As head of the firm’s Renewable Energy practice group, Jim Muscato is a leader in renewable energy project and policy development in New York, including wind, solar, hydro, biomass and emerging technologies, such as energy storage systems. Working in renewable energy development for 20 years, Jim continues to provide clients with strategic permitting advice and is well versed in the “ins and outs” of the New York regulatory environment, including key contacts across State government. The Energy practice features six environmental attorneys well versed in the permitting process, but perhaps more importantly, the renewable industry generally.
Selected Policy Initiatives
- New York recently announced a nation leading Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) and Jim was involved in the review and enactment process on behalf of clients and the Alliance for Clean Energy New York. Because of Jim’s extensive experience in the industry, Jim was nominated by renewable energy developers in New York to serve on the Climate Council charged with implementing the provisions of the CLCPA and Advisory Panels on Power Generation.
- In the infancies of clean energy development in New York, Jim was involved in efforts with the Governor’s office, the NYS Public Service Commission, and NYSERDA which ultimately resulted in the creation of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) – a State incentive program which has facilitated the construction of more than 1800 MW of renewable power in New York State. Under Jim’s leadership, Young/Sommer continues to be involved in the policy making aspects of the Reforming Energy Vision (REV) and the Clean Energy Standard, slated to replace the expiring RPS and particularly has focused on net metering, community choice aggregation, distributed energy initiatives and the large-scale renewable energy tiers of the REV.
- On an as needed basis, the Firm has acted as “of counsel” for the Alliance for Clean Energy New York (ACENY) a membership organization comprised of industry representatives, private parties and environmental groups, which has become the principal advocate for the renewable industry in New York. Jim provides advice on policy, permitting and enforcement questions to the ACENY staff and members.
- Young/Sommer was also involved in the enactment of the PSL Article 10 and new Section 94-c siting laws and regulations. The firm represented ACENY and private clients in negotiations with the Governor’s office, the Public Service Commission and other State Agencies regarding the provisions of the new law and associated regulations. Subsequent to enactment Jim has participated in numerous meetings with the PSC/DEC Article 10 and Section 94-c “team” and state intra-agency task force regarding the specific requirements and expectations for the implementation and application process.
- Jim has also represented private clients and worked with ACENY on legislation affecting the renewable energy industry including revisions to the PSL and other State laws regarding net metering.
Selected Projects and Permitting
- Operating and Permitted Wind Projects. Young/Sommer has assisted developers with local and state permitting for many of the operating wind farms in New York. A selection of these include: the Maple Ridge Wind Farm, (at one time the largest wind project east of the Mississippi, now approximately 320 MW); the Marble River Wind Farm (an approximately 215 MW project) in Clinton County, New York; the Jericho Wind Farm (approximately 79 MW project) in Franklin County, New York, the Arkwright Wind Farm (approximately 79 MW project) in Chautauqua County, NY, the Copenhagen Wind Farm (approximately 79 MW project), the Roaring Brook Wind Farm in Lewis County, NY (approximately 79 MW), the Hardscrabble Wind Farm (approximately 74 MW project) in Herkimer County, NY, Munnsville Wind Farm, (approximately 35 MW project) in Oneida and Madison Counties, NY, Howard Wind Farm (approximately 55 MW project) in Steuben County, NY and Madison Wind Farm (approximately 12 MW project) in Madison County, NY. For these various projects permitting has included certification of transmission lines pursuant to PSL Article 7, approvals pursuant to PSL section 68, State and Federal wetlands permitting, stormwater permitting and compliance with SEQRA and NEPA. In all Young/Sommer has represented the developers of over 1000 MW of wind generation in NY. In addition, Young/Sommer has assisted developers in obtaining state and local permitting for other projects which have not yet proceeded to development.
- PSL Article 10. Young/Sommer’s experience in Article 10 is unparalleled in New York State, with the firm involved in over 30 active siting proceedings for projects. Young/Sommer is permitting counsel for the first developer to file an application under the Article 10 law and obtained certification for the Facility, the Cassadaga Wind Project, in January 2018. In addition, Young/Sommer represents the first solar developer, Mohawk Solar, to obtain a complete application, with certification anticipated in November 2020. As mentioned above, Young/Sommer has been a key participant in assisting clients and interest groups in developing legislative and regulatory requirements/policy for implementation of PSL Article 10 in NY. This review is administered by a team from the Department of Public Service and the Department of Environmental Conservation. Through its representation of clients in Article 10, Article X, Section 68 and Article 7 matters, Young/Sommer has developed an excellent and long professional working relationship with both agency staff members and the Administrative Law Judges that comprise the Article 10 “team” working on Article 10 matters.
- Section 94-c. The replacement permitting regime for Article 10 in New York is Section 94-c of the Executive Law, which requires developers to obtain a siting permit from the newly created Office of Renewable Energy Siting. Young/Sommer is representing many developers in the new process.
- PSL Article X. The permitting requirements under PSL Article X expired January 1, 2003. After the expiration of Article X, permitting for energy projects over 80 MW was conducted under PSL Section 68. As noted above Young/Sommer has represented clients in this permitting process for numerous major generating facilities (over 80 MW).
- PSL Article 7. As noted above, Young/Sommer represents clients in obtaining permits for major transmission lines, in connection with wind projects under PSL Article 7. At present, Young Sommer is representing Champlain Hudson Power Express, Inc. with respect to a proposed 330 mile HVDC transmission line from Canada to New York City. Young/Sommer has also represented local municipalities and intervenors in other Article 7 proceedings.
- Miscellaneous Renewable Energy Development. Young/Sommer has represented Solar, Hydro, Biomass and other renewable energy developers in establishing policy, and creating contracts and real property agreements for developing these energy projects. In addition, Young/Sommer has represented and advised these developers in more traditional land use, permitting, zoning and SEQRA reviews.
- Small-Scale Solar. Young/Sommer has assisted a number of small solar clients across the State in obtaining approvals under SEQRA, state permitting and local zoning approvals needed for projects 1 MW- 24.9 MWs.
- PILOT Agreements. Young/Sommer has negotiated Payment-In-Lieu-Of-Tax (“PILOT”) Agreements on behalf of developers and municipalities and is versed in the tax implications and contractual obligations of these agreements. In addition, Young/Sommer has successfully negotiated host community agreements with municipalities hosting large energy projects.
- Due Diligence Review/Project Acquisition. Over the past few years, Young/Sommer has increasingly represented developers in the acquisition of small- and large-scale solar projects (2 – 20 MW) in New York. Attorneys at Young/Sommer have assisted clients in the acquisition of over 30 such projects since 2017. Services provided include due diligence review of all aspects of project development including local permitting and approvals, real estate, utility interconnection and NYSERDA funding. Attorneys at Young/Sommer routinely assist developers in the drafting and review of Membership
Interest Purchase Agreements and Engineering, Procurement and Construction Agreements, Power Purchase Agreements, small and large scale interconnection agreements and preparation of opinion letters for financing.