New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer unveiled an ambitious new energy policy on Thursday that aims to cut power demand 15 percent by 2015 in what he says would be the most aggressive state conservation plan in the country.
Only one state, Hawaii, has higher electricity prices than New York, Spitzer said at a Crain's business breakfast, adding this expense stunted economic growth and drove employers away.
The Democratic governor, who won election last November on a reform ticket, also pledged to address another often-heard complaint from the business community — sky-high state and local taxes. New York led the nation in this category in 2004, when its residents paid $1,374 out of each $10,000 of income.
Though Republican lawmakers say Spitzer broke his vow not to raise taxes when he proposed a new bottle deposit fee, he has never agreed, and on Thursday he took his pledge further.
"There was not a tax increase — nor will there be while I am governor," Spitzer said, defending his $121 billion budget from critics who say a nearly 9 percent hike was way too big.
Nor did the former attorney general see a need to soften his "steamroller" style, though it riles state legislators.
"I'm not going to suddenly say 'Gee, I'm suddenly going to become a laid-back, warm and fuzzy guy."' Later, he added: "The public wants nothing more than someone with the fortitude to stand up and do the hard decisions that have to be made."
Perhaps in keeping with this theme, his criticism of the current expansion of New York City's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center could hardly have been more stinging. "It was not only suboptimal, it was really a horrendous design," Spitzer said, adding he hopes to unveil a new plan sometime this spring.
Businesses fear that the $1.7 billion expansion still gives them too little room for exhibits, let alone for unloading trucks. But Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose spokesman was not available, has resisted calls to fix these problems by expanding the midtown Manhattan center further.
Though Spitzer has proposed $295 million for renewable energy projects, his plan relies heavily on private investments in clean energy, wind, solar and hydropower. He hopes to spur new power plants by enacting a new environmentally sound law that will enable utilities to quickly clear the many regulatory hurdles they now face when they try to get new sites approved.
Stringent new efficiency standards for appliances — from furnaces to boilers to walk-in freezers — should help slash demand, as will pushing developers to use the most modern international standards for green buildings, he said.
However, the governor ruled out nuclear power, telling reporters: "There is simply no tolerance in New York State for additional nuclear plants."
Entergy Corp.'s Indian Point nuclear plant should be shut once alternatives are built, Spitzer added, explaining that its location just north of New York City makes it impossible to evacuate residents in the event of an accident.
"That is simply not a smart location for a nuclear power plant… We simply cannot turn it off until we have replacement power."
Saying he wished to break with former Republican Gov. George Pataki's policies, Spitzer added he would encourage utilities to sign long-term contracts. This should help them win private investors by strengthening their forecasts and cut their borrowing costs, Spitzer said.
In addition, he sees no need for public authorities to sell more tax-free bonds to fund the new plants.