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    Litigants tell energy agency to do 'hard work' now


    August 11, 2022 - Benjamin Joe, Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, N.Y.

     

      Aug. 11—An appeal has been filed in case against the New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting Regulations in an effort to stop large-scale solar and wind energy facilities across the state until regulations are reshaped

      (ORES).The original suit was dismissed by Supreme Court Justice Pete Lynch in October of 2021.

      The 11 petitioners include the Towns of Copake, Malone, Somerset and Yates, as well as groups, Save Ontario Shores, Cambria Opposition to Industrial Solar, Clear Skies Above Barre, the American Bird Conservancy, Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society, Genesee Valley Audubon Society and the Rochester Birding Association.

      Litigants claimed in a press release that the office and its acting director, Houtan Moaveni, did not make the regulations in a vacuum and were actually written by a consultant group called Tetra Tech, which has designed renewable energy facilities in New York, leading to accusations of a conflict of interest. However, the arguments made in the original suit continue to be the crux of the petitioner's claims.

      The first claim is that ORES did not do "the hard work" required to ensure that regulations do not miss potential environmental impacts.

      Supervisor Jim Simon of the Town of Yates said that renewable energy companies will override and ignore local citizens who have legitimate environmental concerns. Upon getting a permit, the companies will follow the regulations that ORES has set, and not check on each individual site's unique character.

      Simon also said that ORES's regulations received over 5,000-comments during a public response period running between November of 2020 and March of 2021, but they were all brushed aside by the agency.

      "The hard work should be done while making the regulations," Simon said. "(Now) if a municipality says that 250-feet, for example, is too short an easement, there's not any discussion because the regulations are in effect."

      While the New York Supreme Court accepted ORES's explanation that each project would be judged in a case by case fashion, Simon said he believed the appellate court will see his fellow petitioners' point of view.

      The second piece of the lawsuit is "home rule" and its removal in the case of renewable energy projects.

      A constitutional right in New York State, "home rule" is the control local governments have on projects within their boundaries. The law that brought ORES into existence, known as Article 94-c, gave the agency the power to override local zoning laws if they were too burdensome to the project.

      Simon said he believes the lawsuit will move forward and ORES will be forced to take a "hard look" at its regulations before proceeding with siting projects. However, if not, he paints a grim picture.

      Noting that once a project has a permit, Simon said, that if ORES does not specifically shut it down, the project will be automatically sited in one year's time. He hopes the courts will, at least, deem that aspect to be stricken from the regulations. "At the very least, no year-long clock would be good," he said. "As environmental study is necessary, there should be no deadline as ORES takes a hard look at the impacts."

      Tetra Tech did not respond to calls for comment.

      ___

      (c)2022 the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (Lockport, N.Y.)

      Visit the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (Lockport, N.Y.) at lockportjournal.com

      Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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