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Grassroots Bulletin

April Newsletter


Governor Cuomo Brokers Deal to Support the Electric Car Industry in New York State      

 

An ongoing dispute between Tesla Motors and New York’s automobile dealers was resolved last month after legislation advancing in Albany would have prohibited the famed electric car manufacturer from selling directly to customers.

Tesla owns and operates five stores in the New York City area and New York’s auto dealers wanted them shut down, arguing that Tesla violated longstanding laws  which require automobiles to be sold through dealerships. All automakers, including other electric vehicle manufacturers such as Chevy and Mitsubishi, rely on independently-owned dealers to sell cars.

Tesla pushed back saying that the direct sales model is important so its sales people can explain the advantages of electric cars to consumers.  The Tesla Model S, has a starting price of $69,000. 

New Jersey recently passed similar legislation but has agreed to delay the ban.

The New York League of Conservation Voters launched a grassroots effort to defeat the legislation arguing that, despite the high price tag, Tesla cars can help provide consumers with greater choices in clean-energy automative technologies. The Natural Resources Defense Council also weighed in on the issue arguing that allowing Tesla to maintain its New York operations will help maintain the market for sustainable transportation.

Governor Cuomo issued a press release stating that he helped Tesla and the auto dealers to reach an agreement that will allow Tesla to establish additional retail locations under a strengthened dealer franchise law.  Legislation is needed to implement the agreement. 

“[The agreement] reaffirms New York's long-standing commitment to the dealer franchise system, while making sure New York remains a leader in spurring innovative businesses and encouraging zero emissions vehicle sales," Cuomo said.
 
Electric vehicle deployment has been a priority for Governor Cuomo. In last year’s State of the State address, Cuomo announced the “Charge NY” Initiative which will invest $50 million over five years to build electric vehicle charging stations across New York and stimulate overall demand for electric powered cars.


Quadrennial Energy Review - Studying the Nation's Energy Infrastructure

 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released much anticipated information late last month on the first of six public meetings they will hold to collect stakeholder input under a White House initiative known as the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER).  Officially announced in January by President Obama, the QER seeks to develop a comprehensive strategy for the nation’s energy infrastructure.

Building on the foundation provided in the President’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future and his Climate Action Plan, this QER will study the opportunities and challenges that our energy infrastructure faces as a result of transformations in energy supply, markets, and use.  Issues of aging infrastructure, climate change, capacity, cyber and physical threats will also be included. The QER will produce an “actionable document” or “roadmap” for policymakers and industry stakeholders.

The QER Task Force is co-chaired by the White House Domestic Policy Council and Office of Science and Technology Policy, and includes representation from all relevant executive departments and agencies. DOE is playing a key role in development of the QER by providing policy analysis and modeling, and coordinating stakeholder engagement. The QER Task Force, consisting of representatives of more than 20 federal agencies, will hold a series of meetings to discuss and receive comments from all segments of the energy industry.

The first of these stakeholder and public engagement meetings will be held in Washington, D.C. on Friday, April 11, 2014. DOE says the meeting will focus on infrastructure resilience and vulnerabilities, including cyber and physical threats, climate, and interdependencies.  Con Edison is gearing up to provide comments.

Details for the next five QER stakeholder public meetings are still being finalized, but DOE says the schedule will include the following: 

    • A focus on Infrastructure constraints in New England, to be held in Hartford, CT
    • Infrastructure constraints related to the oil and shale Bakken formation, to be held in North Dakota
    • Electricity transmission storage and distribution in the west, to be held in Portland, Ore.
    • Petroleum product transmission and distribution, including carbon dioxide and enhanced oil recovery, to be held in Louisiana 
    • Rail, barge, and truck transportation, to be held in Chicago 


Mayor Restructures Hurricane Sandy Recovery Program

 

Mayor Bill de Blasio, responding to complaints by frustrated homeowners about the pace of the Sandy recovery relief effort, has announced structural changes to the city’s program to disburse federal aid.

A newly appointed Sandy Recovery and Rebuilding team will be tasked with examining, assessing, and streamlining the NYC Build it Back program and getting recovery relief in the hands of homeowners.

As part of the City’s Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, the NYC Build it Back program was created to help New Yorkers return to permanent, sustainable housing through various options, including rebuilding and reimbursing for eligible out-of-pocket repair expenses. The program was created to complement the assistance already provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), private insurance claims and other sources.  Using Federal Community Development Grant funds, NYC Build it Back facilitates access to Housing Recovery Specialists who help eligible participants to choose options to help them return to safe, sustainable housing.  Options include repair, rebuild, reimbursement for some out-of-pocket costs on repairs, and acquisition for those who may want to voluntarily sell their homes.

The Mayor also announced several new structural changes to the NYC Build It Back program, including:
• Reallocation of $100 million of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money for rebuilding every home that was destroyed, regardless of the owners income or prioritization in the program
• Increasing the size of the staff from 75 to 105 individuals
• Accelerating the design consultation phase, to begin immediately after a homeowner has been given an offer

  


An Interview with Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney

Representative Sean Patrick Maloney proudly represents New York’s 18th Congressional district which includes Orange and Putnam counties and parts of Westchester and Dutchess.  He was sworn into Congress in 2013.
 
Sean currently serves on the House Agriculture Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee which is important to creating jobs and boosting the economy in the Hudson Valley, and he is currently a member of No Labels Congressional Problem Solvers.

Sean has a distinguished background in business and public service. Sean served as a senior advisor in President Bill Clinton’s White House as part of a team that balanced the budget and paid down the debt, all while creating over 800,000 jobs here in New York.

When Sean left the White House, he built his own business from scratch. His high-tech startup created hundreds of jobs in New York. Sean then served as a senior staff member to two Democratic governors of New York, focusing on education and infrastructure projects. He oversaw 13 state agencies and departments, including those responsible for all homeland security, state police and emergency management operations.

Sean and Randy, his partner of over 20 years, have 3 children together. He currently resides in Cold Spring, NY.

What are you doing to stop the creation of a “new capacity zone” in the Hudson Valley?

In January, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a proposal by the New York Independent System Operators (NYISO) to create a new electric capacity zone in the Hudson Valley. Simply put, this new capacity zone could impose an unprecedented $230 million increase in energy costs for our region in just the first year, and nearly $500 million in increased costs over a three-year period. Initial estimates suggest that customers throughout the Hudson Valley could see their utility bills go up by 3% to 10%.

I’ve been working across the aisle to stop this shortsighted and unreasonable rate increase. In March, I introduced legislation that would prohibit FERC from approving a new capacity zone that would raise rates for consumers – like the newly proposed zone in New York.  There is no way Washington bureaucrats, who are out of touch with what is going on in the Hudson Valley, should dictate rates to folks in our area who actually have to pay the bills.

I also joined in support of the New York Public Service Commission’s petition seeking reversal of FERC’s recent decision and have asked FERC to take into account a number of initiatives underway like investments in transmission capacity as well as renewable energy like solar and wind energy or biomass plants like Taylor Biomass in Orange County.

What do you foresee being the most pressing energy-related federal issues for 2014?

Everywhere I go – especially after this brutal winter-  I hear about how high energy costs are hurting my neighbors and businesses. I’ve recently introduced legislation to provide tax relief for hardworking middle class families. My legislation would provide a refundable tax credit to New Yorkers up to $500 per household for heating costs that are more than $1,500 annually. For homeowners and renters with costs below $1500, the $1500 credit would cover one third of their costs.

We need a long term plan to reduce our energy use as a country and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We need more investments in renewable projects like wind, solar, and biomass. In the Hudson Valley, we have nearly two dozen solar businesses and manufacturers and one project, Taylor Biomass, that would create hundreds of jobs right here in the Hudson Valley and pioneer a renewable energy source that can be used nationwide.

Part of reducing our energy footprint is lowering our energy use at home and in our businesses. I’ve authored legislation to support the expansion of programs like Energize NY that allow homeowners to be eligible to pay for an energy-efficient upgrade through their property taxes.

Partisan politics have dominated our national and state legislative landscape in recent years.  How can our leaders and elected officials better work together to solve our problems?

Both in Washington and the Hudson Valley, it’s my job to put politics aside and roll up my sleeves and get to work on issues like disaster relief, the Farm Bill, new infrastructure investments and economic development projects. People are sick to death of this Red Team/Blue Team stuff. People look at Congress and think it’s a crazy clown car of partisan politics – this is why we need more people working together.

I am proud to have been named as one of the most independent voices in Washington because I’m committed to working regularly with folks to find common-ground on tough issues facing our country. Despite dysfunction and gridlock in Washington, I’ve delivered results for thousands of our neighbors in the Hudson Valley. So far, I have passed legislation in the House – all with bipartisan support - that has a real impact on families in the Hudson Valley, including some legislative successes with issues like dam safety, reducing the veterans’ disability backlog and helping our farmers get the insurance they need when they’re hit with disasters

I will continue working across the aisle with more local and state leaders to secure investments to build stronger communities and grow our economy. We have a lot of unique opportunities to create jobs - projects like the Tappan Zee Bridge which could lead to the creation of a Port of Newburgh, advanced manufacturing, OXYVITA at Stewart airport, new construction at the Orange County Airport, 3-D printing, or cloud computing at Marist.

 

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