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Cuomo’s energy siting plan shuts out communities

Much to my dismay but not to my surprise, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is attempting to accelerate industrial wind and solar energy development at the behest of out-of-state developers and at the expense of our citizens, towns, environment, state lawmakers and even the state agencies responsible for permitting power plants.

New Yorkers have operated for almost a decade under what is called Article 10 (the current power plant siting law). However, under the guise of a last-minute amendment to the state budget process referred to as Article 23, the governor’s proposal will eviscerate the state constitution’s home rule provisions by eliminating the role of local zoning laws, allowing for eminent domain confiscations of land, gutting critical environmental review and limiting a town’s taxation and assessment powers. This is a power grab, pure and simple.

The proposed changes should be anathema to environmental justice advocates. This proposal will silence the voices of citizens and public interest groups by excluding them from the Article 23 proceedings. This is a complete reversal of one of Article 10’s primary goals, which is to facilitate meaningful public participation and broad stakeholder agreement in the siting process.

The proposed changes will exempt developers from a rigorous review of local environmental impacts through reliance on yet-to-be-determined statewide conditions, offsets and approval provisions.

The most egregious proposed change? Once the application is deemed complete by the Office of Renewable Energy Siting, the ORES will have one year to issue a final decision. If the ORES fails to make a decision in one year, then the siting permit will be “deemed to have been granted.” Approval. By. Default. This is inconceivably lousy jurisprudence.

Ultimately, our state Senate and Assembly should realize that voting to jettison Article 10 and to acquiesce to the governor’s Article 23 overreach is a capitulation of their lawmaking authority. Article 23 would create a costly agency with sole rulemaking authority; it would pick winners and losers among developers and would all but guarantee expensive and protracted litigation.

Jim Simon is the supervisor of the town of Yates, which has been fighting an industrial wind turbine proposal from Apex Clean Energy of Virginia for more than five years.