In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, nearly 100 people from across Long Island gathered recently at the Unitarian Universalist Church at Shelter Rock in Manhasset to discuss rebuilding a more resilient Long Island by moving towards a renewable energy future.
The event, "Long Island Clean Energy Forum: Navigating New York’s Energy Crossroads," was sponsored by the Sierra Club and hosted by the church’s Green Sanctuary Committee.
“It is time for the Long Island Power Authority to move away from plans to lock Long Islanders into dirty fossil fuel energy contracts and instead invest in clean, safe renewable energy from wind and solar,” said Lisa Dix, the senior New York campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.
Dix, who moderated the panel, was joined by six clean energy experts, who spoke on Sandy and a range of energy solutions, from natural gas and hydraulic fracturing to solar and offshore wind farms. Their message coincides with what some environmentalists consider Long Island's critical crossroads with regards to its energy policy. Now, clean energy advocates hope to educate residents in order to create a collective vision for Long Island moving forward.
“Superstorm Sandy was a tragic example of the extreme weather caused by climate disruption and its impacts on our families and communities,” Dix noted. “As Governor Cuomo has said, now is truly the time to lead. We need both Governor Cuomo and LIPA to act now to protect our clean energy programs and fast track our transition to a clean energy future for New York that will protect our families from dangerous climate disruption.”
Speaker after speaker emphasized that as communities rebuild in the wake of both Sandy and the public’s frustration with LIPA, there is an opportunity to weigh in on the types of energy Long Islanders will be using, from fossil fuel to clean energy alternatives, to provide electricity in the future.
Gordian Raacke of Renewable Energy Long Island issued a “call to action,” adding that Long Island is at a “critical moment in creating a vision for Long Island’s clean energy policy.” Clean, renewable energy alternatives are a reality, he said, adding that 100 percent of Long Island’s home electrical needs can be met by offshore wind farms by 2020.
Raacke said that renewable energy would boost the local economy by creating jobs and keeping dollars on Long Island. He encouraged people to get involved in the discussion by staying informed and spreading the word that the technology is here to effectively provide clean renewable energy for Long Island.
Still, a switch to clean energy requires buy-in. As keynote speaker Adrienne Esposito of Citizen’s Campaign For The Environment in Farmingdale noted, although Cuomo has stated that climate change is real, there are no elected state officials in New York who are clearly champions of clean energy alternatives.
Additional speakers included Ellen Weininger of Grassroots Environmental Education in Port Washington, Peter Olmstead of the Vote Solar Imitative in New York, Tim Daniels of Deepwater Wind in New York and Ed Laborde of Power Up Communities, a project run by Long Island Progressive Coalition in Massapequa.