By Kate Kremer
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the urban environmentalists egging him on appear to believe upstate is vacant land, peopled by selfish, unintelligent residents.
This was their approach to siting landfills in the 1980s and it’s what they are planning with industrial wind and solar projects now. They don’t care that rural towns and villages do not want massive industrial projects blighting their communities. The state plans to crush all opposition.
That is the purpose of the governor’s recent amendments to the state budget. Big project developers and “do anything” green ideologists were not getting the results they wanted so the governor is throwing out the state siting law (PSL Article 10) and creating one that meets the demands of developers, including cutting town boards and rural citizens out of the process.
The governor has had enough of home rule. His amendment legislates the steamrolling of industrial renewable projects that fundamentally change the character of towns with no meaningful opportunity to engage in the process. The power grab is extreme, affecting more than 100 towns across upstate New York, and includes the state taking land by eminent domain.
Under the governor’s amendments, rural residents and municipalities are reduced to commenting on the siting of 55-story industrial wind turbines placed near their homes.
Regional environmental, birding and citizens groups have no opportunity to offer evidence unless public comments meet the governor’s new standard for a hearing. This means no evidence about local economic and future development impacts, no evidence about wildlife and habitat impacts. This means no evidence about how, absent billions in transmission upgrades, electricity generated upstate will get to where it’s needed downstate to offset downstate’s 70% fossil fuel-generated electricity.
The time it takes to get industrial wind projects sited in upstate New York, where we currently have 90% zero emissions electricity generation, has nothing to do with the existing Article 10 process and everything to do with the projects themselves. They are not able to deliver power downstate, given our segmented transmission system, and they are ill-suited to increasingly dense rural populations, tourist regions, bird, bat and raptor migration corridors and forested land.
By placing an amendment in the budget that will be passed quickly and without standard bill-making procedures, the governor does not do justice to the complexity of the issues in developing the science, engineering and economics of reaching our climate goals. The Climate Action Council has been formed for just this purpose.
In the meantime, the governor is looking to existing industrial sites and brownfields, urban and industrial/retail rooftops and other large degraded sites for renewable energy production. This makes sense for those who value preserving open space and wildlife habitats. It is where we should have begun this process in the first place.
Kate Kremer is vice president of Save Ontario Shores.