JOHNSTOWN – The Board of Supervisors has voted to opt out of state tax exemptions for solar, wind, and farm waste energy systems.
The board on Sept. 9 voted to approve a local law allowing Fulton County to “capture tax revenues” from the development of solar energy facilities and to ensure such facilities are “treated equally” with other commercial properties.
The local law also extends to wind, farm waste energy systems, micro-hydroelectric energy systems, fuel electric generating systems, micro-combined heat and power generating equipment systems, and electric energy storage equipment.
Although many municipalities and schools across the state have approved similar laws, Fulton County is the 13th of 62 counties in New York state to opt out.
The only board members to oppose the local law during the vote were Stratford Supervisor Allicia Rice and Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Greg Young. Young spoke in opposition, stating that he feels government should be “encouraging” such projects.
“I think that there are some solar companies that have been abusive,” Young said. “They have done a poor job with landscaping, start construction before the PILOT process this board put in place months ago has already gone through. But, I don’t think this tax increase is the answer for that. I know many of these projects are community solar where people can buy in to save 10 percent on their energy. I think we ought to be encouraging these projects.”
Perth Supervisor Greg Fagan said the law “in no way stops solar farms or wind farms from being developed.”
“It does level the playing field and makes these businesses pay property taxes the same as any other business or property owner does when they do capital improvements,” Fagan said. “There’s a lot of money being made in the solar industry by the developers. This hopefully will get some of it back to our taxpayers to alleviate some of the tax problems we have.”
Prior to the vote, a public hearing was held regarding the local law. Several spoke in opposition of the law, including Matthew Vittucci of Gloversville, as well as Joseph and Rosemarie Sheperd of Johnstown.
Sheperd commended Fulton County for supporting solar projects by allowing the development of several facilities currently in operation. He also pointed to the installation of electric vehicle charging stations and energy efficient lighting projects as positives. But, he also criticized the board for disincentivizing future projects.
“Wind, solar, and green energy is our future,” Joseph said. “If we don’t do everything at every level … to avert a calamity – we’re going to have one. I would urge the legislators and the county of Fulton to not rescind this and to make certain wind and solar gets the tax incentives that will bring more of it into our county and help avert a world-wide calamity.”
Rosemarie said she was “proud” of Johnstown for being part of the “climate initiative” by supporting solar projects, but that it must do more because the issue will affect everyone.
“This is a non-partisan issue – this affects all of us, everywhere,” Rosemarie said. “The climate is so important. With the climate going into a spiral, none of us are going to be safe.”
The Sheperds took the opportunity to promote the Sept. 20 Climate Awareness Rally to be held in Johnstown from 3-5 p.m. The event is being held in conjunction with the world-wide Climate Change Awareness Week, Sept. 20-27.
The Sheperds said rallies and marches are planned in all major cities to heighten awareness to the dangers of global heating resulting from carbon emissions that are released into the atmosphere. They noted that New York state recently passed the most ambitious climate legislation in the nation, requiring 100 percent net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Vittucci also spoke, saying he is in favor of solar power and that he has panels on his own roof. He added that all of Fulton County as well as the U.S. could be powered by solar and wind.
Vittucci pointed to a not-so-distant past in which the Adirondack Park was suffering from acid rain and that regulations and protections are what led to progress. He pointed to “aesthetics” as a rationale for disproving of solar and wind and wondered who the decision-makers are.
“Solar energy is our salvation,” Vittucci said. “With solar and wind, we could run the whole country. I just don’t understand the approach of ‘not in my back yard.’”
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