Environmental Report Shows New York’s Role In Reduction Of Carbon Emissions

Plus Westchester’s potential to contribute.

Advocacy organization Environment America has released a report claiming that, if local and federal renewable-energy programs were ramped up, the equivalent of nine coal-burning power plants’ carbon pollution could be cut from New York’s annual emissions.

The report, “More Wind, Less Warming,” says that nine-times the average pollution of one coal plant can be eliminated with the development of wind power. There are currently no active coal-burning power plants in the Hudson Valley—the Lovett Generating Station in Rockland County, which had been linked to acid rain and smog, according to the New York Times, was torn down in 2007, and the Danskammer Generating Station in Orange County has been dormant since 2012.

The report says wind is essential to meeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan,” which aims for renewable resources to account for 30 percent of America’s electricity by 2030. Could Westchester County fit into that plan? And are there sustainable energy-based business opportunities given the county’s geographic profile?

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Heather Leibowitz, the director of Environment America’s New York branch, said almost all of New York is viable for both wind and solar power generation, and, fortunately, Westchesterites have a track record of adopting renewable energy sources. In the past, Environment New York has ranked Westchester as one of the top-five counties in America for solar energy potential and adoption based on Westchester residents’ past willingness to embrace renewable energy. She also pointed to Solarize Westchester, a local organization that designs solar energy systems.

Courtesy of Environment America

The report analyzed America’s projected emissions with and without ramped up renewable energy usage.

“Wind [production] also has so much potential,” she added. “But we really need to act now.”

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That need to act is based on two deadlines that, without legislative action, could cause problems for businesses, cities, towns, and individuals pursuing renewable-energy projects. The New York Renewable Portfolio Standard, a set of policies that seek to increase the proportion of renewable energy sources in the state, is slated to expire in 2015 unless the New York State Legislature extends it. On the federal level, a tax credit that provides incentives for renewable energy projects will also expire without Congressional action.

“This report comes out at a crucial time, since congress is on the verge of leaving for the year without renewing the tax credits for renewable energy,” Leibowitz said.

Promoting renewable energy is not a partisan issue, at least on the county level. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, won praise from the League of Conservation Voters in 2013, when it endorsed him in his  county executive race.

“Astorino… has demonstrated his commitment to improving Westchester’s environment through many initiatives,” the league wrote. “He has been a major advocate for solar energy usage, through providing tax exemptions to homeowners who retrofit their homes with solar panels.”

Leibowitz also emphasized the importance of big names and corporations to promote renewable energy production, citing Westchester’s own Rockefeller family’s move to divest its fossil fuel assets into renewable alternatives.

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 “One of the biggest challenges is public education,” Leibowitz said. “We not only need to make sure that the policy is there but that the education is there too.”

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