By John Riggi
On Feb. 20, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed substantial and dangerous changes to renewable energy project permitting and siting Public Service Law Article 10.
The governor has proposed the “Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act” (Article 23), via a 2020 budget amendment, as a replacement of the state’s Article 10 process. Article 10 requires electricity generation projects of 25 megawatts and larger to navigate a step-by-step, multiyear permitting process governed by the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment.
The governor, developers and wind and solar lobbying groups have concluded Article 10 has failed in driving the state’s “70 by 30” renewable energy and climate targets set forth in the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.
As a result, they would like to completely dismantle Article 10 in favor of a completely new Article 23 siting process.
A few of the dangerous and frightening tenets of Article 23:
1. Reduction of project sizes from 25 megawatts (Article 10) to 10 MW (Article 23). Smaller projects allow expansion of industrial wind and solar projects into suburban areas. As a result, every town in New York State, without exception, would be a possible target for projects.
2. Article 23 ostensibly initiates a statewide, eminent domain process in order to develop “shovel ready” sites anywhere in the state, for industrial-sized wind and solar energy projects.
3. Payments in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOTs, and Host Community Agreements, or HCAs, will no longer be negotiated between the local municipality and the developer. The state will excise the municipality and become the lead negotiator.
4. Local municipalities and opposition groups are eliminated from presenting locally sourced data and questioning of state experts regarding specific siting issues. This new ruling effectively freezes both groups out of the new Article 23 siting process.
5. Mandated project approval. Article 23 mandates project approval within 12 months of application. If no decision is rendered by the state within 12 months, the project will be considered approved.
The most troubling issue with Article 23 is the continuing, unchecked overreach into home rule by this governor and both houses of the state Legislature.
Article 23 has proved a bridge too far for the people of our state. In response, towns across New York are now fighting the potential loss of home rule, with passage of Article 23 Sanctuary Town Resolutions.
No home rule = no peace.
John Riggi is an elected councilman in the Town of Yates.