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Elected officials and advocates urge Cuomo to sign geothermal energy tax credit bill

Tom Magnarelli
Advocates and elected officials rally for geothermal tax breaks at Syracuse City Hall.

The Syracuse Common Council has joined in on an effort from advocates and elected officials to pressure Gov. Andrew Cuomo into signing a bill to give tax credits to geothermal energy. A 30 percent federal tax incentive for geothermal expires at the end of this year.

Geothermal energy is generated by a system of loop pipes underground that can warm or cool the air in homes and buildings. But geothermal is expensive and costs around the same as a solar panel system, between $20,000-30,000 per home. A tax credit worth 25 percent, up to $5,000, could help ease that burden. Plus, Assemblyman Al Stirpe says, geothermal would help meet Cuomo’s goals of generating more clean energy.

“It’s really an important piece of the puzzle, because we have to use lots of different non-carbon based energy sources in order to get to this reduction in carbon emissions," Stirpe said. "You would think that this being so in line with what he is trying to accomplish, it would be something he would take a very serious look at and hopefully sign.”

But so far, Cuomo has chosen to not have the bill sent to him, which passed with almost unanimous support in both the Assembly and Senate months ago. Stirpe speculates that Cuomo is still thinking about it because it does have a fiscal implication.

"If it was something he was really eager to do, we probably would have seen it go through already," Stirpe said. "He's taking his time, he's going to calculate it, they have to get estimates on how many installations they think there are really going to be and what kind of financial impact that it is going to have."

Advocates estimate about 1,000 installations a year might cost about $3 million in tax breaks, but it could be more. Stirpe said Cuomo has from now until the end of the year to sign the bill.

State Sen. Dave Valesky said federal tax credits for both solar and geothermal were set to expire.

"The federal government decided to extend the solar tax credit until 2022, but leave the geothermal tax credit off the table," Valesky said. "And is often the case, state legislatures across the country are asked to step in where the federal government left off." 

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.