August 10, 2011
New York

Group seeks to COAX out a better power bill

By AARON CURTIS, The Palladium-Times, 5 August 2011

OSWEGO – A grassroots group with ties to Oswego County is contending Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent signing of The Power NY Act of 2011, intended to increase power production and lead to new investment in New York.

According to the Cuomo administration, the new law will create thousands of jobs and will result in reliable, cleaner energy while strengthening environmental protections.

The program will allow homeowners and businesses owners to take out low-interest loans from New York for energy efficiency improvements, which can be then paid back through utility bills.

The bill enacts a new permanent streamlined permitting process for power plants greater than 25 megawatts by creating a “one-stop” multi-agency siting board that will make siting decisions. According to the Cuomo administration, it also allows communities to participate in the process by requiring power plant applicants to provide “intervener funding” for the community affected by the proposed plant, to hire experts and lawyers.

“We must rebuild and expand New York’s energy infrastructure to meet the demands of the 21st century and grow our economy,” Cuomo said. “This law will lead to new investment and create tens of thousands of jobs across the state. The act gives community members a voice in the siting process and will maintain New York’s position as a leader in environmental protection.”

However, according to the Coalition on Article X (COAX) – a nickname for the bill – the measures signing is an “imminent threat.”

“COAX members are appalled that Article X was slipped into law without any discussion by our elected officials with the very New York state citizens they were elected to represent,” members of COAX said in a statement. “We find this lack of transparency to be totally unacceptable.”

The organization noted that Power NY encroaches on Home Rule in New York, a legislative authority that allows each municipality in New York to govern themselves.

“This takes away input from the local planning and zoning, and even community government, whether it is village, town or county on any siting of power projects,” said Oswego County Legislator Shawn Doyle, R-Pulaski, who hosts meetings locally with COAX. “If somebody wants to come in here, and whether they want to site a nuclear power plant, a gas plant, coal plant or build industrial wind farms … the local boards have no say. The state would do all the siting.”

Doyle reflected on the New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) Great Lakes Offshore Wind (GLOW) project that was pitched for development in the waters of Lake Ontario off Oswego County’s shores.
In 2009, NYPA officials initially presented the idea for the GLOW project to counties all along the shoreline of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. The project would include the placement of 40-150 wind turbines in water levels 150 feet or less. The project would lead to the production of 120-500 megawatts of wind power generation in one of the two Great Lakes.

The Oswego County Legislature, with Doyle as the lead spokesman against the project among the body, voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution expressing disapproval of the project for development within county waters.

“But right now as it stands, New York can do whatever it wants,” Doyle said.

The legislator noted that he is seeking a repeal of the legislation, while in the statement provided by COAX, they are willing to work with improving the bill.

“Given the imminent threat Article X poses to New York’s citizens, COAX is deeply interested in, at the very least, having a seat on the seven-person siting board to be created under the newly renamed ‘Article X’ bill,” the statement said. “COAX members sincerely hope that this new siting board will cut through the irrational adoption of industrial wind industry ‘model regulations,’ which to date, have been the status quo in New York state, as big wind LLCs have run roughshod over our rural communities.

“As the former New York State Attorney General, Gov. Cuomo is well-aware of the history of corruption surrounding the industrial wind industry across the state,” the statement continues. “COAX members look to Gov. Cuomo to protect the citizens he was elected to serve.”

Members of Cuomo’s press office failed to return a phone call placed by The Palladium-Times as of press time, Friday.

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