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Cuomo’s plan to fast-track siting energy projects takes away local control

Posted 14 March 2020 at 12:24 pm

Editor:

On Feb. 21, Governor Cuomo proposed the most significant and dangerous overhaul of renewable energy project permitting/siting since the enactment of Public Service Law Article 10.

The governor has proposed the “Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act” (ie: Article 23) via a 2020 budget amendment, as a replacement of the State’s Article 10 process. Article 10 requires electricity generation projects of 25 megawatts (MWs) and larger to make their way through a multi-staged and multi-year permitting process before the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment (Siting Board).

Governor Cuomo, developers and wind/solar lobbying groups (re:  ACE-NY) have concluded Article 10 is ill-fitted to help the state reach the “70 by 30” renewable energy and climate targets set forth in the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) and would like to completely dismantle Article 10 in favor of completely new Article 23 siting process.

In reality, the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act has much to do with Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and nothing to do with Community Benefit or Home Rule.

A few of the dangerous and frightening tenets of Article 23:

1. Reduction of project sizes from 25 MW (Article 10) to 10 MW (Article 23). If passed, industrial wind and solar project siting will be expanded into suburban areas. As a result, every town in New York State, without exception, would be a possible target for projects.

2. Article 23 ostensibly initiates a state-wide eminent domain process in order to develop “shovel ready” sites anywhere in the state. This process, if approved as part of the 2020 state budget, will allow for forcible appropriation of private land and then provision of shovel-ready sites to developers for build-out of industrial sized wind and solar energy projects.

3. Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) and Host Community Agreements (HCA) will no longer be negotiated between the local municipality and the developer. The state will excise the municipality and become the lead negotiator.

4. Local municipalities and opposition groups are eliminated from presenting locally sourced data and questioning state experts regarding specific siting issues. This new ruling effectively freezes both groups out of the new Article 23 siting process.

5. Mandated Project Approval. Article 23 mandates project approval within 12 months of application. If no decision is rendered by the state within 12 months, the project will be considered approved.

While this treatise may read to some as an industrial, renewable energy opposition piece, the information presented is just one example of a much more insidious issue.

That issue is the continuing, unchecked over-reach by this governor and both houses of the state legislative branch into our private lives. The governor was unhappy with the speed of Article 10 project siting, so he has taken the step of implementing a thinly veiled eminent domain process. He alone will determine what is good and fair for the people of New York State.

Article 23 has proven a bridge-too-far for the people of our once-great state. Towns across the state, regardless of opposition or support of industrial renewable energy projects resent and reject the complete evisceration of home rule (as bestowed via Article 9 of the New York State Constitution).

These same towns, once on opposite sides of the Article 10 siting issue, are now fighting as one against Article 23 via passage of Article 23 Sanctuary Town Resolutions. Sanctuary towns will not implement nor with will they support any tenets of the Article 23 Budget Amendment on siting of industrial, renewable energy projects.

The 2020 Budget is to be voted on by the end of March. In the meantime, State Senate and Assembly members on both sides of the aisle are working to ensure removal of Article 23 prior to the budget vote. Please write your representatives to let them know you are supporting their work to keep New York State a Home Rule State.

What’s next on the governor’s agenda to control The People?

No home rule … No peace.

John Riggi

Yates town councilman