Mayoral Candidates Discuss Energy Policies

On April 22, I attended the 2013 New York City Mayoral Forum on Sustainability, hosted by the New York League of Conservation Voters and the Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design. It was the first time all nine mayoral hopefuls appeared together. The candidates answered questions on issues from carbon emissions reduction to flood zone redevelopment to city parks. Here’s a summary of the participants’ comments on energy.

Sal Albanese (D), Managing Director of Mesirow Financial
Though Albanese didn’t have much to say on this topic, he did express his belief that there are too many hoops to jump through to install solar in NYC.

John Catsimatidis (R), Owner of Red Apple Group
Catsimatidis is the only candidate who does not believe in global warming (he thinks the jury is still out), but he does support pursuing alternative energy if it makes economic sense. The Gristedes owner noted that his chain is building one of the largest biodiesel facilities in the country. One of Verdant Power’s first turbine tests was supplying power to a Gristedes store on Roosevelt Island but Catsimatidis said it still does not generate enough power to fulfill the entire store’s electrical needs. He thinks new technology is needed if we want to replace fossil fuel plants because solar and wind will not be able to supply all of our energy needs (although audience members evoked this recent study which claims otherwise). When asked about the controversial Spectra Energy pipeline that would bring natural gas through Staten Island and Manhattan, Catsidmatidis said that gas has a tendency to explode and it’s not a good idea to have a pipeline in a densely populated area.

Adolfo Carrión (I), Former Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs
In his previous role as Regional Administrator of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for Region II (NY and NJ), Carrión said he oversaw the development of the first geothermal-powered building. That building now sells its energy back to the grid. Carrión said the goal should be for all buildings to be self-sufficient.

Bill de Blasio (D), Public Advocate
De Blasio voiced support for alternative energy development, starting with public buildings. He also said we must embrace renewable energy even when it’s not “convenient,” and it must be done on a large scale.

Joe Lhota (R), Former MTA Chairman and CEO
Lhota did not answer any questions specifically about energy. However, he said there needs to be one person at a deputy mayor level in charge of PlaNYC to coordinate across all the different agencies.

John Liu (D), City Comptroller
“Let’s get solar panels on all our buildings,” said Liu. He conceded that nuclear power plants create a huge amount of electricity for NYC, and overall power consumption is increasing not decreasing. Therefore, there needs to be a clear plan to make use of tidal and geothermal energy on a faster timeline. On the subject of the Spectra pipeline, Liu noted that there were 5,100 letters opposed to it and that Spectra Energy has incurred millions of dollars in energy, so it’s probably a bad deal for the city.

George McDonald (R), Founder of the Doe Fund
McDonald said his Doe Fund was a pioneer in the use of grease for biodiesel. He also believes incentives are the key to encouraging sustainability.

Christine Quinn (D), City Council Speaker
The Speaker was the only one in favor of closing the Indian Point nuclear power plant, and she suggested the lost energy could be made up through increased conservation, geothermal and other types of alternative energy. Quinn advocated caution on the Spectra pipeline, saying that all concerns must be aired out before moving forward and there needs to be transparent monitoring of the project. In order to improve air quality, Quinn said NYC needs to phase out the use of No. 6 diesel and make the switch to biodiesel.

Bill Thompson (D), Former City Comptroller
When asked about offshore wind, Thompson said it had been successful elsewhere and he believes it would work for NYC. He also thinks public buildings should take the lead when it comes to alternative energy.

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