Wednesday, January 28, 2015

REV: A Quiet Energy Revolution in New York State

What is the Public Service Commission's 'REV' Initiative and 
how will it affect our lives?

By Larry Beahan, Habitat chairman of the Sierra Club Niagara Group

Have you heard of the “REV”? It is a revolution in the supply and regulation of New York’s energy. It is a dramatic and fundamental change and it is a dirty shame that most New Yorkers have never heard of it. REV stands for the NY Public Service Commission’s initiative, Reforming the Energy Vision.

When my mother was 5 in 1911, a man came to the front door. “Do you folks want electricity?” he asked. She said “no,” and shut the door. Grandma overheard and rushed after him to have gas lights replaced with Edison bulbs. Tesla and Westinghouse had built an electric power plant at Niagara Falls and formed a company that shipped power by wire all over the region.

That basic model for electric power is still with us. Investor-owned utilities produce electricity in large central plants with hydro, coal, natural gas and nuclear energy and transmit it to consumers over a complex grid. Doing an affordable and reliable job of it is an increasingly complex puzzle.

Power plants and their transmission systems are aging and energy demands are rising. Unusual weather creates demand peaks. Plants are prime terrorist targets, and fossil fuels have filled the air with pollution and the skies with global warming gasses.

In response, we have shifted away from central sources of power and moved to windmills, solar panels and geothermal installations that are widely distributed and close to consumers. These renewable energy sources don’t pollute or cause global warming. But they raise questions. Who will own them? How will they be paid for? How will they be integrated into a mutually supportive system?

Last April the Public Service Commission issued orders for the REV initiative. The commission staff went to work chiefly with utility company executives to answer these and many related questions. It has come up with a “straw proposal,” a complex technical document that needs an engineer with training in linguistics to understand.

On the insistence of environmental organizations, the PSC has agreed to hold six forums across the state where the REV will be explained and the rest of us will have two minutes before a microphone to make our contributions.

This scanty opportunity to be involved in a titanic change in the power supply to our civilization is a travesty. Tesla’s salesman offered my poor mother as much in 1911.

New Yorkers deserve to thoroughly understand what is being proposed and how it will affect our lives. We deserve an opportunity to have our own experts contribute to the design of a distributive power system for the 21st century.

The Public Service Commission meetings on the REV in Buffalo are at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday, January 29th in the Central Library in downtown Buffalo.
 ~ ~ ~
This article originally appeared in The Buffalo News and at

Monday, January 26, 2015

PUBLIC HEARING: NY State's Energy Vision - Raise Your Voice!

Can't afford your energy bills?
Concerned about climate change?
Want more local control over our energy future?

Raise your voice at the upcoming Public Hearing on NY State's "Reforming the Energy Vision" plan.

Each Public Hearing will be preceded by an Informational Forum sponsored by the State Public Service Commission.

DATE: Thursday, January 29, 2015
FORUM / HEARING Times: 2:00PM/3:00PM;  6:00PM/7:00PM
PLACE: Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, 1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo [Map]

The Public Service Commission (PSC) is seeking to inform and obtain public comment on their regulatory component of Gov. Cuomo's "Reforming the Energy Vision" (REV) plan. The plan will promote more energy efficiency, greater use of renewable energy resources such as wind and solar, and “distributed” energy resources, such as micro grids, on-site power supplies, and storage.

As part of the REV process, the PSC is planning a 10-year phase out of government support and subsidies for clean energy development, in favor of a market-oriented approach. The REV proceeding will determine what role New York’s utility companies, like National Grid, will play in the energy system of the future. The PSC proposes to give utilities more control over designing, planning and managing the new energy markets in the hopes of motivating them to promote energy efficiency and renewables.

The Public Service Commission needs to hear the voices of the public, not just those of utility companies.

Grassroots public interest organizations from across New York have emphasized the following issues in response to the strong influence of utility companies and other for-profit corporations in the REV proceeding so far:
  • Every New Yorker should have access to the benefits of clean energy
  • New York must set and meet ambitious goals for greenhouse gas reductions
  • There needs to be democratic participation in the energy system
  • There is a need for regulation and consumer protections
The local Sierra Club is encouraging area residents to testify at the Public Hearing. To read suggestions for Talking Points by the Sierra Club Niagara Group, click here.

Detailed descriptions of Key Issues, additional Talking Points, a brief video and more are available at the Alliance for a Green Economy: click here. To download a printable description of REV plus Talking Points, click here, and a Testimony worksheet, click here.

It is not necessary to be present at the start of the hearing, to make an appointment in advance, or to present written material to speak at the hearing. Persons will be called to speak after completing a request card.

For additional information provided by the PSC, click here.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Public Service Commission: Reforming NY State's Energy Industry and Regulatory Practices

The energy industry is in transition. Technological innovation and increasing competitiveness of Renewable Energy resources, combined with aging infrastructure, extreme weather events, and system security and resiliency needs, are all leading to significant changes in how electric energy is produced, managed and consumed.

The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) is conducting informational forums and public hearings across the State to seek public input and comment on the PSC’s regulatory component of Governor Cuomo’s overall strategic energy plan, ‘Reforming the Energy Vision’, or REV.

The REV initiative will lead to regulatory changes that promote more efficient use of energy and a deeper penetration of renewable resources such as Wind and Solar. The PSC is considering a new business model for energy service providers where distributed energy resources (Tomorrow's Energy Model, see below) will become a primary tool in the planning and operation of the electric system.


PSC identified six policy objectives supporting the REV effort:
  • Enhance customer knowledge and tools to enable customers to manage their energy bills and provide them more choice in how they use energy
  • Animate the market and leverage ratepayer contributions
  • Promote system-wide Efficiency
  • Increase fuel and resource diversity
  • Enhance system reliability and resiliency
  • Reduce Carbon Emissions

Two Informational Forums with Public Hearings will be held in Buffalo, NY on  THURSDAY, January 29, 2015:
  • FORUM / HEARING Times: 2:00PM/3:00PM;  6:00PM/7:00PM
  • PLACE: Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, 1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo [Map]
It is not necessary to be present at the start of the hearing, to make an appointment in advance, or to present written material to speak at the hearing. Persons will be called to speak after completing a request card. Each public statement hearing will continue until everyone wishing to speak has been heard or other reasonable arrangements have been made.

For more information from the PSC, click here.   

JOB OPENING: Community Engagement Director, WNY Land Conservancy

The Western New York Land Conservancy, a not-for-profit land trust, is now seeking a Community Engagement Director. The purpose of this new position is to significantly increase the public's engagement with the Land Conservancy's work. 

The Community Engagement Director will work with the Development Director and other Land Conservancy staff and board members to lead our citizen engagement and communications activities, and support our development work. 

The Community Engagement Director is a full-time exempt position. Go to the following link for the complete Community Engagement Director Job Posting:

Jajean Rose-Burney, Development Director
Phone: (716) 687-1225  |
Western New York Land Conservancy
P.O. Box 471
East Aurora, NY  14052-0471

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Global Climate Change: 2014 Officially the Hottest Year on Record

Excerpts from a report at

The numbers are in. The year 2014 – after shattering temperature records that had stood for hundreds of years across virtually all of Europe, and roasting parts of South America, China and Russia – was the hottest on record, with global temperatures 1.24F (0.69C) higher than the 20th-century average, U.S. government scientists said on Friday.

In North America, California saw its hottest year, with annual average temperatures 4.1F (2.3C) higher than 20th century average, and scant relief for a punishing drought. Surprisingly, Alaska showed record warm temperatures as well. But for the remainder of North America, it was the opposite story [see Global Map and color Key, below].

The world was the hottest it has been since systematic records began in 1880, especially on the oceans, which the agency confirmed were the driver of 2014’s temperature rise.

The scientists said 2014 was the 38th consecutive year of above-average temperatures. That means nobody born since 1976 has experienced a colder-than-average year.

“Any one year being a record warm one is not in itself particularly significant, but this is one in a series of record warm years that are driven by the continuing underlying long-term global warming,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies.

Thirteen of the 15 hottest years have occurred since 2000.

“We expect that heat records will continue to get broken – not everywhere and not every year – but increasingly, and that does not bode well for a civilization that is continuing to add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at an increasing rate.” “Nineteen eighty-eight was also a record warm year at the time. Now it doesn’t even rank in the top 20,” Schmidt said.

The last record cold year was more than a century ago in 1911.

“We can safely say it’s probably the warmest year in 1,700 and 2,000 years, and I think it’s probably safe to say 5,000 years,” said Don Wuebbles, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois who has worked on a number of IPCC reports. “You have a continuous upward trend over the last century and that is telling us something. We have a clear signal that our climate changing, and when you look at the evidence it’s because of human activities.”

“The evidence is so strong I don’t know why we are arguing any more,” Wuebbles said. “It’s just crazy.”

The odds of that temperature shift occurring because of natural climate variability were less than one in 27 million, according to the Climate Central research group.

“The data from NASA and NOAA is the latest scientific evidence that climate change is real, and we must act now to protect our families and future generations,” said Senator Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat and climate champion. “Deniers must stop ignoring these alarms if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

Campaign groups said the milestone ought to spur new efforts to fight climate change. “The Obama administration must back international efforts to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050,” said Shaye Wolf, the climate science director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We need a global agreement that keeps most dirty fossil fuels in the ground and provides ample support for developing nations to leapfrog into clean energy economies.”

On the current emissions trajectory, the world will attain average warming of 7.2F or 9F [4C or 5C] by 2100, which climate scientists say would be catastrophic.

Read the full report at

VIDEO: Watch 135 Years of Global Warming in 30 Seconds.  This NASA video animation depicts how temperatures around the globe have warmed over the years from 1880 to 2014.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Buffalo Urban Habitat Project Earns EPA Award

Dave Majewski’s ‘Green’ Work Receives EPA Honors
Jan 17, 2015 By buffalorising

Congressman Brian Higgins joined United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in presenting David Majewski with the EPA’s Environmental Quality Award.  The award is presented to those who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to protecting and enhancing environmental quality and public health. Majewski was one of only 17 individuals in New York who received the 2014 award.

“Leaders have the vision to see the possibilities and roll up their sleeves to make things happen,” said Congressman Higgins, “Dave Majewski is a leader.  With the support of community organizations like the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation and Fillmore Corridor Neighborhood Coalition, partners are coming together to redefine the look and feel of our city through grassroots efforts.”

“Today we celebrate the exemplary work of David Majewski, who tirelessly protects the environment and gives of his time and energy to create a cleaner and healthier future for all of us,” said Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck.  “His extraordinary contributions serve as an inspiration to all who strive for a more sustainable environmental future.”

A news release issued by the EPA cites Majewski’s work, “David Majewski has been the guiding force for the Urban Habitat Project (UHP) at the Buffalo Central Terminal. The project serves as an outdoor classroom for local youth, an opportunity for urban ecology research and a demonstration of green infrastructure to manage stormwater. The site absorbs approximately 320,000 gallons of stormwater runoff from adjacent streets and redirects it to the site via adjoining bioretention cells. The three acre project includes native plant species selected to promote soil remediation and enhance biodiversity of birds, insects and mammals.”

The Urban Habitat Project is located within the grounds of Buffalo’s Central Terminal, which falls under the oversight of the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation.  The project transforms previously vacant land at the Terminal into a natural environment oasis in the heart of the city.  Dave Majewski serves as ecological manager of the UHP.