What is Section 94-c?
The 2020-21 New York state budget included the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act, which adds a new section to the Executive Law. The Act’s objectives are to advance the siting and construction of large-scale renewable energy projects while being mindful of costs and environmental impact. The new Section 94-c is an expedited permitting process for large-scale (25 megawatts or larger) renewable energy projects that is designed to substitute the Article 10 process of the New York Public Service Law. Focusing on efficiency, predictability, and community input, the new 94-c permitting process works to consolidate the environmental review for renewable energy projects. The 94-c Application is substantively similar to the Article 10 requirements, with many of the same surveys and studies required under both processes. However, while Article 10 applied to all electric generating facilities, regardless of fuel source, Section 94-c only applies to renewable energy facilities.
Office of Renewable Energy Siting
The Act created the Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES), which is tasked with reviewing and granting siting permits under the new 94-c permitting process to large-scale renewable energy projects. Renewable energy projects that are currently undergoing the Article 10 permitting process have the choice to either remain in Article 10 or to transfer to the new 94-c process under ORES.
94-c Permitting Process
- The 94-c permitting process is substantially similar to the Article 10 process. The 94-c process contains pre-application public engagement with the local community, pre-application consultations with state agencies and local municipalities, application review, draft permit, hearings and decision, and compliance.
- Projects must be designed to avoid or minimize, to the maximum extent practicable, potentially significant adverse environmental impacts.
- 94-c requires that the final decision on a project’s permit be made within one year of the application being completed.
- Only projects with “substantive and significant” issues require evidentiary hearings, testimony and briefing.
- Projects are required to comply with substantive provisions of applicable local laws and regulations. Similar to Article 10, ORES can elect not to apply a local law that is unreasonably burdensome in view of CLCPA targets and environmental benefits of the project.
- Prior to submitting a permit application, renewable energy projects are required to consult with the host municipalities and communities in which the proposed project will be located.
- ORES also requires that state agencies are consulted and subsequently review and approve decisions involving wetland and stream delineations, threatened and endangered species, and archeological and cultural resources, if appropriate. Agency consultations should take place at the earliest point possible in the applicant’s process.
- Following consultations with impacted agencies, 94-c applicants must hold at least one meeting for community members. Notice of the meeting should be provided to community members no sooner than 21 days before the meeting takes place, and no later than 14 days before the meeting takes place. Included in a 94-c application are copies of meeting transcripts, materials, and discussions. Notice of intent to file an application should be published by the applicant at least 60 days before the application is filed.
- Municipalities are notified upon ORES issuance of draft permit conditions and are required to provide feedback on the draft permit conditions and compliance with local laws. In addition, there is a 60-day public comment period following the publishing of the draft permit.
- Outside of the 94-c public comment period and requirements, South Ripley Solar is committed to continually engaging with the community and considering input. Project representatives have attended nearly every Ripley Town Board meeting and Planning Board meeting since March 5, 2019 to provide project updates and be available to answer questions. Through the South Ripley Solar Project Facebook page, project stakeholders can find accurate, up-to-date project information, updates, and contact information. In addition, the project website has project information, frequently asked questions, and contact information, as well as a form through which comments can be submitted.
The 94-c Application is substantively similar to the Article 10 requirements, with many of the same surveys and studies required under both processes. Exhibits required as part of a 94-c Application include:
- General Requirements
- Overview and Public Involvement
- Location of Facilities and Surrounding Land Use
- Real Property
- Design Drawings
- Public Health, Safety and Security
- Noise and Vibration
- Visual Impacts
- Cultural Resources
- Geology, Seismology, and Soils
- Terrestrial Ecology
- NYS Threatened and Endangered Species
- Water Resources and Aquatic Ecology
- Agricultural Resources
- Effect on Transportation
- Consistency with Energy Planning Objectives
- Socioeconomic Effects
- Environmental Justice
- Effect on Communications
- Electric System Effects and Interconnection
- Electric and Magnetic Fields
- Site Restoration and Decommissioning
- Local Laws and Other Ordinances
- Other Permits and Approvals
Once the project is certified, there is a three-part compliance phase:
- Pre-Construction – filing of engineering and design documents, permits, and approvals prior to construction
- On-Site Compliance – on-site inspections by state agency personnel after construction begins to ensure the project is complying with the Certificate
- Long-Term Compliance – on-site inspections regarding the operation of the facility over its lifetime
Intervenor funding is money that Applicants (i.e., ConnectGen) make available to qualified, locally affected parties and municipalities to offset certain expenses they incur in participating in the state permitting process. These funds are meant to encourage early and effective public involvement in project development and permitting.
How to request party status for a Section 94-c proceeding
In order to formally file papers related to issues of fact and have them considered as part of the evidentiary record, you must be granted full party or amicus status pursuant to Section 900-8.4 of the 94-c regulations. The period for filing a petition for party status shall be at least sixty (60) days from the Office of Hearing’s issuance of notice of the public comment hearing. Nonparties who wish to have their comments recorded are permitted to submit oral or written comments during the public comment portion of the proceedings, or as otherwise provided by the ALJ. Such public statements will not constitute evidence in the adjudicatory hearing but may be used by the ALJ as a basis for further inquiries.
To request full party or amicus status, an interested party should file a written petition and complete one of the following two options:
For full party status, interested parties should file a petition that includes:
For amicus party status, interested parties should file a petition that includes:
Public Documents and Information
Stakeholder involvement and consultation are part of an ongoing, evolving process throughout all phases of the 94-c review process. ConnectGen’s goal is to provide information to stakeholders, understand stakeholder interests, identify any additional stakeholders potentially affected by the South Ripley Solar Project, solicit information from stakeholders during public outreach events and generally foster public participation in the 94-c review process. ConnectGen filed its Transfer Application to ORES to transfer to the 94-c permitting process, and a new matter number and case docket has been created on DMM.
You may access the Application electronically through the links above and on the New York State Department of Public Service’s Document Matter Manager (DMM) system, or you may access hard copies of the Application at one of the following locations: