The Article 23 Public Input Provisions Are A Red Herring

There has been a lot of opposition locally to changes passed as part of the state budget to largely eliminate local opposition to the siting process for renewable energy.

We note, then, a Reader’s Forum letter we received from Anne Reynolds, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York, in which she took issue with comments made by Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, and state Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, in our pages. Goodell and Borrello oppose the legislation because they say it gives state government too much authority approving renewable energy projects at the expense of local officials and local laws.

Reynolds says the new law is designed to “improve a siting process that was expensive, took years to navigate, and was costly and often frustrating to both developers and local governments. It does not exclude local governments from the process, as Senator Borrello and Assemblyman Goodell contend.”

She says the new process requires draft permits to be provided to local governments early in the permitting process and provides multiple opportunities for input, including a mandatory public or adjudicatory hearing. It also requires project developers to provide funding to local government to hire experts to review applications and raise concerns.

We hope Reynolds’ reading of the legislation is accurate, but we have a feeling it isn’t.

Article 23 limits the public’s ability to intervene in renewable energy siting discussions, limits the weight public comments carry in the discussion and limits hearings unless a local government can show a serious and substantial impact from the proposed renewable energy project. Most importantly, all local laws can be waived by Empire State Development if they are viewed as “reasonably burdensome” in light of the state Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

Local laws passed because residents here, by and large, want to be sure the state’s renewable energy projects aren’t trampling on local property rights or the health and well-being of local residents are going to be pushed aside on a regular basis because they conflict with the edicts of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Democrats in the state Legislature.

The Article 23 public input provisions are a red herring. Local decision making is indeed curtailed — no matter how much the governor and the green energy lobby say otherwise.


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