By John B. Riggi
The failure of the New York State Legislature to understand the importance of Senate Bill 1755 in ensuring the long-term health of defense bases and national borders in New York State is absolutely astounding.
The ban on industrial wind turbine projects within 40 miles of airfields and military air bases (as addressed in Sen. Robert Ortt’s priority bill) would have freed the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and its 3,000 employees from a critical base assessment criterion of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission procedure: base encroachment.
Wind turbines will encroach on the air reserve station’s operating theater and as such pose a danger to ongoing base operations. Ortt clearly understood this danger and worked with Assemblyman Michael Norris to ensure the safety of the air base.
As such, I would like to extend a personal note of thanks to Ortt and Norris for their efforts to save the base and hope to see Bill 1755 addressed, assessed and passed in the next legislative session.
The proliferation of proposed industrial wind turbine projects in New York State is a clear and present danger to the future of large, operational defense bases throughout the state. As such, the ban, as required by Bill 1755, is necessary.
We can continue to discuss the virtues of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, the danger to the base posed by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission or any other issues surrounding industrial wind turbine projects.
However, there is one serious problem underpinning the air base and wind turbine issues in New York State: the loss of home rule.
To ensure minimal roadblocks to the governor’s renewable energy initiatives, Article 10 of the New York State Public Service Law was enacted in 2011. While Article 10 requires public input, it also imposes a new requirement that effectively eliminates local control of final project decisions and places such decisions directly into the hands of a siting board composed of gubernatorial appointees. As such, local control and home rule are lost, as is our ability to determine and shape our towns’ futures.
The loss of our ability to govern locally should resonate as dangerous to all citizens, regardless of the position on any one particular issue.
Are we, as a people, willing to cede our right to home rule? Today it may be wind turbines, tomorrow it might be something of personal importance to the reader.
One final thought: Many believe this wind turbine issue to be a NIMBY (not in my backyard) problem.
Given Albany’s use of the “home rule removal tactic” on important issues and its potential use in a myriad of other issues, a more appropriate meaning of NIMBY might be: next it might be you.
John B. Riggi is a councilman for the Town of Yates.