If local town supervisors had their way, a state Assembly bill that would give the state discretion over the siting of wind farms would be gone with the wind.
The bill in question, A08697, says “[A08697] would reauthorize Article X of the Public Service Law, with changes, to provide statutory provisions for the siting of major electric generating facilities. The bill would require an analysis of health impacts, the cumulative impacts of emissions in affected areas, and that environmental justice issues be taken into account by the Siting Board in its decision-making process. The bill would also require local appointees of the Board to be named by the Governor upon the recommendation of the Chief Executive Officer representing the municipality in which the facility is proposed.”
The measure passed the Assembly 103-39 and was sent to the Senate for approval. If enacted, the bill would take away the zoning authority from local municipalities and put it in the hands of the state’s Public Service Commission. This doesn’t sit well with Town of Shelby Supervisor Merle Draper.
“(The bill) deals with the siting of wind towers,” Draper said. “It basically would take away the town’s ability to site or place a tower where the town or its people want. The town would lose its ability to negotiate with the energy companies, as well as how and where to site the towers.”
Draper also said that there would be financial ramifications with this bill.
“It would take any economic benefit from the town,” he said. “That’s not a good thing. If Albany were to control that, you’re basically taking away home rule. We’d become the backyard for the needs of someone else’s energy.”
Town of Ridgeway Supervisor Brian Napoli, who also chairs the Orleans County Planning Board, shared Draper’s views on the matter.
“This takes authority away from the planning board,” Napoli said. “The Public Service Commission can tell them (the wind towers) can go wherever they want to.”
Napoli also agreed that there would be an economic loss if this bill becomes a law.
“What we’re at is negotiating host agreements,” he said. “A company would be willing to pay the town for how long the contract is. This would help us financially. But the state’s going to take that away.”
Daniel Spitzer, a lawyer with Hodgson and Russ in Buffalo who provides legal representation to the Town of Shelby on issues regarding wind energy, also made the case against this legislation.
“Why would a wind park give the kind of significant financial benefits to a town if they don’t need anything from that town?” Spitzer said. “If you don’t want a wind farm, why should Albany make those decisions? There’s absolutely no benefit to Albany making zoning decisions regarding wind energy.”
Draper called on other municipalities to oppose this legislation.
“The governor campaigned on helping the upstate economy,” Draper said. “This would hurt it. I think we need to, not just Orleans County but Western New York. They shouldn’t allow this.”
Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, who serves as a representative for Orleans County, as well as parts of Genesee, Niagara and Monroe counties, voted against the measure. He also argued for the discretion on wind mills to stay with the local municipalities, he said.
“I’m a firm believer in local control being the very best for people,” Hawley said. “Regardless if it’s wind energy or anything else.”
Hawley, who was formerly a member of the Genesee County Planning Board, criticized the downstate members of the Assembly for infringing on the local governments.
“The only place where wind energy is applicable is Western New York,” he said. “This is just another invasion of the belief that government knows best.”
By Robert Harding/ Intern
9 July 2007
[this story’s formatting has been corrected – NWW]
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