Supreme Court Justice Pete Lynch dismissed the petition filed by numerous towns and activist groups against the New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) and its acting director, Houtan Moavenni, on Oct. 7.
Opposition to ORES has been fierce and loud in town halls across Niagara County. Critics of the office, which was created by 94-c, or the state Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act, have said that it forces local communities to turn over good farmland to solar and wind energy installations, and destroys their own local rural character for the benefit of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s renewable energy goals.
The lawsuit was filed on June 29. The petitioners were six towns including Cambria, Somerset and Yates, and advocacy groups including Cambria Opposition to Industrial Solar and Save Ontario Shores. The local petitioners have objected fiercely to the proposed Bear Ridge Solar Project in Cambria and the Lighthouse Wind project in the Barker-Lyndonville area, neither of which presently is being looked at by the state.
Lynch took issue with the petitioners' assertion that ORES “did not take a hard look at public comments as evidenced by the fact that it did not credit a single comment.”
While an example of comment and response in regard to setbacks was cited, Lynch was not persuaded that ORES was trying to comply “after the fact” with the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), which judges whether a proposed development may affect the environment on a variety of levels such as noise, appearance and archaeology.
“(ORES') response was reasoned, not demonstrative of kicking SEQRA analysis down the road,” Lynch wrote. “The response simply reflects that no specific project is at issue.”
For Cambria town Supervisor Wright Ellis, the decision was disappointing, but he said the town is “in it for the long haul.”
“I don’t know if it’s particularly surprising, the litigation was brought in Albany, of course, because that’s where (ORES) is,” Ellis said. “There are, of course, chances to appeal and I think all along we anticipated we’d probably have to appeal. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Of the Bear Ridge Solar project, Cypress Creek Renewables agent Keith Silliman told the Union-Sun & Journal that the company presently is “in a mad scramble to finish up the Bear Ridge 94-c application.” He indicated the application to ORES would be filed by the end of next week, on Oct. 22.
The Bear Ridge Solar project is a proposed 100-megawatt solar energy generating site spread over 900 acres in Cambria and Pendleton. The project has been met with vocal opposition from the community, including a walk-out on an informational forum set up by Cypress Creek.
“We intend to stay engaged with the towns and county,” Silliman said in his email to the US&J. “We will also be reviewing security and safety issues with the local fire departments, towns and county fire coordinator.”
Silliman noted that Cypress Creek Renewables made funds available to towns, county and other intervenors in their review of its application during the Article 10 process, which predated the new 94-c law, and stated the company will deposit funds with ORES for that purpose.