It’s become obvious that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo considers local input on major projects affecting residents in upstate New York very annoying.
How dare we express our views on the many wind turbines and solar panels that he wants to place here! Who are we to question whether having these structures built in our communities is in our best interest?
Mr. Cuomo wants to silence the voices of those who don’t lay down when he snaps his fingers in pursuit of his clean power agenda. He’s proposed a monstrous change to siting renewable energy projects throughout the state.
He has proposed dramatically altering the Article 10 process by removing the two local ad hoc representatives who sit on each New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment. In doing so, he’s caving in to wind and solar project developers — many of whom operate foreign-based firms — who don’t like it when residents push back against their plans. The proposed bill also would eliminate intervenor funding for participating in the process.
A story published Feb. 27 by the Wall Street Journal presented what Mr. Cuomo believes are the “benefits” of eliminating local voices on siting boards.
“You wouldn’t have these contentious community vs. energy-project dramas that have gone on across the state, and you could actually get it done faster,” he said.
In other words, why put up with potential opposition? Relegate community input to the back bench so that developers can have their way.
The governor has introduced the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act. If approved by the state Legislature as part of the proposed budget, this would establish the Office of Renewable Energy Permitting.
The Article 10 process calls for a siting board consisting of representatives of the state departments of Public Service, Environmental Conservation, Health, Economic Development and State Energy Research and Development Authority. Two ad hoc members, each living within the affected community, also are appointed to the board.
Mirroring the complaints of developers, Mr. Cuomo believes this process has become overly cumbersome. He wants to “streamline” it by exerting more direct control. This would expedite wind and solar applications by replacing the judgment of local residents with people whose careers he oversees.
“The new structure created by the act centralizes renewable energy siting and permitting activities within the Department of Economic Development,” according to a news release issued Feb. 21 by the governor’s office. “The structure also creates, separately, a new program through which the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will collaborate with the Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Public Service to develop build-ready sites for renewable energy projects.”
There is no doubt that the siting process takes a lot of time to complete. And there has been vocal opposition to some projects in Northern New York.
But there’s good reason for the concern expressed by people who live in the communities that would host wind and solar farms. On this page, we have warned of how a conglomeration of wind turbines adversely affects radar capabilities for Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield at Fort Drum and the Montague Weather Station.
And not all developers are on the up and up when it comes to revealing what they know about the impact their projects will have. Apex Clean Energy had false information about the existence of a bald eagles nest on Galloo Island in its application for a wind farm. Without local input, these factors may never have come to light.
Lewis County Manager Ryan M. Piche told the Watertown Daily Times that as the host of some wind projects, communities there strongly support clean energy initiatives. But balancing the interests of local residents with those of developers in the Article 10 process is essential, he said.
State lawmakers must stop this proposed legislation in its tracks. They cannot allow Mr. Cuomo to amass more power for himself by reducing our influence.
Pursuing clean energy is the most sensible plan for New York. But this must not come at the expense of communities that must live with the consequences of Cuomo’s dreadful ideas.