Photo credit: Elliot Golden

The New York State legislature has just passed the Build Public Renewables Act with support of unions representing a million New York workers. The Act authorizes the New York Power Authority – the largest state-owned power company in the US –to start investing in renewable energy. It requires that all state-owned properties that ordinarily receive power from the New York Power Authority (NYPA) are run on renewable energy by 2030. It also requires municipally owned facilities like hospitals, schools, public housing, and public transit to convert completely to renewable energy by 2035.

Labor protections written by the state’s AFL-CIO preserve existing collective bargaining agreements for New York Power Authority workers and require collective bargaining agreements for all projects. Contractors and subcontractors are required to pay prevailing wages. Employers must sign a memorandum of understanding with labor unions to uphold and protect pay rates, training, and safety standards for workers supporting the operation and maintenance of such projects. Job applicants who have lost employment in the oil and gas sector will be prioritized for those positions. The Authority will allocate up to $25 million each year toward worker-training programs for the renewable energy sector through a newly created Office of Just Transition.

The Act establishes a program allowing low- and moderate-income electricity customers in disadvantaged communities to receive credits on their monthly utility bills for any renewable energy produced by the power authority.  It also accelerates the closing of six highly polluting “peaker plants” in Queens, the Bronx, and  Harlem, which have some of the highest asthma-related death rates in the country. 

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