Saturday, March 15, 2014

60 Businesses Urge Cuomo to Lead on Renewable Energy

Local Businesses Call for 'Winds of Change'
Buffalo, New York — Thursday morning, business owners, concerned residents and union representatives gathered to call on Gov. Cuomo to make a commitment to boost wind energy in the state.  The event, hosted by the Sierra Club Niagara Group and Beyond Coal Campaign, was to celebrate sixty local businesses signing on to the campaign.

“Fossil fuel plants across the state drive climate change and can make people sick with diseases like asthma,” said Sierra Club Beyond Coal organizer Charlotte Olena.  “New York can be a leader in clean energy production.  Sixty local businesses have spoken: it’s time for Gov. Cuomo to lead on climate issues and make a serious commitment to boosting wind energy across the state.”

The Sierra Club’s “Turn, Don’t Burn” campaign is calling on Gov. Cuomo to be a champion for wind in New York State by doubling onshore wind energy by 2018 and support an offshore wind project this year.  With questions emerging about the viability of power production from sources like the Huntley Coal Plant, the Sierra Club sees wind energy as the way forward for Western New York.

“If given a fair chance and a level playing field, wind can compete dollar for dollar with the fossil fuels, and in some cases it’s cheaper because the fuel is free” said Thom Fleckenstein, the owner of Niagara Wind and Solar.  Businesses across Western New York have endorsed the Turn, Don’t Burn campaign, including Fleckenstein’s.  “As a small-scale wind developer, a commitment from Gov. Cuomo to support wind like the NY Sun Initiative would mean a lot to my business and open doors for others like me in New York.”

Clean energy is not just a concern for environmentalists or wind developers.  For New York’s workforce, clean energy programs can mean well-paid jobs.  “We have an obligation to our future generations to provide good jobs and a clean environment.  We can and must achieve those goals simultaneously,” remarked Michael Murphy, Rapid Response Coordinator for the United Steel Workers Local 8823, based in South Buffalo.

“Western New York is poised to emerge as a leader in wind development both because of being home to some of the richest wind resources in the state, and also because of our region’s history of manufacturing.  All we need is for Governor Cuomo to make it happen.” 

It is not only businesses signing on to the Sierra Club’s campaign.  Last week, State Senator Mark Grisanti submitted comment to NYSERDA calling for more wind energy in the Governor’s State Energy Plan.  His statement too, called on Gov. Cuomo to “make New York a climate leader,” with a commitment to increase wind capacity.

“It is up to this generation and this Governor to take action immediately to transition from fossil fuels to renewables,” commented Lynda Schneekloth, the chair of the Sierra Club’s Niagara Group.  Fossil fuel powered plants are the biggest drivers of climate change due to carbon emissions.  Even natural gas plants pose the risk of leaking methane, which, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change can be 34 times worse than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas.

The climate is changing and we can just let it happen or we can design a way forward.  We have the technology in wind power, and if states like Iowa, Texas and South Dakota can get 20% of their electricity from wind, New York should be able to do the same.  Governor Cuomo, we ask you to lead us there.

The group’s efforts this spring have been around uniting concerned residents, business owners, and organizations to bring attention to the issue of clean energy in Western New York.
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