New York State adopts rules to streamline large renewable energy project reviews


New York State has finalized and adopted new rules designed to streamline the siting and construction of large-scale renewable energy facilities.

The regulations are the result of the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act. Enacted in April 2020, the law aimed to consolidate the environmental review and permitting of renewable energy projects larger than 25 MW. It established an Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) to write rules and serve as a one-stop-shop to coordinate and review proposed projects.

Gov. Cuomo said, “We’re working against the clock to protect New York State from the effects of climate change.”

Late last year, ORES issued draft regulations and uniform standards and considered public comments. Under the final rules, effective March 3, ORES must issue a permit within one year of the date on which an application is deemed to be complete. That timeline is compressed to six months if the facility is proposed on brownfield, former commercial or industrial, landfill, former power plant, and abandoned or underutilized sites. New projects sized between 20 MW and 25 MW will be able to opt-in to the ORES process.

Renewable projects were previously sited the same way as fossil-fuel power plants, meaning it could take several years for them to be permitted and start construction.

In a statement, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “We’re working against the clock to protect New York State from the effects of climate change, and cutting red tape so that renewable energy sources can be built and distributed more easily is part of that effort.”

Cuomo said that the rules will help jump-start the state’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. During his State of the State address in January, the governor offered a list of initiatives to boost clean energy and related jobs.

Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, New York League of Conservation Voters, Alliance for Clean Energy, and Natural Resources Defense Council, applauded the final regulations.

Community involvement

Through the new regulations and review process, ORES is expected to play a role in meeting the state’s 70% by 2030 clean energy standard.

To help boost community involvement, the regulations will require project applicants to consult with local governments and community members before filing an application, provide public notices at milestones during the permitting process, and make application materials available in both electronic and paper format.

Draft siting permits will be subject to public review and comment, and adjudicatory hearings will be required when significant and substantive issues are identified. What’s more, for each project, municipalities and community interveners will have access, as appropriate, to funds to defray certain expenses incurred in reviewing the project.

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