A trio of state lawmakers representing parts of Niagara County have introduced legislation aimed at requiring local input on future energy projects in New York state.
State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, joined Assembly members Angelo Morinello, R-Niagara Falls, and Michael Norris, R-Lockport, in sponsoring a bill that they say would ensure the presence of local presentation on any siting board for electric generating projects proposed across the state.
The move comes as the Senate Majority, Speaker of the Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo all failed to approve any local candidates nominated by officials from the towns of Cambria and Pendleton for the proposed Bear Ridge solar project.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Cambria Supervisor Wright Ellis. “The article 10 restricts the amount of input from the local officials and to further restrict it is just not right.”
Currently, there are 25 proposed electric generating projects proposed in New York with 19 of them lacking a full representation on the projects’ siting boards.
Under the state’s Article 10 law, each host municipality of an electric generation project may nominate four individuals to be considered as an ad hoc member on the siting board. From that list, the state senate and assembly are granted the first opportunity to appoint one community member each to the siting board.
Should the Legislature not act within the allotted time frame outlined by the law, the governor is then given the opportunity to appoint two members from the localities list. If the governor also fails to appoint two community members in the outlined time frame, a quorum of the five permanent members, who are all appointed by the governor, may meet and make a decision on the project.
“The ability for local residents and host municipalities to voice their concerns is essential in siting energy projects,” Ortt said. “It is unacceptable for a siting board to act without any local representatives included in the discussions, and for the Legislature and governor to abdicate their responsibilities is equally as troubling. My legislation would ensure that no electric generation project is approved without input from the host municipality.”
Norris described local control and input as “critical” in determining the “viability and desirability” of any energy project in a community.
“New York state already has far too much overreach and authority in making decisions that should be kept at the local level,” he said. “A community should determine where and how electrical generating projects are constructed, not a board of politically appointed bureaucrats that do not carry the best interest of a host community.
Morinello and Norris recently introduced an Assembly version of the Senate legislation calling for local representation to be included on any current and future electric generation projects.
“It is not right to avoid local input on decisions affecting a community by failing to appoint ad hoc members to the siting board,” Morinello said. “Article 10 appears to have the effect of all decisions made by Albany bureaucrats.”