NY towns want role in wind power siting

Considering that this blog is devoted in large part to the local siting of wind projects in New York, it seems fitting to include a current statement on same from the Association of Towns of the State of New York.

One of only 15 resolutions comprising the organization’s 2008 legislative program is focused on preserving the role of towns in the wind energy siting process.

The town role in siting wind projects is in the news currently, of course, as New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating allegations of impropriety by First Wind and Noble Environmental Power in the local siting process. The challenges in dealing with multiple localities to companies interested in developing wind-rich areas cannot be denied. Neither towns, nor town laws, in New York are a homogeneous bunch.  As the Association says:

A town in New York State is a general purpose, home rule municipal corporation. New York State’s 932 towns cover the entire area of the State (outside of cities) and constitute the most numerous and diverse class of local government. The 2000 census of town populations ranged from 38 in Red House to approximately 756,000 in Hempstead and 74 towns have populations greater than 20,000. Towns vary widely in their physical characteristics, their constituencies, and the services they provide….

Not to mention the fact that the town officials charged with considering and enacting town laws and ordinances often are unpaid or barely paid for rendering this essential public service and, generally speaking, have a “day job” unrelated to town governance.

In the context of controversial, complicated projects (such as some commercial wind farms), one can imagine that these public servants face numerous challenges.  In many situations it is incumbent upon the developer –often with the assistance of attorneys or other advisors– to educate not only the townspeople, but also town officials about the merits and requirements of a wind project.

The Association’s wind siting resolution follows:

Resolution No. 8

Preserve and Strengthen Local Government’s Role
in the Siting of Energy Generation Facilities

WHEREAS, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) adopted a new renewable energy policy which includes Wind Energy Facilities (WEFs) on September 22, 2004 that requires 25 percent of the state’s electricity to be supplied from renewable energy sources by 2013; and

WHEREAS, the proper regulation of the siting and installation of WEFs is necessary for the purpose of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of neighboring property owners and the general public; and

WHEREAS, WEFs have the potential to cause significant aesthetic, environmental, and quality of life impacts if not properly sited, because of their large size, lighting, noise and shadow flicker effects; and

WHEREAS, local governments have successfully developed, implemented and administered local WEFs siting laws and policies with the input and guidance of local taxpayers, residents, business and agricultural representatives, environmentalists, energy generators, planners and lawyers; and

WHEREAS, Article X of the Public Service Law (PSL), which set forth the siting procedure to construct and operate major power generation facilities with a capacity of 80 megawatts or more expired December 31, 2002 thereby requiring electric generating project developers to undergo local zoning review and environmental review pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law); NOW THEREFORE BE IT

RESOLVED, the Association of Towns calls upon the Governor, State Legislature and State Agencies to develop new laws and regulations that will preserve local authority over the siting of WEFs and that will provide local government officials from a host municipality with a seat on the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment (Siting Board).

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