Library from New York
The fight over Alle-Catt shows how extreme New York’s energy politics have become under Cuomo. Over the past few years, the state’s regulators have outlawed hydraulic fracturing (and therefore, essentially all drilling for oil and natural gas) and have repeatedly blocked pipelines aimed at bringing more natural gas to the state. Cuomo’s appointees are now in “police-state mode” and is stripping small towns of their zoning authority because they stand in the way of adding more wind-energy capacity. Freedom and other low-income towns in rural New York are fighting to be free of Big Wind. Under Cuomo, those towns had better be prepared for a long fight.
In Cattaraugus County, the Legislature is on record as asking the IDA not to grant tax breaks to large wind farms. The county Planning Board said the wind turbines were not in keeping with the rural character of the county and would affect tourism which thousands of county residents rely on. ...However, Wiktor said the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) may be ready under Article 10 to force the IDA to grant tax breaks to help underwrite the wind farm.
Attorney Gary A. Abraham said Thursday that a lawsuit is being considered by opponents, including a coalition of citizen groups, an Amish community and the towns of Rushford, Freedom and Farmersville, where Abraham said anti-wind power candidates won November's local elections.
ALBANY — The decision Wednesday by the New York State Siting Board to allow Invenergy to proceed with its proposed Alle-Catt Wind Farm in northern Cattaraugus and Allegany counties was met with dismay by opponents.
The rural opposition has been so strong that earlier this year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo added a provision, known as Article 23, to the state budget that effectively strips local communities of their ability to stop big renewable-energy projects from being built in their jurisdictions. ...New Englanders like the idea of wind energy they just don’t want any wind turbines in New England. So they are putting them in New York.
A big step in the fate of the proposed Alle-Catt Wind Farm will take place on Wednesday. The New York State Board of Electric Generation Siting and the Environment will conduct a hearing on the application of Alle-Catt Wind Energy LLC for a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need.
Members of the Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott, Inc., a group opposed to Ørsted and Eversource Energy’s South Fork Wind Farm project, have been pressuring the owners who want to bring an energy cable onshore at Beach Lane.
Borrello said the new Article 23 policy basically says the state government has the ultimate authority on approving renewable energy projects, which silences local opposition. “It ensures those impacted by this will have no opportunity and say,” he said. “It bulldozes local zoning laws. It allows someone in Albany to OK a project without even seeing it.”
The Act creates a new Office of Renewable Energy Siting, which will work with other agencies to review and set conditions for proposed renewable energy projects. The input of wildlife management agencies will be crucial to ensure that birds receive adequate protection, but under the new law, these agencies are given short time windows to participate. Insufficient staffing, busy seasons, and many other factors could prevent meaningful review and input, potentially leaving birds largely out of the discussion.
The office of state Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit Monday in state Supreme Court in Erie County. It seeks relief for investors she said have been duped by Stimm. The turbine, according to Stimm, is about six months away from hitting the market and, once widely adopted, will reduce the cost of electricity nationwide.
The local law was similar to the one approved on a similar 3-2 vote in January, doubling the setbacks of turbines to 3,000 feet, decreasing the height of turbines to 450 feet from 600 feet and limiting noise from wind energy projects like the proposed 340 megawatt Alle-Catt Wind Farm.
Construction workers reportedly from Indiana, Pennsylvania and Idaho have been working on the wind towers, even as non-essential work has stopped throughout the state.
Three petitions submitted to the state requested reconsideration of the the project based on issues ranging from the sponsor's failure to adequately inform the public about the installation, to concerns about the impact of turbine blades on golden eagle and bald eagle habitats in the affected area. Opponents alleged the community was purposely kept in the dark in the project's infancy to limit a lively public exchange on the drawbacks.
The current process New York uses to site large renewables was last amended in 2011, and observers say it is cumbersome to navigate because it has no standard set of requirements for projects to meet. The new law calls for establishing regulations and uniform standards to address issues common to large renewables and identifying mitigation measures to address those impacts.
Legislation approved in the 2021 state budget on Thursday included the controversial quicker, streamlined process to approve renewable energy projects, replacing Article 10. While some changes were made, decision-making is still taken from local jurisdictions.
Cuomo intends to crush local, home-rule-based opposition. Under the guise of the state’s budgeting process, he intends to declare an “emergency” that will allow him to revamp the process for approving green-energy projects. To wit, the projects are to be fast-tracked, with no regard for local opinion. The state will also acquire needed land, build the necessary infrastructure, including transmission lines, and hand it all over to developers. ... And if a town objects? The state can — and surely will — respond with the legal equivalent of an extended middle finger.
Town Supervisor Dan Pacos said the main changes are an increase in the required setback of turbines from nearby properties, and a differentiation between “large units that connect to the grid as opposed to small units that a farmer wants to use.” The changes were jointly proposed by the town’s zoning and planning boards, he said.
Legislator Mark Odell, R-Brocton, said if Cuomo’s proposal is approved it would limit local public input into renewable energy projects, which includes wind turbine farms. He opposes the governor’s attempt to fast track renewable energy projects. “This is very inappropriate,” he said.
Most of the need for electricity is on the two coasts where the population is clustered while most of the wind resources are far from those clusters; the lack of an infrastructure to transmit the power limits its development. But community-owned wind projects bypass the problem by supplying electricity locally. The money from wind power comes from generating electrical power, not from land rental. We’d like to see that money, and that control, stay local. That way, wind turbines could be placed in locations where they won’t hurt human health or the local economy.
After Shell WindEnergy in 2008 contacted local landowners about leasing property on the crest of the Helderbergs for fifty 380-foot wind turbines, the towns involved scrambled to put ordinances in place. At that time, New Scotland and all four Hilltowns were devoid of zoning related to wind farms. Berne, Knox, and Rensselaerville followed through with zoning laws; New Scotland did not, and Westerlo never undertook the task.