HAMMOND – A divided Town Council on Monday passed a resolution opposing a recently enacted state law that puts decision-making power on commercial power projects in state hands.
The board voted 3-2 to in favor of the resolution prepared by the Coalition Against Article X. Article X, also known as the Power NY Act, establishes a one-year permitting process for building power plants. Each project would be considered by a seven-member board consisting of five state department heads and two locally appointed community representatives.
State agencies would be responsible for investigating potential environmental harm and benefits.
Wind projects that will produce 25 megawatts or more of electricity are subject to state review.
Town Supervisor Ronald W. Bertram said that while the board would include two members of community in which a given project will take place, the majority of power still resides with state officials. Because of that, he said, the law violates the concept of municipal home rule and takes decision-making power away from the people who are affected by the projects.
“The state is taking all power away from the town for any project over (25 megawatts). I feel strongly about this. I feel strongly about home rule,” he said.
Mr. Bertram said the state enacted the law behind closed doors, giving municipalities no time to comment on it before it was signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
“It wasn’t even on the table being discussed by the state. Some representatives got this attached to a last-minute spending bill,” he said. “This was an 11th hour thing.”
Councilors James E. Langtry and James C. Pitcher opposed the resolution. Mr. Pitcher said the state legislation has the potential to move alternative energy projects forward.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people who said they are against wind, but are all for solar,” he said after the meeting. “Everybody wants clean energy, but they don’t want it in their backyard. This might open the doors for another clean energy project.”
Mr. Pitcher said he wants to see how Article X plays out before making a decision to oppose it.
“We really don’t know if this will have any teeth. We are probably still a few years out before this is up and running,” he said.
Mr. Langtry offered no comment on his vote.
Councilors James R. Tague and Douglas E. Delosh voted in favor of the resolution opposing the law. Both councilors cited municipal home rule as the main factor in their decision.
The topic also drew comments from the public. Republican candidate for town council Howard W. Demick supported the majority’s decision.
“Anytime home rule is challenged we should fight to make sure it isn’t taking away power from the local government,” he said. “There is a disturbing trend in New York State to take away our home rule.”
Concerned Residents of Hammond President Mary D. Hamilton also supported the board’s decision.
“This is just another erosion of home rule. I am concerned that it is happening over and over again. Where will it stop? Where will it end? It’s a travesty,” she said.
The board will forward the resolution to state legislators and the state Association of Towns.