Lawmakers aim to revisit Power NY Act
Credit: By AARON CURTIS, The Palladium Times, www.palltimes.com 5 January 2012 ~~
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Officials statewide continue to push to knock the wind out of the Power NY Act of 2011.
The legislation, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in July, is intended to promote the growth of clean energy and power in New York state moving forward, but the wording of the legislation has created a pocket of opposition to the measure.
“(The Power NY Act) encourages investment in clean power plants and affords communities more meaningful input in the plant siting process,” it was stated in the governor’s recently released one-year progress report, titled “Building a New New York.”
The progress report also contests that the measure expands opportunities for homeowners and businesses to invest in energy efficiency under the “Green Jobs/Green New York” program. The Cuomo administration has said that the Power NY Act will create thousands of jobs in the state and will allow homeowners and business owners to take out low-interest loans 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 makes decisions as to where these facilities would 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 that would be affected by potential projects. This funding would be used to hire experts and lawyers to review proposals.
Shortly after the ink from Cuomo’s pen dried on the legislation, pockets of opposition to the measure began to pop up due to the reference to a multi-agency board described in the legislation. That opposition is led by the Coalition on Article X (COAX), Article X being the name the group coined the Power NY Act. The opposition stems from the belief that the wording of the legislation suggests the stripping away of home rule in New York, which is the legislative authority that allows each municipality in the state to govern themselves.
“Using his political savvy as an Albany insider, he makes mere mention of his total control over your rights with regard to zoning and planning of 25 (megawatt) energy-producing facilities,” said Robert Aliasso Jr., member of COAX. “New Yorkers should be appalled at the zoning and planning rights Gov. Cuomo stripped from us, which we held since 1894.”
Oswego County Legislator Shawn Doyle, R-Pulaski, as a private citizen, is a member of COAX and hosts meetings with group members at his home. Doyle has called for – at the very least – an amendment to the wording of the legislation.
“When it comes to the placement of power-generating operations, the local planning boards, the local town boards, county government – there is no say,” Doyle said. “It is determined by a board in Albany.
“There seems to be more and more power being taken away from small towns and counties by the state,” he added. “This Article X is potentially devastating.”
Doyle referenced the push by the New York Power Authority to seek contractors to construct a wind farm off the shores of Oswego County. The project was blown away with municipality opposition, and eventually collapsed.
“We were upset with the proposal because the map that was shown to us showed that the turbines would have created a barrier off our shores,” the legislator said. “Not only a visual barrier, but an actual barrier for boating. … We defeated the offshore wind (project) because all of the counties along the lake said, ‘No, we don’t want it here.’ This Article X legislation takes that authority away from the locality.”
The feelings expressed by Aliasso and Doyle have gained steam in upstate New York, as several county legislatures, including Oswego County, have passed formal resolutions calling for the Power NY Act to be revisited. Over the past few weeks Herkimer and Cortland counties have followed suit with Oswego, St. Lawrence, Wyoming and Wayne counties, as well as officials in the towns of Richland and New Haven in calling for a change to the legislation.
Members of Cuomo’s office have not commented on the issue.
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