Utility customers would be able to pay off the cost of making their homes more energy efficient through charges on their monthly electric bills and the process of getting permits for new power plants would be streamlined under a bill that state lawmakers in Albany were expected to pass on Wednesday night.
The bill would revive procedures for locating power plants that were in effect until 2003. Since then, representatives from some areas, including parts of the Bronx, and Astoria and Long Island City in Queens, have opposed renewing the rules because they feared the rules would allow a greater concentration of power plants that would add to air pollution.
Supporters of a renewal argued that the high cost of electricity in the state was in part because construction of power-generating plants had come to a near-standstill in the last eight years. The divide could not be bridged until Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pressed for a compromise that assuaged some of the concerns about the environmental impact and included the consumer loan repayment option, which the Working Families Party had championed.
Senator Michael N. Gianaris, a Democrat from Queens, said before the vote that the proposal appeared to be “a very good siting bill that will facilitate more construction but also do it in a way that is mindful of overburdened communities and the environment.”
Mr. Gianaris, whose district includes a waterfront area that contains six power plants, had opposed a blanket renewal of the old rules, which exempted plants that generated no more than 80 megawatts from the statewide approval process.
He said the weak economy and shortage of financing, not the lack of a fast track for permitting, had been the primary hindrance to construction of new plants. But Arthur Kremer, a former assemblyman who lobbied for the renewal of the law, disagreed. “There’s nothing major being considered anywhere in the state because there’s no siting law,” Mr. Kremer said.
The bills introduced in the Senate and Assembly on Wednesday, as the legislative session drew to a close, created a new, more environmentally friendly fast track than the previous law, lowering that threshold to 25 megawatts and setting a six-month deadline for review of applications to modify or restart existing plants if the amount of pollution they emit would be reduced. The reviews would be conducted by a state board with representatives from several agencies and some public members that would supersede local permitting agencies.
The loan-repayment proposal, known as on-bill recovery, was written to help consumers who cannot afford to have their homes or businesses retrofitted to reduce energy consumption. Utilities would lend those customers the money for the work, and their savings on future bills would be used to repay the loans. The limits would be $13,000 for residences and $26,000 for businesses, at interest rates to be decided.
That program is expected to create so-called green jobs by stimulating investment in energy-saving devices and home improvements. In 2009, the state enacted a law known as Green Jobs/Green New York that was supposed to create the equivalent of more than 14,000 full-time jobs and reduce pollution by making one million homes and buildings more energy-efficient. The proposed law is seen by its proponents as a critical conduit to achieving those goals.
“This is a simple and creative solution to intertwined problems of climate change, joblessness and economic stagnation,” said Dave Palmer, executive director of the Center for Working Families. which helped devise the program. “It puts New York at the forefront of national efforts for a green economic recovery. We are the first state to implement on-bill financing on a statewide basis and to mandate utility participation.”