My position as the chair of the New York State Energy Committee is one in which I have invested a great deal of time and energy (pun intended). I am using the time in between legislative sessions to further my understanding of the energy challenges facing New York and the search for more efficient ways to meet the State’s power demands.
I recently participated in the Legislative Energy Horizon Institute’s Energy School in Richland, Washington. It was an intensive five-day program that covered a wide range of topics and included classroom and fieldwork.
The first day of class was spent learning about electric power generation and distribution. We spent nearly seven hours in the classroom learning about and discussing how electricity is generated and distributed throughout the grid. It was fascinating stuff.
Day two was about the current energy situation in the United States. We spent several hours discussing the production and distribution of natural gas. Dick Moore, who has held senior management positions at several oil and gas companies, gave us a two-hour presentation on the petroleum industry.
Day three featured presentations on new markets for Canadian natural gas and aligning utility regulations with state energy policies. We closed out the conference on the final day with a program on integrating renewable sources of energy such as oil, coal, natural gas, wood, bio fuels, wind and solar.
This all led to our discussion about the future of energy sources, a topic about which I am extremely interested. Finding new and cost-effective ways to provide energy for the people of New York State is of the utmost importance in my position as Energy Chair. We also had the opportunity to visit McNary Dam and a wind farm.
Perhaps even more importantly, this school provided me with the opportunity to get to know legislators from around the country who are in positions similar to mine and are looking to reach the same goals. I also got the chance to get to know the NY Senate Energy Committee Chair George Maziarz a little better. George is from the 62nd District up in Niagara County and the time we spent together laid the ground work for what I hope will be a very productive relationship.
Upon returning to New York I visited the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan. I spent a day touring the plant and taking part in a round table discussion about nuclear energy. Indian Point provides 25 percent of the power to the City and Westchester County.
It was an eye-opening experience, particularly the part where I got to see where the spent fuel cells are stored. We had to wear little monitors to test radiation levels on our clothes as we left that part of the facility.
On a side note, I’d like to mention that the security at Indian Point was first rate. Regardless of the controversy surrounding the plant, I found the security very reassuring.
I realize this is all a lot to digest. It was for me. However, I have made it a point to do as much as I possibly can in my position as Energy Chair to improve the power situation in New York State. The summer may be here and we are out of session but the work continues.