On March 2, 2021 New York’s Office of Renewable Energy Siting (“ORES”) issued final regulations governing the siting of major renewable energy facilities pursuant to obligations established by the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act (the “Act”). The regulations serve as a tool to achieve the climate change targets established by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (“CLCPA”) and other clean energy goals and mandates. The Act streamlines and de-couples the siting, permitting and development process of large-scale renewable (“LSR”) energy projects from the cumbersome and time-intensive requirements of Article 10. Prior to promulgation of the Act, Article 10 provided the siting and permitting requirements for all major energy projects in NY, including LSR projects.
The finalized regulations, Title 19 of NYCRR Part 900, implement a number of conceptual changes established by the Act to improve the siting and permitting efficiency of LSR projects.
As documented in the title of the Act, the goal is to accelerate renewable energy growth. ORES attacked the goal by creating a degree of certainty for LSR developers. The Act and the regulations establish a framework of codified time periods and a formulaic process that LSR developers may rely on at the outset of a project, allowing LSR developers to set benchmarks and milestones at the project planning phase and to identify and leverage efficiencies.
Through the Act, the regulations (among other things):
- establish uniform permit standards and conditions for specific classes of renewables,
- reduce pre-application notice periods and prescribe review and response times to developer submissions,
- limit issues subject to adjudication that arise from public comment, and
- authorize ORES to evaluate local laws that unreasonably burden the State’s goal of achieving CLCPA targets and the environmental benefits of the LSR project, and where appropriate, waive such requirements.
The aggressive changes are intended to maximize efficiencies in the application process as well as impose deadlines on ORES final determinations. Pursuant to the Act and its implementing regulations, final ORES decisions must be issued within one-year from deeming an application complete. That timeframe is cut in half for an LSR project proposed on an existing or abandoned commercial or industrial site. In contrast, under the Article 10 process, approvals often extended multiple-years.
While the Act and the regulations represent meaningful change to the siting process and deliver tools to achieve state-based climate change objectives, the permitting, siting and ultimate development of an LSR project remains a heavy lift. The application process includes a robust and thorough scope. A number of the environmental evaluations, studies and assessments remain part of the siting process, including jurisdictional wetlands, endangered species, cultural resources, among many others. Additionally, requirements to establish funding for public input and intervenors of a potential LSR development remain an applicant obligation. Your Farrell Fritz team of land use, environmental and municipal attorneys and professionals are your local resource to provide counsel through the LSR energy project process.