Dear SOS supporters – By now you have likely heard that on February 21st, Gov. Cuomo proposed a 30-day budget amendment that would eliminate the Article 10 process for siting industrial renewable energy projects. The governor wants to fast track projects to meet State renewable energy goals set in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which was passed in June 2019 and went into effect on January 1, 2020.
The governor's announcement is here:
By submitting these amendments last Friday, after all the budget hearings were completed, Governor Cuomo has circumvented all of the normal legislative channels and puts these sweeping changes to New York law on track to be passed with the budget on April 1st. It is not only the content of the changes but the last minute process that the governor is using to get them passed that is outrageous.
If this amendment is passed, there will be many serious and alarming changes to how industrial renewable projects are approved and sited. Citizen groups, birding groups, and other public parties will no longer be able to actively participate in the process as parties. They would not be eligible to receive intervenor funding and there will be no opportunity to present relevant local data or expert testimony as there would be no mandated hearing. A hearing would only be held on public comment that "raises a substantive and significant issue that requires adjudication."
These projects would be handled by a new siting office within the Department of Economic Development. Environmental impacts would be assessed a monetary value which the developer would have to put in a conservation fund. Local laws could be easily waived. If projects aren't approved or denied within one year, they would be considered approved.
According to the Governor’s amendments, Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) will no longer be negotiated with local Industrial Development Agencies but will now have to have approval of a state agency, NYSERDA. And for towns like ours that opt out of the PILOT payments, the assessed valuation of the projects will be determined by the state and have a discount rate applied – leaving little room for localities to negotiate beneficial payments.
The solar projects between 10 MW and 24 MW that have been managed by towns would fall under the direction of this new office – removing a large amount of what was left of local zoning control.
That’s just a partial list of concerns.
Regarding Lighthouse Wind, one of the concerning aspects of this new law is that developers who have projects submitted under the Article 10 process may choose to move to the new process. This includes the Lighthouse Wind project.
We are a bit behind in posting relevant news articles on Facebook but we hope to catch up in the next few days. Below are a few articles that have or will be posted soon and that you may find of interest.
We are appalled and disgusted that Governor Cuomo is attempting such a power grab, trampling on the rights of rural residents and Home Rule. Please review the attached articles and look for our next email which will have some actions that you can take. As always, we appreciate your support!
The following article is long but it provides a good overview of what is being proposed. Below the link are a couple of quotes to give you a sense of what could happen should this amendment be passed.
“Wind and solar projects would no longer face scrutiny from the state’s environmental and utility regulators, instead receiving permits from a new office housed within an economic development agency.”
“But by trying to pave the way for developers, the governor’s overhaul could incense locals in several rural counties, many of them located near the shores of lakes Erie and Ontario or along the border of Pennsylvania. The bill must still pass both chambers of the Democratic-controlled Legislature.”
“The specific climatic needs of wind and solar often bring them into conflict with people in rural areas who aren’t used to hosting energy infrastructure, according to a January report from the Brookings Institution (Energywire, Jan. 21)”.
“Zoning has always been a local issue. If the state comes in and says, ‘For this issue, we can’t let you govern your own land use,’ that’s going to be ugly, said the report’s author, Samantha Gross, in an interview after the report’s release.”
We appreciate the position of Lockport Union Sun & Journal’s editorial board. They stated the following in this opinion piece: https://www.lockportjournal.com/opinion/our-view-home-rule-must-prevail-in-utility-sitings/article_0377ec88-3959-5a83-b346-3ba3f02eee2f.html
“It’s more than reasonable to allow the people who will be affected the most to have the final say, which is why it’s important for their representatives in county government to continue to take steps in hopes of providing them a real voice at the decision-making table.”
Senator Ortt, Assemblyman Hawley, and Kate Kremer (SOS vice president) are quoted in this article.
“Save Ontario Shores sees this as a power grab by the governor and would impact over 100 towns upstate. Kremer said it looks like the state may use eminent domain to put together developer ready sites, and the extent of the amendments effectively ends home rule in towns.”
We agree with this assessment by the director of the Association of Towns:
“Gerry Geist, director of the state Association of Towns, said the timing of the proposal's release, just weeks before the state budget has to be finalized, prevents municipal governments from weighing in on the plan at the statehouse.
Geist also suggested the reasoning for the proposal remains vague.
‘We think you ought to make the case if you're going to go in that direction,’ said Geist, noting the proposal empowers the state to supersede the zoning laws enacted by local governments.”