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Bill would require local referendum on energy projects

New York state Assembly members Angelo J. Morinello, R-Niagara Falls, and Mike Norris, R-Lockport, are co-sponsoring a bill that would amend Article 10 of the Public Service Law to require a local referendum for large-scale energy projects in New York state.

The move comes as a company is seeking permission to develop Bear Ridge Solar, a large-scale solar project in the towns of Cambria and Pendleton.

Under Article 10, energy companies can facilitate and establish new facilities without input or approval from local communities. For example, the siting board for the Bear Ridge Solar Project currently does not have any local representation on it and can meet without the nominated local representatives.

“There’s no question, we need representatives from the public to have a seat at the table,” said Morinello. “The emergence of green and renewable energy sources is imperative for the future of our state’s environment and economy, but each type of energy comes at a cost to taxpayers and local residents. Solar and wind energy facilities need considerable amounts of land. Many rural communities in Western New York enjoy their peace and quiet and fear new facilities will diminish the lives their accustomed to. The bill proposed by Assemblyman Norris and I will stop outside influences from forcing their will on rural communities and give a voice to local residents concerned with new energy projects.”

Article 10 of the Public Service Law puts a seven-member appointed board in charge of reviewing and permitting any electric generating facility that generates 25 megawatts or more. Host municipalities can nominate four individuals for consideration as ad hoc members of the board.

From that list, the state senate and assembly get the first opportunity to appoint one community member each to the board, and if the houses don’t do so within a given period, then the governor gets to appoint two members from the list.

In the event the governor also fails to appoint local representatives within a certain time, a quorum of the siting board’s five permanent members – governor’s appointees, all – may meet and make a decision on a power project.