would truly improve the lives of low income New Yorker's, the communities they live in and New York as a whole.”
Last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new energy efficiency standard for New York State, and the Public Service Commission began developing a process whereby this new standard could be implemented. Community groups called attention from the beginning to the need to include equity in these conversations - as the report card notes, only 12% of eligible low and moderate income households statewide have been able to access the benefits of energy efficiency over the last 12 years. Initial engagements with community members showed promise, and resulted in clear feedback for the commission to follow: “Leadership from both the Public Service Commission and NYSERDA attended sessions to dialogue with residents and community experts, and the results of these conversations were published on the record in a first of its kind report that included 44 detailed recommendations made during the listening sessions.”
However, the Report Card also notes that “The Public Service Commission collected community input, but did not create accountable processes for turning this input into policy. Unfortunately, this is a repeated class for the Public Service Commission, which has failed multiple times to use the time and expertise offered by energy efficiency and renewable energy stakeholders and residents who have direct knowledge about the needs of poor and working class communities. These dead-end engagement processes drain communities of their time and energy without leading to actionable results. A pattern of behavior in this course results in a failing grade once again.”
“Energy Efficiency is a critical component of transitioning completely away from fossil fuels,” said Neely Kelley, New York State Senior Organizer for Mothers Out Front. “And although state and elected officials talk about environmental justice and ensuring low income communities and historically marginalized communities are not left behind as we transition to a renewable energy economy, decisions made and actions taken by the New York State Public Service Commission and the utilities on energy efficiency have failed to make sufficient progress on making this a reality. Mothers Out Front New York calls on the Public Service Commission to earn straight "A's" on the Energy Democracy Alliance's Energy Efficiency final report card. We know strong energy efficiency policies are necessary to ensure our children inherit a liveable climate and we want to ensure those policies are accessible and affordable for our state's most vulnerable communities.”
"As a clean energy educator I am double disappointed in the performance of the Public Service Commission in the matter of energy efficiency access to working class communities and communities of color," said Adam Flint, Director of Clean Energy Programs at the Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition. "First, because after years of providing the Commission with the cliff’s notes to make their policies work in this regard, they have failed to learn much, based on their performance to date. And second, New York is now in its 6th year of Reforming the Energy Vision, and has yet to provide meaningful benefit to the vast majority of its most vulnerable residents. Unless the Commission changes course very soon, one could only conclude that they are not applying themselves seriously to this problem and that a change in leadership is necessary."
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