An attorney representing the Town of Cambria has sent a letter criticizing the state government for not appointing a Cambria representative to the state board in charge of approving a proposed solar energy project in the Cambria area.

The letter, dated Jan. 17, was sent to Siting Board Secretary Kathleen Burgess, by attorney Mark C. Davis, who is representing Cambria in the Bear Ridge Solar Project proceedings. 

To date, only one of the two legally required ad hoc (project host community) members has been appointed. Both state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins appointed Davis Naus of Pendleton. 

Cypress Creek Renewables is aiming to lease 900 acres of land in Cambria and Pendleton for the 100 megawatt Bear Ridge Solar Project. Article X of the state Public Service Law, which puts a seven-member appointing board in charge of large scale energy generating facilities, allows host municipalities to nominate up to four individuals to serve as ad hoc members, and the state senate and the assembly must appoint one ad hoc member each. If they don’t, the governor can appoint ad hoc members.

Regarding the Town of Cambria’s complaint, an inquiry to Stewart-Cousins’ press office did not get a reply as of press time. 

A spokesperson for the Siting Board responded to the Union-Sun & Journal’s same inquiry made to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s press office. 

“Ad hoc appointments to the Siting Board are the Legislature’s responsibility in first instance. The siting process seeks out local input. We are looking into specific situations where appointments have not been made including this one and we will help with that process,” the spokesperson said. 

The Siting Board spokesperson further observed that any decision on the Bear Ridge Solar Project is more than a year away.

However, the Siting Board can still meet and constitute a quorum without either of the local representatives.

In a Tuesday interview, Cambria Town Supervisor Wright Ellis said the letter is meant to make the town’s objection to the lack of an appointment “a matter of record.” 

Ellis said he is “not at all optimistic” about another representative being chosen, suggesting that state leaders’ attention will be mostly on the state budget for the next few months.

Davis, an attorney with Buffalo-based Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP, sent the letter to the New York State Board on Electric Siting and the Environment on Jan. 17. In the letter he formally objects to the ad hoc nomination process and the failure to appoint a representative from Cambria. 

“Due to the significant impact the proposed project will have on the Town of Cambria, the fact that the project does not comply with local zoning laws, and the increasing opposition, it is extremely important that the siting board contain members whose views reflect that of the community where the project is proposed,” Davis wrote. “Therefore, the Town of Cambria respectfully requests that this project not move forward until one of the Cambria candidates is appointed as an ad hoc public member of the siting board.”

Davis said that Ellis nominated four individuals to represent Cambria in February 2019: Shirley Urtel, Edward Saleh, Michael Gross and William Amacher. Gross later informed the town that he could not serve.  

In October, both the Senate and Assembly majority leaders appointed David Naus to serve on the siting board.

“The Town of Cambria has followed up multiple times with the Assembly and the Senate requesting that one of the Cambria candidates also be appointed,” Davis wrote. “To date, the Assembly, the Senate, and the Governor have all failed to appoint any of the Cambria candidates.” 

State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, criticized state leaders for not appointing a second local representative to the siting board. 

“Local representation on Article 10 siting boards is absolutely necessary for these proposed energy projects across the state,” he said in a prepared statement. “I have continually called for these appointments and have sponsored legislation that would prevent Article 10 projects from moving forward without local representation. Unfortunately, those in charge of the appointments continue to neglect their legal and public duties.” 

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