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Committee Discusses Opposition To Energy Proposal

MAYVILLE — Some Chautauqua County Legislators are opposed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s attempt to speed up the process for renewable energy projects.

On Wednesday, the Chautauqua County Legislature Planning and Economic Development Committee discussed a motion opposing Cuomo’s actions. Mark Odell, R-Brocton and committee chairman, said the motion was presented by Elisabeth Rankin, R-Jamestown, and himself, and was also signed by Lisa Vanstrom, R-Jamestown, John Davis, R-Frewsburg, John Hemmer, R-Westfield, Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia, Dan Pavlock, R-Sinclairville, and Robert Bankoski, D-Dunkirk.

Odell said he opposes Cuomo’s attempt to fast track renewable energy projects, which he believes is an attempt by the governor to “push” the amendment through the legislative process. Cuomo included the change as part of his 30-day state budget amendments in February.

“If allowed, it could simplify the process for large energy companies,” he said.

Odell said the legislature hears often from residents their displeasure about wind turbine projects that have been constructed. He said the legislature also hears from environmental groups about the issue as well.

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, and Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, are opposed to Cuomo’s amendment as well, Odell said.

“(The motion) sends a clear message to the state that projects need to be reviewed and local municipalities should be involved,” Odell said.

Both Bill Ward, R-Mayville, and Christine Starks, D-Fredonia, agreed with Odell’s remarks on the proposed motion.

The motion states that if Cuomo’s amendment is passed as part of the state budget process, which has a deadline of April 1, the changes will replace Article 10 with a new, fast track method of energy project siting, effectively removing local control in the decision making process and any input from municipalities or citizens or local environmental groups.

“The new process would include almost no opportunity to bring in locally sourced data or regional experts to present evidence regarding specific siting issues,” the motion stated. “The state will allow no public comment or input prior to a project application … the state will allow no role for environmental or citizen groups outside of commenting on the draft project proposal.”

The motion also states that Cuomo’s changes would allow an application that is submitted to the Office of Renewable Energy Siting to have 60 days for review to determine if it is complete. If a decision is not made in that time, the application is automatically deemed complete. Once an application is determined to be complete, the Office of Renewable Energy Siting will approve the project within 12 months or it is automatically considered approved. There is no process for extending the time limit and there is no mandated hearing as part of this new siting process, which means there is no method for submitting expert testimony.

The motion will now be brought before the full legislature for a vote at the regular monthly voting meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

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