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NEW YORK – Albany isn’t letting anything stand in the way of its overly aggressive renewable energy plan, and upstate families are paying for it.
Since the 19th century, New York municipalities have been supposed to control matters of local concern. Home rule, as it’s called, is considered so essential it is part of the state constitution.
Over the years, Albany has methodically chipped away at the “home rule” provision to strengthen the power of state government. The most recent swing against home rule may have shattered it.
The revival of Article 10 of the Public Service Law in 2011 was billed as a way to “streamline” the siting process for electricity generating facilities. In reality, it’s a power grab by Albany which state officials are using to dot our landscapes with unsightly, inefficient, and heavily-subsidized wind turbines.
Sure, the law pays lip service to local communities by requiring applicants to undergo an analysis of each project’s impact on the environment and residents’ health and safety. But don’t be fooled, a seven-person panel decides whether to allow a wind power company to erect 500-foot-tall turbines. Just two of those individuals are local community members, the other five answer directly to the governor.
The Article 10 process is a sham that’s being used by Albany to force an energy plan on our communities that can’t be sold on its merits.
Is it any wonder that people are skeptical when the governor wildly shifts from closing a successful nuclear power plant, to subsidizing failing plants, and shutting down gas pipelines? Anyone who is paying attention can see this policy is about politics, not affordable energy.
Albany can claim wind power is a solution, but the facts hardly support that contention.
First of all, wind farms aren’t financially sound without heavy federal and state subsidies.
Warren Buffett, considered one of the most scrupulous investors in the United States, told shareholders three years ago: “I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate. For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”
It costs an estimated $2 million per megawatt to build a wind farm, and taxpayers are picking up much of the tab. The federal government offers either a 20 percent investment tax credit or a $23 per megawatt production tax credit to developers.
Gov. Cuomo sweetened this pot by forcing New Yorkers to pay $3 billion on their electricity bills to support renewable energy and zero-emission facilities.
The renewable energy credits are almost exclusively going to commercial wind developers, according to the Watertown Daily Times. That’s New Yorkers’ hard-earned money going to foreign corporations, or out-of-state developers.
If that wasn’t enough, wind developers also expect local municipalities to provide cushy tax abatement agreements for the turbines. What do these localities get in return for offering a 70 percent tax discount? About five full-time jobs.
That means local residents get hit multiple times. First, they have to carry more of the local tax burden, their energy bill goes up, and so does their federal and state taxes to cover the subsidies.
What do these subsidies buy? A whole lot of inefficiency.
Wind facilities operate at 30 percent of their capacity on average. Who knew wind was fickle?
The New York Independent System Operator found every single wind turbine combined generated one-fourth as much electricity as Indian Point nuclear power plant.
Add to that, the hundreds of thousands of birds and bats turbines kill.
Gov. Cuomo and the state lawmakers who are abusing Article 10 are sending a clear message: It doesn’t matter if you want wind power. You’re going to pay for it. And, if you’re truly unlucky, we’re going to put it in your community without your permission.
Too often these projects are impacting local communities without legitimate local approval and are altering our wallets for the worse. Locals must understand they’re getting a bad deal, and they must hold Albany accountable.
John Byrne is regional director for Reclaim New York. This is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that strives to educate New Yorkers on important issues.
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