The New York League of Conservation Voters now joins the Sierra Club in their condescending call for speeding up the process for large-scale wind and solar projects in order to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s unrealistic and politically contrived renewable energy goals for New York state. The title of their latest propaganda report – “Breaking Down the Barriers to Siting Renewable Energy in New York State” – says it all.
Rural, upstate New York towns should beware and take careful notice. The “barriers” that these Albany and New York City urban elitists insist be broken down are the very planning and zoning safeguards that are lawfully and democratically put in place through our comprehensive plans and our local laws intended to reflect the will and desires of our communities, but also to dutifully fulfill our obligations to protect the health, safety and welfare of our communities.
The NYLCV joins a growing list of “environmental” and “conservation” groups, overwhelmingly centered in urban areas like New York City and Albany, who arrogantly believe they know better than rural New Yorkers how best to help build a more sustainable future. This latest “report” claims that if only rural, upstate New Yorkers were more educated, then we would understand that industrial-scale wind and solar are the only answers to climate change challenges. How nice it is for these organizations to have so much to preach to upstate rural communities from the comforts of their urban ivory towers that will never feel the impact of large-scale industrial encroachment.
A case in point is Apex Clean Energy’s Lighthouse Wind proposal for the towns of Somerset in Niagara County and Yates in Orleans County. It’s a blatant attempt to usurp home rule. Both towns, through diligent research of peer-reviewed scientific journals, extensive planning committee meetings and multiyear consultations with a diverse array of local and national experts, have duly enacted local laws designed to preserve the rural characteristics our constituents value most.
The NYLCV, the Sierra Club, Apex Clean Energy, and any other group bent on telling rural New York towns what to do would do well to remember that New York is a home rule state. Using terms like “speeding up the process” and “breaking down barriers” is not going to fool upstate rural towns that know when their home rule rights are under assault. Demanding that the state’s Article 10 proceedings should overrule local laws is elitist and dictatorial.
Under the state constitution, every New York municipality retains the authority to “adopt and amend local laws” for the “protection and enhancement of its physical and visual environment” and the “government, protection, order, conduct, safety, health and well-being of persons or property therein.”
In the recent Cassadaga Wind Siting Board decision, Public Service Commission Chairman John B. Rhodes unequivocally stated: “I find it noteworthy and positive that the project is consistent with all local laws and ordinances.” Rhodes stated that efforts to increase renewable energy in New York must “protect and accommodate the concerns of local communities.”
NYLCV, Sierra Club, Apex: are you listening?
Cuomo was clearly paying attention to the overwhelming opposition of wealthy Long Islanders when he said in his State of the State address: “I’m calling on LIPA (the Long Island Power Authority) to approve a 90-megawatt wind farm. They will not be visible from the beach. They will be 30 miles southeast of Montauk. Not even Superman standing on Montauk Point could see these wind farms.”
Governor, will you pay attention to the concerns of upstate rural communities?
Daniel M. Engert is the town supervisor of Somerset. James J. Simon is the town supervisor of Yates.
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