State must seek alternative forms of energy

The Middletown Times Herald-Record on New York’s rejection of a proposed natural gas pipeline

May 20

The decision by the state Department of Environmental Conservation to reject a proposed 37-mile pipeline connecting natural gas fields in Pennsylvania to New Jersey and New York is big news all by itself.

In context, it is even more impressive coming as yet another sign of the lead our state is taking to combat climate change and create a future where alternatives supply the energy.

This decision came as the state Legislature is considering a bill that would commit New York to getting its electricity from alternative, non-burning sources of energy by 2030 if all goes well, by 2040 at the latest.

It comes as the opposition to the refurbishing of the Danskammer plant on the Hudson River gains momentum, as opposition to the Competitive Power Ventures plant near Middletown continues and as the day approaches when the Indian Point nuclear plants will stop operations.

For the real context, you have to go back a few more years, to late 2014 when New York decided that it would not allow fracking, injecting liquids at high pressure to break open areas with oil and gas deep below the ground.

That was a benchmark decision that put New York in the forefront of an environmental battle that has only intensified. At the time, no one envisioned an administration and a Congress so beholden to the fossil fuel industry that lobbyists and executives would effectively take over the departments that were created — by Republicans, it should be noted — to protect the earth. With those people now in charge of the federal efforts, it is more clear than ever that states need to take the lead, as New York has.

Fracking would have been an environmental disaster for New York. And there were those who predicted that the state would suffer as a result of its ban. But that has not happened. In fact, the ban in many ways set the tone for the debate that has gone on since, one that shows how states such as New York and California can take the lead while the federal government continues to avoid reality.

The decision about this pipeline was based on environmental considerations but it is impossible to ignore the political ones swirling around it. Last month the president signed executive orders to accelerate construction of pipelines and make it more difficult for states to block them. The decision is a direct rebuttal to that directive from the White House.

Even more important is the vision of the future this decision reveals, one that is very much in keeping with activity in Albany and in the rest of the state.

For New York to make the transition to alternative forms of energy, it needs to have as much investment as possible in those sources while having as little as possible in traditional fossil fuel plants and their supporting infrastructure. Resisting the Danskammer plant, rejecting the pipeline and making future decisions in similar ways when they come up in other areas, as they will, is essential for the state to make the transition it must to provide energy now and in the future in an environmentally sustainable way.

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