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State Sen. Borrello Backs State Land Conservation

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay.

State Sen. George Borrello, seeing a tool in his fight against industrial wind turbines in undeveloped areas, is backing an effort to increase land conservation in New York state.

S.6191 was passed Monday in the state Senate by a 54-8 vote with Borrello voting in favor. The Sunset Bay Republican had planned to vote against the proposal but was swayed after a lengthy discussion on the Senate floor with Sen. Todd Kaminsky, D-Rockville Center and sponsor of the legislation.

“I’m going to do something I haven’t done before, based on Senator Kaminsky’s honesty on this, I would like to change my vote from no to yes because I believe him and I believe that the things we discussed today will be the goals and the standards we will set to ensure that the industrialization of Upstate New York does not happen as a result of this bill. Sen. Kaminsky, thank you very much.”

Kaminsky’s bill would change 49-0207 of the Environmental Conservation Law to support and contribute to the national goal of conserving 30% of the land in New York state by 2030. Kaminsky proposes prioritizing investments that promote biodiversity protection, habitat restoration, wildfire resiliency, regenerative agriculture, sustainably managed landscapes and water protection. It would also direct the state Department of Environmental Conservation to find ways to accelerate the natural removal of carbon from the atmosphere.

Borrello raised concerns that forests could be cleared for solar farms or wind turbine fields while meeting the goals of Kaminsky’s bill.

“I don’t see how that could be the case,” Kaminsky said. “If you are trying to say that land that used to be virgin timber is now chopped down and turned into a form of energy production, is then considered conserved, that would not make any sense.”

Kaminsky said that 20% of the state’s land is currently considered preserved, with S.6191 giving the DEC a goal of adding another 10% to that total acreage over the next nine years. Given the state’s changes to power generation siting last year, Borrello raised concerns that land that currently is forested or could be repurposed for agricultural purposes could be used for energy production. Kaminsky pointed to scientists’ warnings that bolstering resilience to climate change requires preservation of 30% of the land and water systems globally by 2030, and taking those actions in concert with green energy projects.

“We have to be able to walk and chew gum,” Kaminsky said. “We have to be able to do both. We have to be able to build our green energy resources consistent with the CLCPA. Those goals are aggressive but they’re necessary. We have to at the same time gain the ability to protect the land to the tune of 10% over the next nine years. We have to be able to do both. I think this would help your concerns because what this is telling the state is you figure out how we’re going to get 10% more over nine years and consider everything you’re doing during that process.”

Borrello on Tuesday called for a moratorium on wind turbines on freshwater lakes in New York state by introducing S.6314, legislation that would address some of Borrello’s concerns regarding changes in natural habitats for energy production. While discussing Kaminsky’s land conservation bill, Borrello sounded off again on what he terms the destruction of natural habitat to power New York City’s energy needs.

“I do have concerns about this bill because it is rather vague,” Borrello said. “I am glad that we had this engagement today to talk about some important issues. Unfortunately right now the goal in New York state is not to preserve land, the goal is to meet this ridiculous green energy goal that is ultimately resulting in lots of areas being cleared. Right now as we speak we have virgin forests and producing farmlands that are being clearcut to install industrial wind turbines and solar panels. It’s going to have to continue. We’re going to have to continue to go backwards and not forward when it comes to preserving our lands because of these ridiculous goals supported by politicians with an agenda and foreign companies that supply the products and the Wall Street investment firms that profit at the expense of the taxpayers to create these boondoggle green energy projects.”

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