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Barre opposes Cuomo’s proposal for more state control with large-scale energy projects

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Barre Town Board met Wednesday evening and voted unanimously to oppose Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed Article 23, which would accelerate the siting of renewable energy projects in the state. Pictured from left include Town Board members Lynn Hill, Margaret Swan and Kerri Richardson, Town Supervisor Sean Pogue and Town Clerk Maureen Beach.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 March 2020 at 9:20 am

‘We don’t want the governor to take over eminent domain and what goes on in this town.’ – Town Supervisor Sean Pogue

BARRE – The Barre Town Board went on the record Wednesday to oppose Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to speed up review of large-scale energy projects, with the state taking more control of the process.

The governor introduced Article 23 as part of a budget amendment last month. He acknowledged large-scale solar and wind projects often are encountering resistance around the state. And the review process is often taking three years or more.

He wants to ensure that complete applications are acted upon within one year, except in the case of certain former commercial and industrial sites, which will be reviewed within six months.

Cuomo proposed creating a new Office of Renewable Energy Permitting to improve and streamline the process for siting of large-scale renewable energy projects. The governor said the projects deliver significant benefits to local communities.

Barre town officials see the proposal as taking local control away from towns.

“The Article 23 Amendment, if passed, would greatly limit the role of local zoning laws, avoid critical reviews of local environmental conditions requiring mitigation, allow the State to take certain lands through eminent domain and make them available to developers for construction of power plants, and limit a town’s taxation and assessment powers,” according to the resolution unanimously adopted by the Town Board.

If the project is acted on by the state within a year, the application would be deemed approved by default.

The resolution approved by Barre says the governor’s proposal would reduce public participation, limiting voices of opposition or disagreement to a project.

Barre, in the resolution, also states if Article 23 becomes law the town “will not provide any local resources or cooperation towards approval, administration and/or enforcement of any permits.”

The town already has two applications for large-scale renewable energy projects. Apex Clean Energy is proposing 33 wind turbines with a capacity for 185 megawatts as part of Heritage Wind.

Community Energy also wants to build a 200-megawatt project – Orleans Solar LLC – on 1,800 acres of land in Barre and Shelby near Townline Road by the wildlife refuge.

Sean Pogue, Barre town supervisor, said he expects most of the municipalities to pass similar resolutions. He is concerned the governor’s proposal could become law as part of the next state budget which is due to be passed by April 1.

“We don’t want the governor to take over eminent domain and what goes on in this town,” Pogue said.

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