EDITORIAL: Push for more control of energy projects troubling

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Categories: Opinion

We understand why Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to make it easier to build large-scale wind and solar projects. 

The state has committed to ambitious long-term renewable energy goals that are only achievable if more of New York’s energy comes from wind and solar. 

But local resistance sometimes derails and delays these projects, making it harder for the state to increase the amount of energy it gets from green sources. 

That’s frustrating. 

But it’s also part of living in a democratic society, where local communities and regular people have the right to voice their support or opposition to new development, even when those developments serve a good purpose. 

We’re well aware of the damage our reliance on fossil fuels is causing the planet, and we support the state’s efforts to increase the amount of wind and solar power produced in New York. 

But that doesn’t mean we like the governor’s new plan to streamline — and dramatically speed up — the siting process for renewable energy plants. 

Cuomo’s plan, released late last month in amendments to his 2020-2021 state budget proposal, would increase the state’s control over the siting process, in effect undermining the cities, villages and towns where these developments would ultimately go. 

That’s unacceptable. 

New Yorkers should determine what gets built in their communities, not state bureaucrats intent on minimizing public input. 

Under the governor’s plan, the state would create an Office of Renewable Energy Permitting to oversee the permitting process for wind and solar projects.

It would also establish a new program through which the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority would collaborate with the Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Public Service to develop build-ready sites for renewable energy projects. 

We’re not opposed to the state playing a bigger role in identifying sites for renewable energy projects. 

What concerns is the idea that these projects might be pushed through without a thorough vetting from the public. 

The governor’s plan will likely be popular with developers, who share Cuomo’s desire to expedite a process that can easily be thrown into disarray by a determined group of concerned citizens. 

It’s those concerned citizens who would lose out under Cuomo’s proposal — and anyone else who wishes to get involved in a critical process with the potential to alter and reshape the character of their community. 

Green energy is good. 

So is public participation, and democracy. 

 

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