New York Expands its Landmark Buy American Rule

By Brian Lombardozzi
Apr 13 2021 |
A solar panel farm that generates more than 5 megawatt of energy — and is built with New York State tax dollars — will be held to the state’s Buy American rules. | Getty Images

Last year’s rule covered purchasing for road and bridge construction projects; it will now cover purchasing for certain state-funded energy projects, too.

It’s been a year since the New York Buy American Act became a permanent part of state law. In 2021, though, it’s going further. The recently passed New York budget has expanded it.

On April 8 Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented highlights of the FY 2022 Enacted Budget for New York in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Among them was this: “The Budget ensures that New York uses Buy American principles in manufacturing of renewable components.”

Here’s what that means specifically: As of October 1, 2021 the New York Buy American Act will also apply to renewable energy systems with a capacity of over 5 megawatts that involves the procurement of renewable energy credits by a public entity or a third party acting on behalf and for the benefit of a public entity. That means Buy America procurement rules will apply to the construction or maintenance of energy systems supported by New York tax dollars with a capacity to generate over 5 megawatts of electricity or thermal energy through use of the following technologies: solar thermal, photovoltaics, on-land and offshore wind, hydroelectric, geothermal electric, geothermal ground source heat, tidal energy, wave energy, ocean thermal, and fuel cells which do not utilize a fossil fuel resource in the process of generating electricity.

Suffice to say, it’s a long list!

Those covered public entities or third parties acting on behalf and for the benefit of a public entity shall ensure that domestic iron and domestic structural steel that is melted and poured in the United States is used. Additionally, the heads of departments or agencies involved in these projects are instructed to give significant consideration to the procurement of equipment and supplies from businesses located in New York State.

The budget language acknowledges that setting clear standards for job quality will ensure the creation of good jobs, protect workers in the ongoing transition of our energy sector, and result in positive economic impacts. And here’s what it says specifically about manufacturing:

“New manufacturing and supply chain jobs are a necessary element of any pandemic recovery. Due to such findings, the legislature hereby declares that … (the) Buy American preference provided in this bill will ensure that workers are central to New York State’s transition to the green economy and its pandemic recovery plan.”

This is all good news. But the work isn’t finished.

This process isn’t complete until workers in fossil fuel industries, who powered the United States from the industrial revolution through decades of economic growth, also get a fair shake. They also deserve the chance to partake and thrive in the prosperity of a clean energy future. The goal shouldn’t be to only make what we currently need; it should be to expand our domestic capabilities for innovation on the factory floor so that the new technologies developed and deployed here in the United States are enjoyed by a well-trained, diverse workforce that offers success for all Americans.  

Have no doubt about it: The clean energy revolution is possible, and it is something that our nation can do in an inclusive, equitable, and just way that does not leave people and workers behind. In the Empire State, that starts with recognizing that America’s manufacturers have a central role to play. This Buy America expansion and the language in the new state budget suggest the elected leadership in Albany understands that.