NY Attorney General to Propose Bill Requiring Climate Adaptation for Utilities

Bloomberg BNA — New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman (D) has proposed legislation to require that New York's electricity and gas utilities assess their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and prepare a plan for adapting to severe weather.

Schneiderman May 19 said the proposed legislation would build on a February decision by the state Public Service Commission (PSC), which approved a plan by Consolidated Edison to spend $1 billion over the next four years for storm hardening and resiliency projects.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general told Bloomberg BNA that he is working with members of the Legislature to have the bill formally introduced.

The PSC decision also required that all New York utilities integrate the potential impacts of climate change into their system planning and construction forecasts and budgets.

In a statement, Michael B. Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, said the proposed bill “would become a model for the entire country.’’

Gerrard, who played a significant role in the PSC decision, said the proposed bill would take “an additional leap forward by writing the requirement into the statute books and broadening its applicability.’’

Gerrard told Bloomberg BNA that New York is the first state in the country to require climate adaptation plans from utilities.

Requirements Imposed

Schneiderman said his proposed bill would require gas and electric utilities to assess the probable impacts of climate change on their infrastructure, operations and service delivery operations. They would be required to submit a climate change impact statement to the PSC.

In addition, the companies would have to create a plan for addressing the risks through changes in their operations, planning, infrastructure design and emergency preparations.

“New Yorkers learned the hard way after Sandy and Irene that many of our utility providers are unprepared for a future of more extreme weather,’’ the attorney general said in a statement, referring to recent hurricanes. “By requiring gas and electric utilities to assess their vulnerability to climate change and then explain in public their plans to protect their energy systems, we can ensure that utility providers are investing ratepayer dollars wisely. Most of all, we will be ensuring that New Yorkers continue to receive safe and reliable service in a time of increasingly extreme weather.’’

Patrick Stella, a spokesman for National Grid, said the company has been investing heavily in storm hardening and resiliency over the past several years.

“Between 2007 and 2016, we have—or will have—spent more than $5 billion on network infrastructure (electric and gas), well beyond historic rates,’’ he told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail. “We work very closely with our regulators on investment and reliability, and we are eager to take part in the discussion on being prepared going forward.’’

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