Library from New York
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has just proposed a 40-page amendment to his 2020-21 budget that will be voted on in Albany before April 1. This will fast-track projects like Alle-Catt and let the siting board choose the locations of all renewable projects, which would be let out for bid to private developers, in collaboration with the Department of Economic Development and NYSERDA.
During a meeting on Tuesday, members of the Niagara County Legislature voted to approve a resolution formally requesting the state budget amendment to be withdrawn. "All of these proposed changes are not only in conflict with our Home Rule rights, but are also contrary to our obligation to protect the health, safety and welfare of our constituents," the resolution reads.
The conflict stems from the vacant-land myth: the notion that there’s plenty of unused land out there in flyover country that’s ready and waiting to be covered with wind turbines, solar panels, power lines and other infrastructure. The truth is that growing numbers of rural and suburban landowners are resisting these types of projects. They don’t want to endure the noise and shadow flicker produced by 500- or 600-foot-high wind turbines. Nor do they want miles of transmission lines built through their towns, so they are fighting to protect their property values and views.
A plan by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to fast-track renewable energy projects statewide by toppling approval barriers is getting the thumbs-down from Long Island officials concerned that the measure will exclude local governments from siting and approval of projects such as solar farms. Cuomo’s administration has been working on a 30-day amendment to his fiscal 2020-21 budget that would change the "Article X" process for siting power plants.
Eric Firkel, Freedom town attorney, said the judge’s earlier decision voiding the 2018 law stated the 2007 law was in effect and acknowledged the 2019 law, which was similarly approved. “It is void on its face. It was not passed with proper procedures. The 2007 law is the current law,” Firkel said.
Gary Abraham, an attorney for residents of the two towns seeking more protective laws than ones passed earlier by the Farmersville and Freedom town boards, pointed out that the examiners, two administrative law judges from the state Department of Public Service and one from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, state that the 2007 Freedom wind law is in effect. That means turbine heights in Freedom are capped at 450 feet, not the 600 feet that Alle-Catt was seeking for its turbines. Alle-Catt had sought a ruling that the town’s 2019 wind law was in effect after a state Supreme Court judge ruled the 2018 wind law had not been legally approved.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo late last month amended his state-budget proposal to let him ram through approval of wind and solar “farms” over local objections. It’s a classic Cuomo power grab — outrageous both on the merits and in how he aims to pull it off.
Apex Clean Energy intends to file an application with the state in May or June to build 33 wind turbines with a top tip height at 655 feet, making them some of the tallest structures in Western New York. (One Seneca Tower in downtown Buffalo is the tallest building in WNY at 529 feet.)
"It eliminates the role of local zoning laws, allows for eminent domain takings of land, guts critical environmental review, and limits a town’s taxation and assessment powers and ability to negotiate host community agreements," Simon and Dewart said in a prepared statement.
Towns, citizens, environmental groups, developers and state agencies have operated for almost a decade under Article 10 (the current siting law), so one wonders what changed now that the existing process is hitting its stride. Lord Acton’s quote comes to mind, “All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This is a power grab, pure and simple.
Large-scale solar and wind projects would be subject to a dramatically new permitting process controlled only by the Cuomo administration – a plan developers say would cut by years the time to it takes for large renewable energy facilities to be approved in New York. Local government officials, however, say it will sharply reduce the role communities now play in the process for siting larger energy projects.
Advocates for local governments are pushing back against a Cuomo administration plan to speed up the siting process for renewable-energy generating plants. ...supporters of local scrutiny say such projects shouldn't be forced into communities that object to them and they fear Cuomo's plan could alter the character of towns that want to have a say in the siting of proposed industrial-scale power generating stations.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants 70% of the state's electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030. That's got state agencies looking at ways to speed up permitting for wind and solar projects, worrying opponents of larger developments. Permitting for big wind farms could get a lot faster under new Cuomo proposals
That would apply only to county taxes, but school and town boards have passed similar bans for specific projects. State law gives automatic property tax abatements to renewable energy developers, unless localities opt out.
The Farmersville Town Board voted 3-2 on Jan. 6 to void the 2019 wind law, which town attorney Eric Firkel said was not properly adopted. The board’s action was demanded in a lawsuit filed by Farmersville United, which represents wind farm opponents. ...The lawsuit, filed Wednesday with Cattaraugus County Supreme Court Judge Terrance Parker, accused the Farmersville board of “attempting to invalidate” the town’s 2019 wind law by resolution voiding the law on Jan. 6.
Orsted and Eversource, which are jointly developing the proposed South Fork Wind Farm to be situated approximately 35 miles off Montauk, have filed an update to the project’s Construction and Operations Plan with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
“The Siting Board will meet to consider what appears to be a request by Invenergy for new rules governing Canisteo, Bluestone, Alle-Catt and other large-scale wind and solar projects operating or planned in New York,” Abraham said in an email to members of the groups. “It may be that rules will be changed regarding how local laws are applied,” Abraham said. The meeting will start at 9:45 a.m. Thursday.
The town board voted 3-2 last month to void the town’s 2019 wind law, which officials said left the town’s 2007 wind law in effect. That law includes a 450-foot height requirement, while the developer of the proposed Alle-Catt Wind Farm, which would include turbines in Farmersville, wants to install 600-foot turbines. The 2020 Farmersville Wind Energy Facilities Local Law includes greater setbacks from homes and property lines — 3,000 feet to a mile, a lower turbine height and more restrictive noise requirements. According to the supervisor, it was modeled after a local law in Enfield, N.Y. that board members considered more protective.
“Lake Erie is simply too small to sustain any industrial offshore wind project,” said Rich Davenport of Tonawanda, who is active with several sportsmen’s groups, such as the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and the Western New York Environmental Federation. “The towers will displace water currents for quite a radius around each turbine, impacting nearby spawning shoals (even if sited away from spawning areas, you cannot avoid the current change), coupled with the massive amounts of infrasound, or low frequency noise, each turbine will generate while operating.”
“Since Alle-Catt cannot be a party, based on the new order, and the existing parties have settled the case, the order closes this matter once and for all,” Abraham explained. Abraham predicted the judge’s decision “will have serious effects on the Alle-Catt project proposal.” While most of the electrical connections for the 117-turbine Alle-Catt Wind Farm passing through Freedom for interconnection points near Arcade, the town’s 2007 law won’t permit the 24 turbines proposed by Invenergy, Abraham said.