Report from Roundtable on Renewables leaves many unanswered questions, especially for rural communities

Posted 11 November 2017 at 8:32 am


The Renewables on the Ground Roundtable, facilitated by the Consensus Building Institute and co-chaired by The Nature Conservancy and the Alliance for Clean Energy NY, just released its final report in Albany last month designed to help facilitate Governor Cuomo’s goal of achieving 50% renewable energy by 2030.

Readers beware.

I participated in most of the year-long series of meetings. I resigned from the Roundtable in July just as the synthesis working group of which I was a member was to begin making changes to the final recommendations and to draft the executive summary. In the event, going against the express guidelines all Roundtable participants agreed to at the last meeting, a participant intentionally released an unauthorized draft of the report in order to gain favor for wind turbine developers with state agencies. This unconscionable step was the last straw for me. Interestingly, the final report does not list me as a participant.

I implore the Roundtable participants, Orleans County readers, the state agencies responsible for siting renewable energy projects and those responsible for preserving Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station operational airspace and radar coverage, Governor Cuomo and all those seeking the common good to avoid accepting the false narrative of a broad consensus in the final report.  Despite the good faith efforts of many of the Roundtable participants, key questions remain.

Why was there a lack of rural upstate participation in the Roundtable when it is those communities who will be facing industrial wind turbine projects? Why did the Roundtable assume that every community would embrace industrial wind turbines if only they were provided enough “education?”

Why wouldn’t industrial wind developers earnestly strive to earn a social license by achieving “broad stakeholder agreement” with host communities, conservationists and state agencies concerning reasonable zoning regulations, stipulations and study methodologies? What environmental and procedural justice safeguards will protect rural towns from suffering inequities in the face of poorly sited industrial wind turbine projects?

Finally, who should decide how each NY town will contribute to a more sustainable future? If your answer is the wind turbine companies and the leaseholders, then you invite division, acrimony and toxicity, and you underestimate the power of subsidiarity, home rule and – most importantly – the people.

Jim Simon

Supervisor, Town of Yates