A recent letter to the editor sang the praises of New York State’s newly formed Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES). One would think, if this was one’s only source of information, that this office, responsible for giving the go-ahead on massive industrial scale solar and industrial wind projects, was a benevolent creation, seeking and incorporating communities’ input in this process. If only that were the reality.
The author stated that “the ORES process allows for plenty of community input and even funds opposition to projects.” In actuality, these new ORES regulations cut the funds available to citizen groups in half. Opportunities for early involvement in the application process are gone. And the mandated hearing with opportunity for state agency evidence and experts has been effectively eliminated.
The regulations governing the work of ORES were developed by two private companies, Tetra Tech and Arcadis, companies who are also consultants for renewable energy developers. New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA), a “public benefit corporation,” paid each of these companies $1 million for their work.
Under the regulations, ORES can override local town laws and has already used that authority. In the case of the Heritage Wind project proposed by Apex in the Town of Barre, the draft permit issued by ORES waived several of the town’s laws. And on July 8, Administrative Law Judges, with approval from ORES, found there were no issues for a hearing and so denied the requests of two citizen groups, the Town of Barre and Orleans County to become parties to the proceedings.
These collective actions by ORES have resulted in a lawsuit brought by 13 petitioners made up of rural municipalities, conservation and community groups, including Save Ontario Shores. Incredibly, the ORES regulations for siting renewable energy projects completely ignore environmental impacts.
Citizens are left outside the process as state agencies, consultants and developers determine their fate. Developers see citizen concerns as an obstacle to their profit enterprise. The new regulations that are tilted strongly in favor of the developer will enable the ORES office to “rapidly” site these industrial renewable energy projects. The developers are now fully in control with the state’s blessing.
PAM ATWATER, president, Save Ontario Shores, Inc., Barker