Climate Action Council 11/30/21 Meeting Unresolved Issue Documentation

According to the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Plan) the Scoping Plan will “achieve the State’s bold clean energy and climate agenda”.  At the November 30, 2021 meeting (recording here), Climate Action Council feedback on the draft scoping plan was discussed.  This post documents the unresolved issues that need to be reconciled before the draft plan can be released.  Because it is so long there is a separate article discussing the controversial unresolved issues.

I have written extensively on implementation of the Climate Act because I believe the ambitions for a zero-emissions economy outstrip available technology such that it will adversely affect reliability and affordability, risk safety, affect lifestyles, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change in New York, and cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented.   The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.

Background

The Climate Action Council is responsible for preparing the Scoping Plan. Starting in the fall of 2020 seven advisory panels developed recommended strategies to meet the targets that were presented to the Climate Action Council in the spring of 2021.  Those recommendations were translated into specific policy options in an integration analysis by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and its consultants.  An overview of the results of this integration analysis were presented to the Climate Action Council at the two October meetings and has since been updated.  A draft scoping plan has been prepared and distributed to the Climate Action Council but not to the public.

The November 30, 2021 meeting presentation included the following slide describing the next steps. Staff has implemented Council-approved changes to initial draft Scoping Plan but there still are unresolved issues.  In fact, they had to schedule another meeting to address those so that the revised draft Scoping Plan can be distributed to Council members by December 10.  There is another meeting scheduled for December 20 when there will be a formal vote on the release of draft Scoping Plan for public comment.  The plan is to release the Draft Scoping Plan on January 1 if it is approved at the last December meeting.  This post discusses the unresolved issues in the scoping plan draft.

Initial Draft Scoping Plan Feedback Resolution

One of the primary goals of the November 30, 2021 Council meeting was to discuss the revisions necessary to the draft plan needed to get Council members comfortable with issuing it.  The presentation asked whether material was representative of the work that was presented to the Councils and whether that material was presented objectively.  Starting at 1:06:08 of the video recording, there was an overview of the feedback received from 13 chapters and suggestions to address unresolved issues were offered.  This section documents the unresolved issues.  There is a discussion of the contentious issues in another article.

General issues were discussed starting at 1:11:08 of the video recording.  At 1:13:38 four general unresolved issues were discussed.  The Climate Justice Working Group provided input on implementation strategy recommendations (including rejection of certain recommendations and the need for more robust plans/efforts in transportation and waste) that were not integrated well enough in the draft.  Staff authors did not think it was appropriate for them to take items out of consideration so they asked the Council to decide about the recommendations.  There was a request for an analysis on energy affordability and impacts to consumer pricing as part of the scoping plan scenarios.  Sarah Osgood stated that this goes beyond the scope of the plan document and will be something that is addressed as part of the implementation plan.  There also were comments in support of or rejecting specific strategies or actions (e.g., hydrogen, carbon tax) that staff thought were appropriate to keep in at this time.  The response stating that this “Requires additional Council discussion to develop a consensus position” portends contentious arguments at the upcoming resolution meeting.

Gas System Transition

The presentation (1:17:09 of the recording) noted that the natural gas system has to change to meet the targets: “A well-planned transition of the system is needed to ensure the transition is equitable and cost effective without compromising reliability and safety”.  They also noted that the issue was addressed by multiple advisory panels but none covered all the considerations. 

There was only one unresolved issue: How do we balance decommissioning, leak detection, and decarbonization within the Scoping Plan and gas sector?  This is a controversial topic because the Administration and some members of the Council are bound and determined to eliminate the gas system as quickly as possible without much concern about the consequences.  The response was to plan well to protect consumers and address resiliency concerns but this clearly is an issue that the Council will continue to discuss throughout 2022.

Electricity Chapter

The overview of this chapter (1:22:05) noted that by 2030 the 70% of the electricity used will come from renewable sources, that 10 GW behind-the-meter solar and 3 GW energy storage will be installed. 

There were four unresolved issues.  The first is that the treatment of nuclear facilities in the draft was not sufficient. The response is that it will be addressed with a sensitivity analysis for relicensing options.  All the other topics will be discussed further in 2022 so, apparently, they do not plan to resolve them before the draft Scoping Plan is released.  The treatment of hydrogen, a mandate that renewable gas be used in non-distributed, non-combustion end uses only, and consideration of dual-fuel heating solutions that combine gas and electric heating sources as a possible solution to mitigate winter peak demand impacts all directly affect the feasibility of the Climate Act. 

Buildings Chapter

The overview of this chapter (1:26:24) noted that by 2030 heat pumps be used for the majority of new purchases for space and water heating, 1-2 million households will be electrified with heat pumps, and heat pumps provide space heating and cooling for 10-20% of commercial space. 

Three unresolved issues were discussed.  The first asked why there was no emphasis on dual-fuel path, using hybrid heating systems and existing gas infrastructure, comparable to the NYC pathways study.  Staff proposed to that the Council discuss this next year but also noted that the Climate Act language makes this incompatible with meeting the goals.  Staff proposed to push this off for Council discussion in 2022. In this draft, they will discuss the integration analysis scenarios to date and note that even with significant deployment of renewable natural gas (RNG) in the buildings sector, the scope of RNG use throughout the economy is limited due to the Climate Act emissions accounting conventions and the need to mitigate statewide emissions from all sectors, while the highest-value allocation of hydrogen is limited mostly to transportation, industrial purposes, and electricity reliability.  They will also discuss the how to address Con Ed district system which is powered by green hydrogen in the integration analysis scenarios, “resource efficient electrification” in certain building types like large commercial buildings, which likely will phase in electrification over time within a given building thus requiring  a transition period of dual-fuel, and finally some limited role for dual fuel systems in the coldest parts of the state, for a transitionary period. 

Another unresolved issue is a recommendation to use more ground source heat pumps (including community-scale thermal loops) vs. air source heat pumps.  Staff proposed to respond with a ground source/district heat pump sensitivity analysis to “explore the system benefits and cost implications of a transition toward a heating appliance sales share dominated by ground source and district heat pumps.”  However, they also noted that the speed and scale of the transformation needed to achieve NY’s climate goals, suggests that most heat pumps will be air source. 

The final comment said that they need more consideration of the distribution/demand side and to think about integrated system solutions including heat pumps, advanced metering infrastructure, time of use rates, and energy storage. Although there isn’t a lot of controversy with the response, it is just that they don’t have an answer for this draft.

Transportation Chapter

The transportation discussion started at 1:34:56. The overview noted that by 2030 zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) sales of ~100% for light-duty and 40% or more for medium-and heavy-duty vehicles are expected and that personal transportation in urbanized areas will shift to public transportation or other low-carbon modes.  There were two unresolved issues.  The first is a debate over the inclusion of low carbon fuels for hard-to-electrify vehicles and equipment, including renewable diesel and hydrogen. Jared Snyder asked the Council whether they would leave both scenarios in and ask for public comment or take it out of the document. The second was the possibility that utilities could own distributed charging stations as an extension of metered services.  With regards to utility ownership of charging stations they don’t see evidence to date of market failure or of a benefit from utility.

Industry Chapter

The Industry chapter discussion started at 1:39:00.  The 2030 overview says there will be continued energy efficiency investments, switches to low carbon resources, including electrification to a limited extent, and that the heterogeneity of the sector calls for customized solutions to meet needs.  Heterogeneity means there are so many different industries and so many challenges to reducing emissions from all of them that they cannot say much.  There were two unresolved issues.  The first is the question whether the document should make a recommendation or put forward a position on whether the DEC should exercise the alternative compliance option under climate act for particular industries to achieve local emissions reductions through offsets.  The authors propose to add some language saying it might be an option.  The other issue is whether the chapter addresses “concerns of local manufacturing companies that rely on fossil fuels to make sure they will still be comfortable investing in the state”.  The response is that the text will mention incentives.

Agriculture & Forestry Chapter

The discussion of this chapter starts at 1:46:55. The overview for 2030 states the plan is to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions in the agricultural sector from livestock operations and cropland management and increase carbon storage and sequestration in agricultural and forestry products through the avoided conversion of farm and forest lands, afforestation and reforestation, improved forest management practices, cropland management practices and harvested wood products.  The only unresolved issue is for a recommendation providing funding to measure methane emissions from NYS farms.  The proposed solution is to mention funding opportunities.

Economy-Wide Strategies

This discussion starts at 1:55:52. The State did not provide the Council with a draft of this chapter so the discussion only provided a summary of what will be included. The overview states the obvious that compliance of with Statewide GHG emission limits requires DEC regulations that shall “[e]nsurethat the aggregate emissions of greenhouse gases from greenhouse gas emission sources will not exceed the statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits.”  The issue of funding has to be a major consideration and the overview states that it is necessary to “establish a source of funding to implement other policies identified in this plan, particularly policies that require state investment or state funding of incentive programs, after accounting for other funding streams”.  It goes on to mention the need to provide a market signal that will yield additional emission reductions as individuals. 

Land Use Chapter

The land use chapter discussion starts at 1:55:48. The overview points out that this is a cross cutting topic with recommendations from Agriculture and Forestry, Transportation, and Land Use and Local Government Panels.  It notes that land use decisions affect the state’s carbon emissions, sequestration, and storage, and that it is necessary to balance the protection and restoration of natural and working lands, development, and clean energy siting.  There will be issues related to the plans to “arrange and design development and conservation” to meet the following:

  • Dense and targeted development patterns
  • Strategic open space conservation
  • Maximize natural and working lands
  • Aligned with transportation and infrastructure investments

There were four unresolved issues associated with land use.  Environmental planning dogma states that it is necessary to manage development patterns and there was a suggestion that Incentives based on proximity of generation to current load centers and/or economic development sites would be appropriate.  The authors plan to include the language.  There was a suggestion to add a recommendation placing a moratorium on deforestation for the purpose of renewable energy.  The response claims that even though there is not a moratorium, there already is “a recommendation to mitigate the impact from renewable energy projects on forests” but agreed to add language.   It does add the caveat that “a full moratorium on deforestation could pose challenges to meeting statewide energy goals. However, limiting deforestation of natural, mature forests to prevent high GHG emissions should certainly be considered.”  There was a recommendation to encourage cities to adopt moratoriums while they adopt comprehensive plans and zoning updates that are consistent with the Climate Act and the response was to add language to that effect.  The final issue was to expand funding in the Environmental Protection Fund to allow for the “critical mass of smart growth comp plans and zoning to truly impact development patterns and land use/transportation-based greenhouse gas emissions”.  The proposed solution was to change some wording.

Local Government Chapter

This chapter discussion starts at 2:01:39. The overview lists actions that local governments are expected to do: taking significant action and contributing directly to meeting Climate Act goals; develop partnerships between the State and local governments to help drive rapid adoption, widespread participation, and big impact, lead by example to help increase the priority of clean energy and sustainability for residents, businesses, and institutions and become increasingly engaged in providing education and training, outreach, and technical assistance.

There were three unresolved issues.  Someone on the Council noted that several towns and cities have voted to electrify their buildings or fleets and suggested including those examples and Staff agreed.  Another issue is that the Council should consider using the state’s permitting and registration powers to avoid fossil fuel development while cities and local governments update their comprehensive plans.

The response stated that “state permitting powers can’t anticipate local government action, this chapter can recommend that guidance on local government moratoriums be expanded to reference fossil fuel infrastructure (e.g., gas stations) during comprehensive plan and zoning updates.”  Finally, there was a comment that local government strategy should not only prioritize methane recovery from wastewater treatment and landfills but extend beyond just on-site energy production.  The response was to seek direction from the Council regarding multiple scenarios for public comment.

Waste Chapter

The waste chapter discussion starts at 2:05:33. The overview stated that in 2030 there would be significant increase in organics diversion from landfills, existing landfill emission will be reduced through capping, emissions monitoring and leak reduction, and waste reduction, reuse, and recycling initiatives will be put in place.

There were three unresolved issues.   The first was whether the Climate Act ban the use of waste combustion as a market player or disposal technique. The Staff response stated that the

applicability of the zero-emission electricity requirement and the specifics of how it will be implemented, will be addressed by the PSC, including how waste combustion for electricity generation will be handled.  The second issue noted that the draft should clarify how to address the treatment of the remaining waste for disposal after existing recommendations are adopted.  Staff proposed to explain that DEC will track technology developments to inform further evaluation by the Council in future Scoping Plan review and use the best technologies for limiting emissions of GHGs and co-pollutants.  Finally, there was a request to prioritize regular measurement and monitoring of methane emissions from landfills.  Staff said that new technology will be used when proven.

Climate Justice Chapter

The discussion of this chapter started at 2:08:10. In parallel to the development of the Scoping Plan the Climate Justice Working Group has been working on plans to define disadvantaged communities, how best to direct benefits to disadvantaged communities, and set up community air monitoring programs.  All these are legal mandates of the Climate Act.

There were two unresolved issues.  The first issue is the need agency guidance to prioritize emissions reductions in disadvantaged communities, prevent placing additional burdens on disadvantaged communities, and keep in line with greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals.  Staff suggested that DEC draft guidance could serve as a model for other agencies.  The final issue was that the draft should include “a specific discussion on gender and climate and the need to include a gender lens for women, femmes and girls on the front line of the climate crisis”.  Staff asked the Council to discuss this topic and provide guidance.

Just Transition Chapter

The Just Transition workgroup (starting at 2:10:55) is supposed to advise the Council on issues and opportunities for workforce development and training related to energy efficiency measures, renewable energy and other clean energy technologies, with specific focus on training and workforce opportunities for disadvantaged communities, and segments of the population that may be underrepresented in the clean energy workforce such as veterans, women and formerly incarcerated persons. principles –10 principles in support of a fair and equitable transition.

There were four unresolved issues.  Commenters suggested that the chapter should include a focus on economic development opportunities and the potential to solve multiple challenges at once –like how we can retain and add new economic growth throughout the state.  Staff proposed to use results from the Jobs Study to identify specific sub-sectors and portions of the supply chain especially ripe for growth in New York State and therefore presenting strong economic development opportunities.  Another commenter wanted the chapter to say something stronger on equal pay standards and staff offered to refine language to include strengthened embrace of labor standards. Another commenter suggested the need to engage the business community more to bring forward creative solutions that benefit themselves, have replicable attributes and global implications.  Staff promised to work with members of the Just Transition Working Group to craft augmented language along these lines.  Finally, there was a suggestion that communities with prior plant closures (e.g., coal) should be prioritized ahead of natural gas plant closures given the greater environmental impact and legacy.  Staff said they will add a general/illustrative list of factors that should be taken into consideration.

Health Chapter

The health chapter discussion starts at 2:14:42. The State’s health improvement plan is supposed to improve health outcomes, enable well-being, and promote equity across lifespans.  There wasn’t anything that needed to be resolved

Adaptation and Resilience

This discussion started at 2:18:42. This chapter will discuss preparations for the “impacts of present and future climate change”.  There were no unresolved issues.

Conclusion

I think this website can provide a service to the public by summarizing the material presented to the Climate Action Council on the Scoping Plan that will frame the future energy sector of New York.  Much of the material presented at meetings is full of jargon and needs background to understand.

This post documents the unresolved feedback issues from the Council on the initial draft of the Scoping Plan.  Overall the presentation was useful because there were good summaries of what will be in the scoping plan when it is released. I thought that focusing on the unresolved issues would foreshadow the upcoming debates about the scoping plan.  A forthcoming companion article on the controversial unresolved issues will provide more insight into those issues and the agendas driving the Climate Act Scoping Plan

Author: rogercaiazza

I am a meteorologist (BS and MS degrees), was certified as a consulting meteorologist and have worked in the air quality industry for over 40 years. I author two blogs. Environmental staff in any industry have to be pragmatic balancing risks and benefits and (https://pragmaticenvironmentalistofnewyork.blog/) reflects that outlook. The second blog addresses the New York State Reforming the Energy Vision initiative (https://reformingtheenergyvisioninconvenienttruths.wordpress.com). Any of my comments on the web or posts on my blogs are my opinion only. In no way do they reflect the position of any of my past employers or any company I was associated with.

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