State Assembly Member Angelo Morinello addressed an audience of 25 people Wednesday night at a meeting hosted by the local grassroots group Cambria Opposed to Industrial Solar.
Morinello told the crowd gathered at the Cambria Volunteer Fire Company hall that it's useless to oppose solar technology, but it is possible to make gains by standing up for home rule and against Article 94C.
Article 94C, also known as the state Accelerated Renewable Energy Act, could allow development of utility scale energy generation facilities like the 100 megawatt Bear Ridge Solar Project, proposed on 900 acres in Cambria and Pendleton by Cypress Creek Renewables, to be sited without regard for local laws, Morinello said.
“Our message is not, ‘We are against solar.’ No. We may be personally against it, because of all the negatives, but the narrative is, we just want local control,” Morinello said. “We want to be able to designate areas within our community that solar can go in. We don’t want big government telling us what we can do.”
Morinello explained the differences between the Article 10 process for siting large-scale energy generating facilities and the one prescribed in Article 94C, and said he found it uncanny how the new law had been written to eliminate avenues for local input, after the state dragged its feet on implementing them in the Article 10 process for Bear Ridge Solar Project.
“Communities will no longer have two local representatives to provide local input or vote on the process,” he said. “We’ve been fighting for two local representatives for two years. Somerset has been fighting for two local representatives (for the proposed Lighthouse Wind Project) and the government wouldn’t act on it. Isn’t it coincidental that the bill that was put in at 3 a.m. that passed the elimination of those two positions? Coincidental that they didn’t act on it, but then eliminated even the ability to have it.”
The newly created state Office of Renewable Energy Siting may also overlook “burdensome” local laws governing generation facilities, Morinello said.
Morinello encouraged local residents to join him in the fight to keep Cambria clear of solar arrays blocking by writing letters to the editor, NYSERDA and Governor Andrew Cuomo.
He said another way to discourage the Bear Ridge Solar Project is by asking the Starpoint school district to opt out of tax exemptions for renewable energy projects.
“They have taken local control,” Morinello said. “We can’t say we’re against solar, because that would create zero traction in this day and age. … What we are against is somebody coming in and pirating our land, pirating our rights and pirating a way of life. That is really the key.”