By Rebecca Martin
Earlier this summer, we learned that GlidePath (aka Lincoln Park GC, LLC) “stated that their project – the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a gas-fired peak energy power plant being proposed in the Town of Ulster – could be built “as-of-right” in the Office and Manufacturing District (“OM District”) in the Town because it is a “utility company structure.”
For many months, TownOfUlsterCitizens.org and our coalition of partners requested that the Town of Ulster provide “clarity on whether the Town of Ulster Zoning Code currently regulates gas-fired power plants, and specifically request a statement as to how the Town is treating the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center under the Zoning Code.”
These requests went without any detailed explanation.
However, over the weekend we learned that even though the code in the Town of Ulster’s zoning code refers to “utility company structures” allowed as-of-right in Highway Commercial (HC), Resource Conservation (RC), Office-Medical (OM) and I districts (and by Special Use Permits (SUP) or Specific Plan (SP) Approval in R-60, 30, 10 and Land Conservation (LC) districts), that GlidePath may not be considered a utility as per an interpretation of the 1978 US Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), which began the deregulation of energy companies to create competition to allow the US to break the grip of energy monopolies in the aftermath of the energy crisis.
PURPA establishes that because energy companies were “natural monopolies” (i.e., which happens to industries with infrastructure costs and other barriers to entry relative to the size of the market, giving the largest supplier an advantage over potential competitors), energy producers are non-utility generators. Cogeneration and small power production facilities are not utilities. It appears to be all in PURPA and settled case law that follows it since then.
What might this all mean for the GlidePath proposal? We have more research to do to understand PURPA’s potential impact.