The New York state legislature has recently made changes to the authorization procedures for new power plants in order to make it easier for developers to gain the necessary approval.

The changes were claimed to be necessary in order to stimulate the construction of power plants in New York. No major new plants have entered service in the last decade, though nine proposals are currently under review by the state Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment.

Under the new deal, both the siting board and the Department of Environmental Conservation can issue environmental permits for generating projects. A pre-application procedure has also been introduced when a project is proposed to generate wider comment and more money has been made available to municipalities and local parties to allow them to become involved in the proceedings.

The issue of power plant construction has been given an added urgency by a prediction that says that without new capacity, the state will have a power shortfall by the summer of 2001.

The debate has been further complicated by the existence of twenty old coal-fired power stations in New York state which are currently exempt from the new emission standards. These plants generate 50 per cent of the state’s power, and environmentalists wanted tighter emission controls to be applied to them as part of the new agreement. They argue that otherwise utilities will continue to operate these plants rather than build new, cleaner power stations. However the new measures do not contain any stricter emission controls for these older power stations.