NYS Exposed: Unlegislated energy cost increase

| WHEC (NBC Rochester)

Over the next few years, you will be paying more for power, and it was all approved without a single vote from the men and women who represent you in Albany.

You may be wondering, how is that even possible? It’s called an unlegislated tax hike by critics, and it’s all to promote clean energy throughout the state, but one good government group says the $2.5 billion price tag will be coming out of your pockets.

“It definitely means we are going to be paying more,” says Ken Girardin of the Empire Center.

The Empire Center just released a study about the state’s New Clean Energy Standard and what it means for New Yorkers.

The goal is to reduce carbon emissions and have 50 percent of New York’s energy come from renewable sources — like windmills and solar panels — by 2030. The program will also subsidize several New York nuclear power plants including Ginna in Wayne County.

“It is a more expensive way to do it, it is the less effective way to do it,” says Girardin.

What impact will it have on you? According to the Empire Center study, the Clean Energy Standard will add a fee of $3.40 a month to the average New Yorker’s utility bill by 2021.

“It is hard because you want clean energy, but at the same time I don’t want to be fronting the bill for it, you know?” says Alex Davies of Webster. “I think my bill is already high enough and I don’t want to be paying more.”

But Girardin says the scariest part isn’t the cost, it is how this program was enacted. The plan was created by the Public Service Commission, a group of people who are not elected and were hand-picked by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The plan was introduced without a single vote from those that represent you.

“People should be really concerned that 1.) This is happening and 2.) That state lawmakers aren’t raising a stink about this,” says Girardin. “Their job is to provide oversight and keep a check on the executive branch and they aren’t doing that right now, and that is a big problem.”

We took that concern to Assemblyman Bob Oaks who represents the community that lives around Ginna.

Amanda Ciavarri: “Should the legislative branch have some kind of check and balance when it comes to the executive branch?”

Assemblyman Bob Oaks: “I think that is a very legitimate question, and I know there have been some recommendations to say we should change some of those provisions.”

“I think the issue coming up in 2018 is we could have a different governor with a different focus and that could change energy policy by the appointment of that governor,” adds Oaks. “‘Is that the type of policy we should have?'”

Next we reached out to the Public Service Commission for a response to these concerns. A spokesman said in a statement: “When it comes to energy, the environmental solution can be the economic solution. If we fail to address these changes in the industry, we’re going to find ourselves well behind where we need to be, rather than ahead of it.”

To weigh in about the clean energy standard, you can reach out to Assemblyman Bob Oaks or to the Public Services Commission directly. The commission’s next public meeting is on November 17, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Department of Public Service, 3 Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY, on the 19th floor boardroom.

© 2016 WHEC