The Niagara County Legislature is expected to take up four resolutions tonight directed squarely at New York State’s Article 10 Law that involves the siting of electric generating facilities in New York State. The law, which took away local control over siting decision and instead gave control to the Board of Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, has become a source of controversy as large wind and solar developers have descended on Niagara County to site their facilities.
“Communities across Niagara County are being faced with the prospect of unwelcome electric generation facilities being dropped in their community, often times on pristine agriculture land and in violation of local zoning ordinances and laws,” said Legislator John Syracuse. “We are not totally against solar and wind projects in Niagara County, but these projects need to be sited in the proper industrial locations.”
Three resolutions already on the agenda include opposition to the Apex Clean energy project in the Towns of Somerset and Yates (Orleans County); support for Assembly bill A.3340A that would require a local referendum on an electric generating project in the impacted municipality; and the creation of an Article 10 Ad Hoc Committee to bring stakeholders across the county together to discuss how best to approach these projects going forward and what has been learned thus far. In addition, a late resolution is expected to be added to the agenda that will lead to Niagara County formally opting out of Section 487 of the New York Real Property Tax Law that provides tax exemptions for solar or wind energy projects.
“We’ve had enough of Albany destroying our communities,” said Legislator Irene Myers. “Our community produces the cleanest, cheapest power in the state through the Niagara Power Project, very little of which stays here, and that’s not enough for downstate. We’ve been the dumping ground for hazardous waste at the CWM facility but that’s not enough for downstate. Now, we’re going to see thousands of acres of agriculture land spoiled with little to no knowledge of the long-term safety impacts because downstate wants more.”
Legislator David Godfrey, who is expected to chair the Article 10 Ad Hoc Committee, said there are a lot of issues that have not been thoroughly vetted.
“Fires, ruptured panels, and disposal of old and failed panels are only a few of many unanswered questions,” said Godfrey. “I’ve heard from our volunteer fire companies who are worried about fire safety and how to fight a fire at these types of facilities, as well as handling toxic gasses traveling down-wind. Disposal of failed solar panels is another issue. To my knowledge, there is only one facility located in Virginia that accepts discarded panels. What if they stop accepting them? Is our community going to become the repository of that waste as well? These are serious issues that are very concerning, and yet we can’t seem to get answers to many of them.”
Legislator Mike Hill said land use issues and local zoning decisions need to stay with local government, not bureaucrats hundreds of miles away.
“I’ve seen first-hand how these projects are dividing a community and turning neighbor against neighbor,” said Hill. “Zoning can always be a hot button issue of balancing individual property rights against the larger community interest. But by keeping the decisions local, you stand a much better chance of reaching community consensus and ensuring citizens can hold people accountable for those decisions.”