Renewable energy projects have their fair share of supporters and critics.

In Niagara County, residents in several communities are grappling with the potential pros and cons of massive wind and solar power projects.

Plans set forth by companies looking to develop such projects here have sparked pushback from vocal homeowners in some areas.

While debate continues over these efforts, it’s encouraging to see Niagara County lawmakers taking steps to create what hopefully will be a more open and participatory process for the people who actually live here.

Members of the Niagara County Legislature agreed last week to set a March 10 public hearing on a proposed law that would prevent companies looking to invest in renewable energy projects from obtaining local tax breaks before moving forward.

In addition, the legislature agreed to form a committee to monitor the state’s approval process for such projects, which involves the potential for a state siting board to overturn local zoning laws that restrict or bar the projects.

Taking one step further, lawmakers also endorsed a pending state Assembly bill that would give local voters the power to approve or reject wind or solar projects in their own backyards.

Clearly, providing as much opportunity for local residents and taxpayers to have their say in such projects is the right way to go.

As it stands right now, three major renewable energy projects are in the works in Niagara County, with Bear Ridge Solar eyeing 900 acres in Cambria and Pendleton, Lighthouse Wind proposing a 47-turbine wind project in Somerset and Yates and Ridge View Energy Center in development in Hartland and Newfane.

These projects have been met with opposition by many residents who live in these communities and while this may seem like a “not-in-my-backyard” sort of issue, people should understand that it is possible for a large-scale wind or solar project to be pushed in their own backyard at some point in the future.

These types of developments boil to questions of priorities.

Do communities like Cambria, Pendleton, Somerset, Hartland and Newfane benefit more from investment by renewable energy firms or would they be harmed by the potential quality of life drawbacks that such projects can involve?

It’s more than reasonable to allow the people who will be affected the most to have the final say, which is why it’s important for their representatives in county government to continue to take steps in hopes of providing them a real voice at the decision-making table.

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