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Hornellsville Update

Town approves resolution opposing move by state to take over regulation

ARKPORT - State or no state, the Town of Hornellsville is moving forward on adopting its local wind law.

Despite the prospect of the state Assembly and Senate approving Article X legislation, which would regulate power in New York - including wind farms with more than a set limit of megawatts - the Hornellsville town board discussed a draft of its wind law at the board meeting Tuesday night.

Few changes have been made to the law, drawn up by lawyer Dan Spitzer, but Councilman Roger Schulitz said it's still an ongoing process.

“We're still looking at it further,” he said.

No vote was taken on the law, expected to be put up for vote later this summer or in early fall, and it will be discussed by the planning board again at its next meeting. Supervisor Ken Isaman said the town and planning boards will likely meet to hammer out any changes board members determine need to be made, and a public hearing would be required prior to adoption of the law.

Isaman did discuss Article X with the board.

“Anytime local control is taken away, particularly when local government doesn't know legislation is in the works, is kind of a disheartening situation,” he said when he learned of the possibility of state stepping into the wind legislation fray. “We in Steuben County that have projects have worked very hard to put together a package that reimburses the towns quite well for the transformation of our towns into windmill territory.”

State Sen. George Winner, R-Elmira, is part of the conference committee comprised of Senate and Assembly members to come up with a joint bill. He said the two bodies are “very far apart” in terms of coming to terms on a joint offering. The bulk of the bills deal with natural gas and clean air standards, he said last month, but wind energy could be impacted as well.

“To the extent that a wind project would exceed - in the Senate bill - a 50-megawatt level,” Winner said then, adding the Assembly bill calls for regulations to kick in at the 30-megawatt level. “It would obviously be subject to Article X.”

Winner said the conference committee is trying to figure that out and how municipalities' rights to impact fees could be preserved. He said the new legislation would have no negative impact on Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreements being worked on in local municipalities for wind farms. He touted a provision in the legislation that would allow local residents to have a voice through “intervenor funds,” that would be available to groups opposing development, and municipalities would be eligible to receive up to 50 percent of the intervenor funds - if they apply for it - under the proposal.

Developers would be required to pay $100,000 to the intervenor fund on its pre-application stage, with ability for another $25,000 to be requested at the pre-application or application stage, Winner said. He said projects that exceed the 80-megawatt level would be required to cough up another $500,000.

The board approved a resolution in opposition of the potential Article X legislation, and copies will be forwarded to all the state legislators covering the town.

“We've definitely got to keep our eye on how that flows,” said Councilman William Giese. “We'll watch it, but I think we still have to go ahead and pass our local legislation.”

In other business, the board thanked John Buchko, who has resigned, for his many years of service on the town's planning board.


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Anonymous Anonymous Says:

Is this a good thing or a bad thing for the communities? I think that the state should setup broad guidelines and allow individual communities to establish wind farm legislation. Because several states share our electrical grid with NY and this is goverened under interstate commerce the state of NY has a responsiblity to have some say in the matter. Every community that will be affected also has a right to contribute to the solution too.

Blogger Bill Says:

Dear Anonymous,

The situation in Hornellsville serves to highlight the confusion we find ourselves in with major industrial projects being promoted in agricultural districts without any well-established guidelines to protect the interests of either leaseholders or nonparticipants.

On the one hand, we're left with full, unguided "home rule", but on the other hand we've been abandoned to the "divide and conquer" tactics of aggressive industrial developers.

I agree with you that we need to reinstate Article X legislation in some form to establish broad statewide guidelines for siting and structuring industrial development, while leaving the particulars of home rule intact, especially the ability to say yes or no and to negotiate PILOT payments.

Hornellsville seems to want to do their wind project without any guidance or protection from the state. But we certainly don't want the state taking full charge of the process and mandating projects in localities that don't want them.

Anonymous Anonymous Says:

This is old news, and the focus should not be on Assembly passage, which was pro-forma for their own version of the bill, but on local communities waking up to the loss of home rule and the resultant loss of negotiating position re PILOTS and other financial benefits. I think it is legitimate to ask how many wind farms would be permitted in NYS if there were not such significant financial incentives for rural communities. Strip away the one benefit, and where is the support for this industry?

The Assembly's passage of this legislation was to establish a more formal negotiating position in discussions with the Senate. The regular legislative session concluded with no resolution or action on Article X. I would expect that Article X remains a priority for the Legislature and Governor's Office, but the timeline for accomplishing any program is mid-to-late fall.

Significant differences between the Senate and Assembly remain. The Governor has not yet even been invited in to Article X negotiations with the Legislature (there have been discussions). Governor's staff supporting this issue is in disarray - Deputy Secretary of Energy Steve Mitnick is mired in a misconduct investigation and has indicated he may be stepping down this summer. PSC Chair appointee Angela Sparks-Beddoe remained unconfirmed for the position by the Senate, and announced last week that she too will be stepping down from the Acting Chair role due to concerns for her lobbyist background for the utility industry and stock holdings in a company that she would have been regulating.

It's going to take some time to put energy policy back together after the 2007 debacle to date. So there is time to force the issue on wind, but wind is not yet a prominent part of Article X discussions by staff on Assembly/Senate Energy committees. Also of note, the most sympathetic member of the Assembly Energy Committee - Paul Tonko - and staff have departed for the Chairmanship of NYSERDA. That imports some sympathy at the head of that agency, but strips the Assembly Energy Committee of some expertise and familiarity with our issues. No word on who heads the committee going forward - odds are, Kevin Cahill, from Ulster County, who has reasonably strong environmental credentials, and knows a number of pro-wind environmental groups well. Education and demonstration of political will be needed there.

Anonymous Anonymous Says:

Dear Bill: Here is another community welling to move forward with a project. Which will better the town. Why is it when so much prove has been presented that there are still a very small group of people who can't see what a great opportunity this is. Reduces use of fossil fuels for one a cleaner and consist form of energy. Which would give tax payers a break. People want to talk about looking what about the cell towers, billboards on expressways. Don't hear many complaints about them do we?
George C.Buss

Anonymous Anonymous Says:

Could you please send me ten of your bumper stickers? I will offer them to my friends at the Audubon Society since we are very involved in the controversy of wind turbines here in PA. After I read some of your site, it sounds like the same story, different place. The turbine company here is Gamesa. They are primarily from Spain. No ethics. They even have written into their agreements that the landowners cannot disclose to each other how much they get per year for each turbine placement. Actually, send me twenty to start. Thank you.


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