The following is a transcript from the Steve Weed Video of Assembly member Addie Russell’s Thursday, March 8, 2012 presentation given during the Article X forum held at the Jefferson County community college.
My perspective comes from living in this community. Living through what this community has been living through the las several years. And, Kevin was right when really one of the major concerns I had and the reason why I voted against this piece of legislation was the reduction in the megawatt threshold because the reduction in the megawatt threshold resulted in the loss of local control. One of the things that I advocated through the process was keeping that threshold the same and also requiring that it not be based on projected output. But, to be based on, in reality, what a turbine project was going to produce. Those were the nuances of that. But, the crux of the matter for me was local control. And that is important to me, not because I was rooting for one side or another in this debate. But, because we wouldn’t be having that community discussion that was three circles in on Ray’s concentric circles. We then would be having that debate at the next level where all sorts of other interests would be competing with ours on a much larger scale. And, I also believe that the influence of the monetary backing of one of those other circles being global corporations would be a significant barrier to us on either side of the issue having our concerns being heard at the higher level. So, the reduction in the threshold, which is really tied in with the loss of control. Also, and Kevin and I conferred a little bit on this is what I would consider a lack of debate. Even though he just pointed out to me that there have been hearings and meetings held on this topic for about five years, I ‘m not sure that anyone really anticipated that all of a sudden this is going to move as quickly as it did. And, I think that there are many of us in this room that don’t feel that there was enough time given for debate on this particular issue. Although, I will say that I’m sure if we check the records, there probably was ample time for the North Country to provide our views in the process. I’m not sure that from a practical process we do not believe that the process was actually moving in a significant manner. Related to that is, I don’t believe that this legislation is good perhaps because of the lack of communities like ours participating in the drafting and vetting of this legislation. It does not address the unique concerns when you are talking about wind turbine development. And, it has fallen to the purview of DEC drafting regulations. And, I think we all have experienced how sensitive DEC can be when drafting regulations. Especially when you put it in the context of outdoor wood boilers. So, they certainly can draft regulations that members of our community have problems with. I will concur with Kevin in that there are provisions of this bill that are much better than previous provisions. Having said that, the other issues ultimately outweigh the positiveness of this bill and that’s why I chose not to support this bill on the floor. When people keep listening to remarks I’ve just made, may come to the conclusion that I am anti-wind. And, I do not believe that is an accurate conclusion about I how feel about wind. I do feel that it has a place in our energy portfolio. But, I think that it has a specific place. That it certainly can be overly utilized. I think that the different scales of wind have different places in our energy portfolio. I wholeheartedly support residential wind and micro-wind. And, I can support industrial wind as well if issues are addressed that affect the communities various types of interests. These are the issues that are left out to essentially the regulation process Which hopefully we will be able to have an impact on. One of the things I’m most concerned about that we didn’t address in law is my concerns over what is essentially the use of eminent domain. And, eminent domain can be not only the property where the physical turbine is located, but is also the neighbors’, what loss in value of their property, the neighbor might be compensated for. I also worry that a couple of Article Xs removed from this that perhaps the system will get twisted in such a manner that eminent domain will also mean that you signed a contract with the wind company and so therefore they do have a right to site this turbine next to the house that three or four generations of your family have lived in. And so, that decision no longer resides in our community. We have now removed that decision making process of where we siting these turbines to a group that, yes includes some local people, but also includes all sorts of other folks that likely have a need for energy some where else. And, I said all through this debate, be careful what you wish for. I will also say that I actually think that this Article X likely will never allow industrial wind to be built here. I think that’s just as plausible assertion as one that it will allow turbines to be built everywhere in the North Country. You go just a couple miles east and you cannot do anything in the Adirondack Park. It takes literally, I think, an act of the legislature to move a power pole. So, I guess, those who are thinking that OK, now that it’s in the State’s hands all of these developers have to do is shut down their project for a year and then go back. I would submit that there are probably going to be just as many folks that would gear up and so not way, no how, it’s never going to happen in the St. Lawrence Valley. Just like its happened in the Adirondacks. So, this is not, say conducive, to even Galloo Island project-Article X. There’s a whole lot of this. We don’t have control anymore over whether or not that project is supported by that entire community that has some folks that don’t support it. When we talk about loss of control, you can’t count on it being stacked against one or the other. I truly believe that probably industrial wind development is done in this entire region. No matter if the project addresses or is designed in such a way that you address issues of flicker, issues of distances away from another home or building, issues of noise to the closest residence or building. If it addresses issues of reduction of property value, if the whole project is on a parcel that’s completely owned by the developer, I still believe that there is a very likely chance that even a project that addresses all of the issues that have been debated “adnausem” in this community, I suspect that type of project will never be allowed in the St. Lawrence Valley. And so, I am not anti-wind. I do think that there may be projects that can address these concerns or designed in such a manner that these concerns are not problematic for a community to allow a project to go forward. But, I think we just lost the ability to have that project.
So, this is kind of the perspectiveI come from and it is what the very parochial, I guess from an outside observer. But, when we go back to Ray’s concentric circles, I have a tremendous amount of faith that this community can take the State’s and Nation’s and the Globe’s competing interest into account when we make decisions. And, that we don’t essentially have to have somebody watching over us and making sure we do the right thing. Because, as painful a process as this has been in our communities for the last several years, I think that we have been working our way to approving projects that make sense for our communities, putting into law provisions that can protect our communities, they may cut into the bottom line of a global utility, but I still think in the end that there may have been more than just the Galloo Island project that could have gone on in this community and provided some of the benefits. Having said that, I think that now practically speaking now that Article X is here, I think perhaps it really provides an even better opportunity for the building of community wealth because I think now we can turn to exploring thinks like residential wind and allowing the financial subsidy to flow to our farmers or our other folks that live out in the countryside to be able to construct alternative energy production systems, that they get the benefit of the subsidy to their bottom line. They get the benefit of reduced energy dependence on the grid and potentially the benefits of earning money by putting alternative energy onto the grid and selling it to others and keeping the benefit on their farm or in their community. They will have more money they will spend in their local economy. And, I think now that we have a tremendous opportunity. The burden has been taken away from us to really explore those other elements of energy production and how they might be able to benefit us even more, especially if communities start looking at creating their own development of alternative energy that can be used. I live in the community, so this concept is one that I’ve never without. Now we have to opportunity to look at what we can have control over and direct all of the economic benefit to our communities instead of what we allowed to kind of have from these global energy companies. Thankyou.
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