NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticizes President Donald Trump’s decision to back out of the Paris climate agreement. Cuomo discussed the issue at an event on Long Island on Friday, June 2, 2017. Jon Campbell / Albany Bureau
ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration began seeking plans Friday for up to $1.5 billion for renewable energy projects, a day after President Donald Trump backed out of the Paris climate accord.
The state’s energy authorities issued requests for proposals to boost the state’s renewable energy production by 2.5 million megawatt-hours a year, or about 7 percent of the total renewable energy New York produced last year.
The timing wasn’t coincidental.
Cuomo, a Democrat frequently mentioned as a potential presidential contender in 2020, has positioned himself as a leading critic of Trump’s decision to back out of the Paris agreement, a wide-ranging, international deal to cut down on greenhouse-gas emissions.
On Thursday, Cuomo joined forces with California Gov. Jerry Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to head an effort to convene states that will continue to support the climate agreement.
“I don’t understand the thinking or the reasoning (of the country’s withdrawal), but we’re going the other way, and we’re going to bring a lot of other people with us,” Cuomo said Friday at an event on Long Island.
The requests for proposals came Friday from the New York Power Authority, which operates 16 power-generating facilities across the state, and the NYS Energy Research Development Authority, which promotes clean-energy projects.
It’s part of the state’s Clean Energy Standard, a plan approved last year that will see the state spend billions to subsidize renewable energy sources like wind and solar, as well as three aging nuclear power plants upstate, including the R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant, east of Rochester.
All told, up to $1.5 billion in “renewable energy credits” will be paid out over the next 20 years as the energy is produced, according to Cuomo’s office.
The governor included the funding in a new “Clean Climate Careers” initiative, which will include a partnership with the Worker Institute at Cornell University, though few details on the partnership were available Friday.
Cuomo touted the spending in an email Friday morning to supporters of his re-election campaign, accusing the federal government of abdicating its responsibilities “at the expense of our environment and economy.”
Trump and his supporters have ripped the Paris agreement as a “bad deal” for the U.S., pointing in part to the U.S. promising billions of dollars to poorer nations looking to cut down on their greenhouse-gas emissions.
The agreement, which has support from nearly 200 nations, requires each participating country to come up with their own goals to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.
For the U.S., that goal was 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025; New York’s emissions-cutting goal, which predated the Paris agreement and will remain in place, is 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, a more ambitious cut.
Some Republican elected officials offered differing views on the White House’s announcement.
Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, Erie County, came out in support of Trump’s decision, calling the Paris agreement “just another example of a bad deal leftover from the disastrous Obama administration.”
Collins, a staunch Trump supporter, hails from a congressional district where the president fared well in last year’s election.
“Hard-working Americans like my constituents in western New York deserve better, and I applaud President Trump for withdrawing,” Collins said in a statement.
But Rep. John Faso, R-Kinderhook, Columbia County, called Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement “ill-advised.”
“Regardless of who is in the White House, I believe the U.S. must continue to work to lower greenhouse gas emissions while balancing the needs of our economy,” Faso said in a statement.