RUSH – Dozens of residents came to speak out against Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s plan to alter the approval process for large scale wind and solar projects – a plan they say would silence local input.
“We are totally frustrated,” said Rush resident Amy Schubach.
During a Monday afternoon press conference in the Rush Town Hall, state Sen. Chris Jacobs, R-Buffalo, and Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes, R-Caledonia, spoke out on Cuomo’s proposed “Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act.”
Byrnes said the act was introduced in February as a budget amendment and that it will do more harm than good.
“The local municipalities and you will lose all of your ability to have any input,” said Byrnes.
She said local communities would also give up the ability to determine where a project would be built and that, under Cuomo’s proposal, siting decisions would be left up to the state.
“Cuomo said that he wanted the state to decide where a project would be and he wanted the state to decide how large a project would be and that after he made these decisions, they would find a developer to develop the property,” said Byrnes.
Under the Governor’s plan Byrnes says what is considered a large scale project would also change.
“Right now large scale solar projects is 25 megawatts or bigger it is going to do down to 10. That means more projects are going to become a state level decision, local municipalities will be prohibited from requiring any sort of approval at the local level,” said Byrnes.
Siting boards would also be eliminated and Byrnes said if someone has a question or problem with a project there would be few, if any, people they could complain to about it.
“Also, Cuomo’s proposal would require municipalities to consult with NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) in setting payment in lieu of taxes (agreements), but as a result NYSERDA will decide the PILOT awards, the municipalities would lose their negotiating authority,” said Byrnes.
In a statement released by the Governor’s office, Cuomo said the new legislation was created to streamline the process and to help all New York residents.
Cuomo has held his proposal up as a means of helping achieve “a more sustainable future,” that would invigorate the green economy and reaffirm “New York’s position as a market leader with a revamped process for building and delivering renewable energy projects faster.”
Recent proposed solar projects in the area include:
n EDF Renewables, a subsidiary of the French energy giant EDF Group, is proposing the 1,350-acre Morris Ridge solar array in the town of Mount Morris, east of Letchworth State Park and west of Moyer Road. The array would be located on leased, private land – much of it agricultural, the company has said.
■ The Horseshoe solar array would cover about 1,260 acres in the towns of Caledonia and Rush, Monroe County. Like the Morris Ridge proposal, it would be located on leased, private land – much of it agricultural. The company behind the proposal, Invenergy, is one of North America’s leading green energy developers.
Also under the plan, Byrnes says the need for local tax assessors will be a thing of the past.
“The state will determine the local property value assessment, not your local assessor,” she said.
Jacobs, who is running for Congress in the 27th District, also voiced his opposition to the Governor’s plan, saying he will work on both the state and federal level, to make sure the voices of local residents are heard.
“The first day, if I am elected to Congress in April, I will introduce legislation to amend the current credit legislation on the federal level to say no credits should be awarded to any project unless there is clear local support and sign off of this project,” said Jacobs.
If Cuomo’s proposal goes through, both lawmakers’ and residents’ fear they will lose the ability to be heard and many wonder what could be next.
“If they can do it here than they can do it on other things, if this can be done here what is the next thing the government is going to do and take away from local communities,” said Jacobs.
To try and block the amendment from being approved by the April 1 deadline, Jacobs says residents should contact their local lawmakers, either by phone or e-mail, if they are against the proposal.
At the meeting a few residents brought signs, while others brought just their opinions, taking a stand, to protect their land and their homes.
“I am not normally that involved and lots of people say ‘not in my backyard,’” said Schubach. “Well, this entire town is my backyard and if I do not take care of my backyard, who will?”
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