OSWEGO — Members of the Oswego County Legislature may be following suit with the legislative body in Jefferson County regarding the opposition of legislation recently passed in New York.
In July, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Power NY Act of 2011, intended to increase power production and lead to new investment in New York. However, according to those opposing the bill, the measure poses an “imminent threat.”
The Cuomo administration has asserted that the new law will create thousands of jobs and result in reliable, cleaner energy, while strengthening environmental protections. The program will allow homeowners and business owners to take out low-interest loans from New York for energy efficiency improvements, which can then be paid back through utility bills.
Also, the bill enacts a new permanent streamlined permitting process for power plants greater than 25 megawatts by creating a “one-stop” multi-agency siting board that will make siting decisions. The Cuomo administration has also said that the legislation allows communities to participate in the process by requiring power plant applicants to provide “intervener funding” for the community to be affected by potential projects, to hire experts and lawyers to review proposals.
“We must rebuild and expand New York’s energy infrastructure to meet the demands of the 21st century and grow our economy,” the governor said. “This law will lead to new investment and create tens of thousands of jobs across the state. The act gives community members a voice in the siting process, and will maintain New York’s position as a leader in environmental protection.”
The Coalition on Article X (COAX), a group that has ties to the Oswego County community, has expressed that they are appalled by the legislation, noting that the law encroaches on Home Rule in New York, which is a legislative authority that allows each municipality in New York to govern themselves.
“This takes away input from the local planning and zoning, and even community government, whether it is village, town or county, on any siting of power projects,” Oswego County Legislator Shawn Doyle, R-Pulaski, said last month regarding the legislation.
Doyle hosts meetings with members of COAX within Oswego County.
“If somebody wants to come in here, and whether they want to site a nuclear power plant, a gas plant, coal plant or build industrial wind farms … the local boards have no say,” he said. “The state would do all the siting.”
The concerns raised by COAX were reflected by a vote on a resolution by members of the Jefferson County Legislature opposing the Power of NY Act of 2011 on Wednesday.
In the resolution, it is noted that the “new board will have the authority to ignore ‘any local ordinance, law … or any local standard or requirement … if it finds that … such is unreasonably burdensome … on ratepayers whether located inside or outside of such municipality.’”
The resolution goes on to state the Power of NY Act of 2011 would disallow local municipalities any approval, consent, permit, certificate or other condition for the construction or operation, and though the law provides for setting aside funds to research the potential siting, those funds are controlled by the siting board and “will be allocated as it sees fit.”
“The large majority of the board’s membership will have no connection to the affected communities and will not be directly affected by their decision,” the resolution reads. “(The Power of NY Act of 2011) follows a disturbing trend in New York state to remove powers from the local jurisdictions, and therefore from the affected electorate, and transfer such powers to a faceless state of New York bureaucracy, which has no constituency.”
Last month, Doyle pointed to the New York Power Authority’s Great Lakes Offshore Wind project that the authority initially pitched for development in the waters of Lake Ontario off Oswego County shores in 2009.
The Oswego County Legislature shot down the proposal, which would have led to the construction of between 40 and 150 wind turbines within the lake. Doyle, an opponent of the project, pointed out that, with the Power of NY Act of 2011, such local legislation would no longer matter.
“Right now, as it stands, New York can do whatever it wants,” Doyle said.
Members of the Oswego County Legislature will be debating a similar resolution to the one passed by Jefferson County during a meeting scheduled later this week.
In order to reach a vote during a 7 p.m., Thursday meeting, the Strategic Planning and Government Committee must pass the resolution opposing the bill first. That special meeting is scheduled for 6:40 p.m., Thursday, in conference room E of the County Office Building, located in Oswego.