The legislatures in Oswego and Jefferson counties want their residents to have a say about whether power plants should be placed in their backyards.
The lawmakers have passed a resolution stating their disappointment in the Power NY Act of 2011 – recently passed by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo – and want home rule reinstated. They say the law strips counties of the ability to protect their residents from development of power projects.
Barry Leemann, R-Amboy, chair of the Oswego County Legislature, said the resolution passed Thursday in Oswego County, though six lawmakers voted against it.
The Jefferson County board unanimously passed the measure Sept. 7.
“We want to be able to say we can decide about power plants – we want to make that decision,” Leemann said.
The Oswego County resolution says the new law strips away home rule that gives municipalities the power to decide whether a development is in their residents’ best interests.
“The new board will have the authority to ignore any local ordinance, law or any local standard or requirement” when deciding on sites for power plants, the resolution says.
Both county resolutions note their “deep disappointment and concern” about the Power NY Act. “Said law follows a disturbing trend in New York state to remove powers from the local jurisdictions and therefore from the affected electorate and transfer such powers to a faceless state of New York bureaucracy which has no constituency,” the resolutions state.
The Power NY Act of 2011 passed the state Assembly and Senate in June and Cuomo signed it in August. It has three goals:
• To provide a way to allow owners of residential and nonresidential buildings to borrow money for energy efficiency projects and pay it back over a period of years through their electric and gas bills.
• To revive the part of the Public Service Law creating an expedited, state-led program for permitting electric generating facilities while preempting local requirements.
• To mandate a study on increasing solar power generation in New York state.
Oswego and Jefferson counties disagree with the second goal. They are worried their areas could be flooded with power facilities because the measure allows power companies to receive permits for their plants without local government approval.
The law sets up the state Board on Electrical Generation Siting and the Environment, with the authority to permit the siting of those facilities.
Robert E. Aliasso Jr., a Jefferson County resident, is a member of a coalition looking to restore home rule to the law.
“This was passed without any public discussion in the dead of night,” he said. “It passed in a manner that didn’t seem right. I’m opposed to the state taking control of placing any facility.”