SENATE RACE: Barclay, Aubertine disagree on how to regulate projects
Assemblymen William A. Barclay and Darrel J. Aubertine both support building wind farms to help offset New York’s growing demand for energy, but they disagree on how those projects should be regulated.
Both state Senate candidates agree that New York should revive its dormant power plant siting law, known as Article X. They disagree, however, about allowing wind power projects to pass through that expedited process.
Mr. Aubertine, D-Cape Vincent, said he favors that position.
“I’m not overly thrilled with that idea,” said Mr. Barclay, R-Pulaski. “I’m pro wind power. I think it can be good to diversify our energy portfolio. But when I think of Article X, I think of a big plant,” such as a nuclear power facility.
Mr. Barclay said it may be appropriate for the state to review the siting of a wind power project that spans several counties, but he added that he still considers the statute better geared for reviewing “sole standing power facilities.”
“Instinctually, I’m a little nervous for the state to take over anything, because I think local control is a good thing,” he said. “I think there should be some legislative solution. I’m just not sure that Article X is the vehicle to define that solution.”
The Article X law expired in 2002 after the state Legislature was unable to agree on revisions that would have extended its life. New York’s energy demands have continued to increase since then, although no new large power plants are being sited.
In the absence of a new law, project developers have to obtain “all appropriate local and state permits and approvals, and undergo environmental review subject to the state Environmental Quality Review Act,” according to the state Public Service Commission Web site.
Without a streamlined pro-cess, the Business Council of New York noted in a 2005 memo, investors “are understandably hesitant to build in an uncertain legislative/regulatory climate.”
Last May, Mr. Aubertine voted for an Assembly bill, A8697, that would have revived Article X. At the time, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said the bill made “critical improvements to the law by enhancing health, safety and environmental protections as well as significantly improving community participation in siting decisions.”
Any power plant that met or exceeded a 30-megawatt threshold would be subject to Article X, the bill said. That would include all proposed wind farms in Jefferson County.
Mr. Barclay voted against the bill, citing what it excluded.
“We would love to get another nuclear facility in Oswego County,” he said. “With the Article X bill, it excluded nuclear power. It would have gone through the standard permitting process. That could make it more difficult to site a plant in Oswego County.”
The Assembly bill also excluded waste-to-energy facilities and coal facilities that would not reduce carbon dioxide emissions, according to a May memo by the Independent Power Producers of NY Inc.
“By excluding these types of generating facilities from the Article X siting process, the bill limits the state’s ability to obtain fuel-diverse electricity supplies to help maintain electric system reliability, and the bill creates competitive disadvantages among companies and between technologies,” the memo noted. A Senate companion bill, S5908, passed that house but remains in the Assembly Energy Committee.
Mr. Aubertine said he “would certainly consider” a modification to the Assembly bill to make the siting process more fuel and technology neutral.
Mr. Aubertine, who said in a 2002 interview that the state “should look at reducing our reliance” on the two nuclear plants in Oswego, clarified his position this week.
“I’ve always supported the benefits of nuclear power,” he said. “Where I did have concerns was around the safety and security of the nuclear power plants.”
He also acknowledged that the “economics of nuclear power look much more favorable today than they did in the past.”
Both candidates noted their support for alternative energies was not limited to nuclear power and wind power.
“Alternative energy is an opportunity I see here in the north country because we have so much open space,” Mr. Aubertine said. “We have the opportunity to continue to use the land to grow corn for ethanol. We have the opportunity to use the land to grow soybeans for biodiesel. We have an ethanol plant being built in Fulton. We have a soybean plant in Massena. These are all very viable opportunities for agriculture. In a viable economy, a growing tax base is something that’s going to help the tax rate for everybody.”
By Jude Seymour
Times Staff Writer
21 February 2008
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