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The "clean energy" governor?

Paterson's PR team is hoping the governor will be remembered as the "clean energy governor" - not the accidental governor.
Matt Ryan
Paterson's PR team is hoping the governor will be remembered as the "clean energy governor" - not the accidental governor.

David Paterson has been called “the accidental governor” after stumbling into the executive office when Eliot Spitzer resigned. When he leaves that office at the end of December, his message machine hopes he’ll be remembered as the “clean energy governor” instead.

Paterson’s deputy secretary of energy, Tom Congdon, explains:

“For anyone who follows environmental issues and clean energy, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t acknowledge that our programs over the past few years have expanded dramatically. New energy programs have been started that are going to transform the energy space.”

Congdon says Paterson did lay out a bold clean energy plan in his 2009 and 2010 State of the State addresses citing the governor’s “45 by 15” program as one of the nation’s most aggressive energy initiatives. That plan called for New York to meet 45 percent of its electricity needs through energy efficiency and clean renewable energy by 2015. The program was supposed to yield 50,000 jobs. But so far there’s no immediate account of how many jobs have been created thus far.

The governor also takes credit for bringing Internet giant Yahoo! to Buffalo and working out deals to keep IBM and Canon in upstate New York. Those parts of Paterson’s work as governor are more high profile. But there’s one element of Paterson’s legacy that is less public: his efforts to promote New York as the place to be for battery research.

Congdon says Paterson should be remembered for his investments in research and development in rechargeable battery technology for electric and hybrid cars, to speed up the rate of innovation. More than 50 New York companies and universities are part of a consortium that the governor created to fund targeted programs through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

“What the governor said is we should bring all those people who are already working on batteries together in a consortium and make New York the battery R&D capital of the country,” Condon says.

Dennis Mullen, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation says with all the criticism about Paterson, there’s nothing to compare him to. He says the governor presided over unprecedented financial times and still managed to focus on the innovation economy.

“When you look at what the governor had to deal with and where we are today. I think that his legacy will be looked upon as… he was able to weather the storm, balance the budget, meet the challenges day in and day out that were in front of him. I don’t think people have a full appreciation or comprehension of that at this moment in time,” Mullen says.

I’m working on a story about Paterson’s legacy for New York Now, so watch this space for reaction to Congdon and Mullen’s characterization of his legacy from outside the administration.

Innovation Trail alumnus Dan Bazile is former reporter for WMHT in Albany. He has covered a wide range of topics, from town board meetings, to the September 11th terrorist attacks.