New York State’s new process for large-scale renewables siting and permitting, the Section 94-c process, has finally been issued by the Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) and became effective on March 3, 2021. The draft regulations were issued on September 16, 2020 and were open to public comment until December 7, 2020.

The State of New York has continually put in efforts to increase environmental awareness and fight against climate change. In 2016, the Public Service Commission ratified the State’s Clean Energy Standard (CES). The Standard mandates that 50% of New York’s electricity must be generated from renewable energy sources by 2030. This 2016 legislation is one of many efforts that New York is taking to push the usage of clean energy. The process to make this happen has been slow and New York is falling behind on its goals. ORES created these regulations in the hopes of expediting the process of siting major renewable energy projects and the associated transmission facilities. This will help achieve New York State’s clean energy and climate goals, while simultaneously maintaining environmental and public participation standards.

After evaluating the public comments, ORES created new terms for the Section 94-c process. Some of the additions that appear in the finalized regulations, which were summarized by our friends at Hodgson Russ LLP, are as follows:

  1. Defining Important Terms:
    • The term “Host Community Benefit” is based on an Order issued by the Public Service Commission requiring owners of major renewable energy facilities to pay an annual fee of $500/megawatt for solar projects or $1,000/megawatt for wind projects for each of the first ten years of operation. The fee will be distributed equally among residential utility customers in the municipality where the proposed facility is to be located.
    • The term “Project Impact Area” is defined as the area for which the applicant must assess the impacts of the proposed project on cultural, archaeological, or historic resources.
  2. Additional Requirements Prior to Applying:
    • Applicants must provide the local area with information on decommissioning of the existing facility as well as the construction and operation of the planned facility.
    • Applicants may provide notice for community meetings no sooner than 21 days and no later than 14 days prior to the meeting.
    • Applicants must provide local agencies with a Notice of Intent to file an application.
  3. Addressing Impacts to Threatened and Endangered Species
    • Applicants must identify migratory routes of birds and bats through project site in their assessment of the species likely to occur based on ecological communities present at site.
    • If a Net Conservation Benefit Plan to mitigate impacts to grassland bird species is required, the final regulations describe how mitigation requirements shall be calculated.
    • Applicants must provide notification if any active nest areas are discovered during pre-construction site preparation and construction activities and take appropriate action to avoid adverse impacts to the nest or grassland habitats.
  4. Additional provisions are included regarding the transfer of permit programs and provisions for permit termination.

The newly issued regulations for streamlining large-scale renewable projects will be an asset to achieving New York’s clean energy and climate goals.

To learn more about the regulations or the permitting process, call Walden Environmental Engineering at 518-490-4821. Walden can also provide consulting services to complete the application process and prepare supporting documentation on your behalf.