Preserving Local Authority over the Siting of Wind Energy Facilities
In keeping with the legislative resolution adopted at our Annual Meeting and Training School [see below], the Association of Towns ha been working to preserve and strengthen local government’s role in the siting of major electric generating facilities. Specifically, we have called upon Gov. David Paterson, the Legislature and state agencies to develop new laws and regulations that will preserve local authority over the siting of Wind Energy Facilities (WEFs)
Due to their large number and sizable spacing requirements, WEFs have a different impact on the community than traditional electric generating facilities. For example, typical facilities such as natural gas, cal or nuclear would likely be located in an industrial zone, whereas WEFs cross residential property, highways, farmland, mountain tops and ridgelines and can be seen for miles. The siting of a large-scale wind farm dramatically changes the entire landscape of a community for at least a generation and not without controversy. Many people who live with large-scale wind turbines in their communities are concerned with noise; interruption of radio, emergency, cell phone and broadcast signals; shadow flickering; altered viewsheds; flashing red aviation lights; decreased property values and other unique issues not present with more traditional facilities.
The siting of power generation facilities was historically subject ot state and local permitting authorities. in 1972, in furtherance of the goal of low-cost power and economic competitiveness, the state streamlined the review and permitting process for electric generating facilities over 50 megawatts. This new process was contained in Article VIII of the Public Service Law. In 1992, Article VIII was expanded and replaced by a new permitting process which, among other things, increased the applicability threshold from 50 to 80 megawatts. The new siting policy, contained in Article X of the Public Service Law, was amended in 1999 and eventually expired on Dec. 31, 2002. Since its expiration, the siting of electric generating facilities is again subject to the state and local permitting process. Although the state has reviewed several legislative initiatives to renew the Article X permitting process, to date no agreements have been reached.
In the 2009 legislative session, three separate bills have been introduced to renew Article X (A2082, A8696 and S2084). While the three bills are similar in substance, the threshold generating capacity, which is used to determine whether an electric generation facility is required to comply with the provisions of Article X, is different in each bill. Although a high threshold may exclude some smaller WEFs, none of the bills expressly exempt them from coverage. Grouping WEFs with typical electric generating facilities fails to recognize the unique impacts of WEFs on local communities.
In a meeting between Association of Towns staff members and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, Chairman of the Assembly Energy Committee and the sponsor of one of the Article X bills (A8696), the assemblyman questioned why impacts of WEFs are unique in comparison to other forms of electric generating facilities. While he was receptive to our input, hearing from local government officials about the unique impacts in their community would be more persuasive.
If your town has been impacted by the siting of WEFs, we urge you to reach out to your local representatives, as well as the chairmen of the Senate and Assembly Energy Committees to impress upon them why WEFs should be expressly excluded from any Article X siting policy. The resurgence of Article X legislation is a call to action for all local officials to protect our home rule powers and retain the authority to site WEFs through local siting procedures.
Since the old Article X expired on Dec. 31, 2002, local governments have been processing wind energy facility applications under their locally adopted land use codes in a timely and open manner. Towns, as the closest form of government to the people, are uniquely situated to afford New Yorkers a voice in the siting of windmills. Many towns have undergone considerable time and absorbed considerable expenses to develop and implement wind mill siting policies and would, therefore, like to continue to shape their local landscapes in accordance with local policy.
If you need assistance reaching out to your local representatives, please contact Association Staff at (518) 465-7933. Copies of the proposed Article X bills can be found on the New York State Assembly Web site http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/  or by contacting the Association.
Assemblyman Kevin Cahill
Chair, Committee on Energy
Albany, NY 12248
Sen. Darrel Aubertine
Chair, Energy and Telecommunications Committee
903 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
2009 Legislative Resolution, as Reported by the Resolutions Committee of the Association of Towns
Resolution No. 6
Preserve and strengthen local government’s role in the siting of energy generation facilities
Whereas, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) adopted a new renewable energy policy which includes wind energy facilities (WEFs) on September 22, 2004 that requires 25 percent of the State’s electricity to be supplied from renewable energy sources by 2013; and
Whereas, the proper regulation of the siting and installation of WEFs is necessary for the purpose of protecting the health, safety and welfare of neighboring property owners and the general public; and
Whereas, local governments have successfully developed, implemented and administered local WEF siting laws and policies with the input and guidance of local taxpayers, residents, business and agricultural representatives, environmentalists, energy generators, planners and lawyers; and
Whereas, Article X of the Public Service Law (PSL), which set forth the siting procedure to construct and operate major power generation facilities with a capacity of 80 megawatts or more expired December 31, 2002, thereby requiring electric generating project developers to undergo local zoning review and environmental review pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law); noW therefore be it
Resolved, that the Association of Towns calls upon the Governor, State Legislature and State Agencies to develop new laws and regulations that will preserve local authority over the siting of WEFs and that will provide local government officials from a host municipality with a seat on the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment (Siting Board).