Safety & Environment
Habitat & Biodiversity
There has never been a more important time to protect nature’s assets than now. Biological diversity or biodiversity refers to the wide variety of living species on Earth. Protecting biodiversity increases ecosystems’ resilience to the increasing shocks brought on by extreme weather and climate change. In many parts of our service territory, we are surrounded by or near lush woodlands, productive wetlands, diverse wildlife, and integrated waterways that create a truly unique environment for the millions of people and species who live here. Some of the main drivers of biodiversity loss are land use changes, development, climate change, pollution, and invasive species.
To help combat biodiversity loss, we are developing a sustainable business strategy that aims to preserve and enhance biodiversity. Our strategy will be guided by the following high-level objectives:
- Strengthening our corporate governance on biodiversity
- Assessing biodiversity impacts across our company’s value chain
- Increasing our performance by implementing action plans with mitigation targets
- Monitoring and reporting on our biodiversity efforts using globally recognized metrics
We are committed to evaluating ways to incorporate biodiversity protection measures through all aspects of our business. Below, we outline a few mitigation measures and initiatives Con Edison currently uses to support our goals of promoting and protecting our natural environment.
- We strive to incorporate sustainable design engineering to systematically identify and mitigate environmental concerns during project planning and construction.
- Our workers and contractors work under the same best-management practice hierarchy during construction and operations. Our environmental procedures have all been independently audited and certified by the ISO-14001 environmental management standards.
- Our Strategic Partnerships program funds multiple nonprofit organizations that address local environmental threats, further the preservation of biodiversity, and enhance ecosystem services.
Comprehensive Vegetation Management
To power our vast service territory, Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. (CECONY) and Orange & Rockland, Inc. (O&R) manage more than 8,100 acres of land under Overhead Transmission Lines to provide reliable and safe service for our customers. We use an industry-leading vegetation management program that follows best management practices developed in coordination with the Electric Power Research Institute. We encourage biological diversity along the Transmission Line Right-of-Ways by protecting native plants and threatened and endangered species with the assistance of trained experts, selectively pruning or cutting undesirable species, and increasing public awareness of threatened and endangered species through community partnerships.
For the last 13 years, CECONY and O&R have been recognized as a “Tree Line USA” utility by the Arbor Day Foundation for utilizing best practices in utility arboriculture. The award acknowledges our national leadership in promoting the dual goals of providing safe, reliable electric service and preserving abundant, healthy trees across our service territory. Our efforts to train our workers in quality tree-care practices and educate customers to plant appropriate trees near utility lines result in a healthier, more sustainable relationship between trees and our electrical utility lines year after year. Our year-round vegetation management program involves safely managing trees near 1,400 miles of distribution lines, making it an integral part of providing reliable service while enhancing the urban forest in which we live.
O&R’s Forestburgh Conference Center Native Meadow Enhancement Project
Over the last two years, we identified a native pollinator enhancement opportunity at O&R’s Forestburgh Conference Center, where staff had been mowing a two-acre field. Mowing was stopped and eight integral species of native plants were planted, totaling over 3,000 plugs that returned the meadow to its natural state. These native species will bloom throughout the year and are particularly valuable to local pollinators. Our species list includes Common Milkweed, Wild Bergamot, and Smooth Blue Aster. As the meadow developed, supplemental native buds were planted to boost the diversity and abundance of the meadow. Bird houses and solitary bee homes were installed throughout the area to provide shelter and support reproduction. O&R created a vegetable garden adjacent to the new meadow for a farm-to-table dining program. The native meadow enhancement project was a pilot task that will shape our planning for more biodiversity protection and native habitat enhancement. The project also supports the New York State Pollinator Protection Plan, one of the state’s main biodiversity protection programs.
Protecting Aquatic Life at the East River Generating Station
The East River Generating Station is the only one of our steam stations with a cooling water intake structure (CWIS). This system draws water from the East River into the plant to cool two of our electricity-producing units. Con Edison uses the best technology available to minimize the impact on marine life as water is pumped in and out of the station. The river water entering the station flows through at least four traveling screens that prevent entrained fish and other marine life from entering the station. Marine life that is caught by the traveling screens either remains stationary against the screens or is held in a trough at the bottom of each screen. The traveling screens move upward on an elevator-like system. At the top, a gentle spray removes fish and other marine life from the screens, after which they are returned to the river via an aqueduct that deposits them away from the station’s intake pumps. Installation of this CWIS system and biological monitoring was developed in coordination with the Electric Power Research Institute and exceeds all state regulations and federal law requirements, protecting marine wildlife while supplying safe, reliable steam heat to New York City.
Con Edison Transmission: Sustainable Design
Con Edison Transmission’s (CET) commitment to minimizing the environmental and wildlife impacts of its projects is demonstrated by its most recently proposed project, Clean Link New Jersey. Clean Link New Jersey uses an underground power corridor design to link offshore wind power to New Jersey’s electric transmission system. This use of a single power corridor and underground direct current cable will result in a smaller project footprint, reducing environmental disturbances and impact to wildlife along the coastline and lessening the impact to onshore communities. When designing new projects, CET considers the onshore and offshore environments and employs technology to reduce project impacts to the environment and the public. This focus in the design process on sustainability enables CET to propose projects with reduced impact to natural habitat while preparing our communities to embrace a clean energy future.
Clean Energy Businesses: Supporting Biodiversity Land Management
Con Edison’s competitive Clean Energy Businesses (CEBs) have robust programs in place to incorporate environmental stewardship into our business planning, which in turn help promote biodiversity in the areas across the country where we work. During the development phase of new projects, risks to threatened and endangered species are always evaluated and considered. In cases where a project would present significant risk to high biodiversity value areas, we will consider alternative project locations with no or fewer impacts. For other projects, investments are made to protect environmentally-sensitive areas and wildlife in compliance with local, state, and federal environmental regulations.
For instance, at the Campbell County Wind Farm in South Dakota, we were able to place about 90% of the wind turbines on farmland to avoid habitat loss for grassland species. To compensate for the seven turbines that were placed in grassland areas, we secured 200 acres of perpetual grassland easements in Campbell County, which were donated as offsets. One of the species found in the Campbell County area is the Whooping Crane, which is a federally listed endangered species. Due to the location of this project within the Whooping Crane migration pathway, we monitor Whooping Crane migration and seasonal flights, allowing our operations to adjust turbines as needed to help prevent mortalities. We also consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide protections for the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle at this facility through mitigation and monitoring efforts.
In our solar portfolio, we have multiple projects where the protection of threatened and endangered species has been an integral part of planning and operating these facilities. For instance at Panoche Valley Solar, Lost Hills, and Copper Mountain, we monitor threatened and endangered species and have implemented extensive mitigation and conservation measures to protect these species and their habitats. At Panoche Valley Solar in California, we secured the permanent protection and management of over 25,000 acres of habitat – over 15 times the acreage of our solar field. Prior to and during the construction of the facility, hundreds of Giant Kangaroo Rats, which are a California endangered species, were successfully relocated to non-project space to maintain and preserve this species. The San Joaquin Kit Fox, a California threatened species that occurs in this area, is currently being monitored by local researchers at California State University in order to better understand habitat and species behavior around the project site. During the construction phase of the Copper Mountain Solar project in Clark County, Nevada, we supported the Clark County Desert Conservation Program to help relocate the Desert Tortoise, another federally-listed threatened species that we took special care to protect.
During construction and ongoing operations, the CEBs utilize best management practices to minimize disturbances to habitat and species. We provide environmental training to our workers that is specific to local species so that those working on a project are informed of the biodiversity measures for the site. We engage in land management practices to monitor and repair areas where storm-related erosion could impact nearby waterways, use seed mixes that enhance pollinator plant species, lower speed limits, and perform regular inspections for species prior to engaging in activities.
At Con Edison’s Clean Energy Businesses, we approach biodiversity both proactively, by working with stakeholders when we begin a new project, and consistently as we maintain a completed facility. It is critical to us that our efforts to build a clean energy future are carried out in a manner that protects and nurtures the diverse animal and plant life that call the land surrounding our sites their home.