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Local officials: State infringing upon home rule

Officials in the towns of Richland and New Haven have followed suit of several other counties and townships around the state in opposing the Power NY Act of 2011, dubbed Article X by opponents.

In July, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation, which he has contested will increase power production and lead to new investment in New York. Those opposing the measure consider the bill an “imminent threat” to home rule, which is a legislative authority that allows each municipality in New York to govern themselves.

The Cuomo administration has asserted that the Power NY Act of 2011 will create thousands of jobs and result in reliable, cleaner energy, while strengthening environmental protections. The program will allow homeowners and business owners to take out low-interest loans from New York for energy-efficiency improvements, which can then be paid back through utility bills.

Also, the bill enacts a new permanent streamlined permitting process for power projects that would produce more than 25 megawatts by creating a “one-stop” multi-agency board that will make decisions as to where these facilities can be located. The Cuomo administration has also said the legislation allows communities to participate in the process by requiring power plant applicants to provide “intervener funding” for the community to be affected by potential projects. This funding would be used to hire experts and lawyers to review proposals.

The Coalition on Article X (COAX), a group with ties to Oswego County, has expressed that they are appalled by the legislation, noting that the law strips away home rule in New York.

“This takes away input from the local planning and zoning, and even community government, whether it is village, town or county, on any siting (sic) of power projects,” said Oswego County Legislator Shawn Doyle, R-Pulaski. “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 (sic).”

The Oswego County Legislature, stressing this encroachment on home rule, has since passed a resolution opposing Article X, which is a measure that legislators in neighboring Jefferson County had previously taken. Since that point, opposition has popped up in St. Lawrence, Wyoming and Wayne counties, and most recently in the towns of Richland and New Haven, which have passed resolutions opposing Article X, asking Cuomo and the state Legislature to restore home rule.

Members of COAX anticipate that similar resolutions will continue to pass across the state in the future.

“It is expected now that the 2011 elections have passed, county and town boards will pass additional resolutions opposing the loss of home rule caused by Cuomo and the (state) Legislature’s actions,” said Robert Aliasso Jr., a member of COAX.