Niagara County forming group to confront large-scale energy projects

James Neiss/staff photographerWork crews add solar panels to a solar farm on Grand Island last year. Two similar projects are bing proposed in Niagara County — one in the Cambria area and the other in the Hartland area.

Niagara County officials have created a committee to hear the ideas and concerns of those that might be impacted by large-scale renewable energy projects.

Three major renewable energy projects are being eyed at in the county. In the Cambria and Pendleton area, the Bear Ridge Solar Project would comprise 900 acres. In the Somerset and Yates area, the Lighthouse Wind Project, a 47-turbine wind project is being proposed. In Hartland and Newfane, the Ridge View Energy Center, which would comprise 1,500 acres in Hartland and 500 in Newfane is being proposed. 

All three projects have been met with fierce grassroots opposition. 

Legislature Chair Rebecca Wydysh, R-Lewiston, said Legislators David Godfrey,R-Wilson, and John Syracuse, R-Newfane, will serve as chair and vice-chairman of the new committee, respectively. A list of committee members hasn't been finalized yet, but Wydysh said she expects to have the committee members announced at the March 10 legislature meeting. 

Wydysh said the committee will be composed of a mixture of county and town officials and grassroots members in an effort to organize ideas and concerns about three controversial energy projects. She said the committee will allow county officials to engage with the grassroots members rather than just hearing their concerns for a few minutes at the end of a meeting. 

Godfrey said that he is unaware of any other county in New York that has created a committee to deal with Article 10 issues. Meetings will be open to the public and it will allow for all kinds of individuals to work together and better organize their efforts.

Several other resolutions passed this week formalized concerns of the legislators with the state law that governs the siting of large scale energy projects. 

Article 10 of the state Public Service Law puts a seven-member appointing board in charge of reviewing and permitting any electric generating facility that generates 25 megawatts or more. It allows the host municipalities to have ad hoc members on the board, but in many cases, the state has not appointed the local representatives. 

One resolution formally put the county on record as opposing the Apex clean energy project in the towns of Somerset and Yates. 

Another resolution expressed support for an assembly bill that would require a local referendum on an electric generating project in the municipality, which is not required currently. 

A late resolution that passed called for a public hearing on March 10 for Niagara County opting out of Section 487 of the New York Real Property Law that provides tax exemptions for solar or wind energy projects.

Recommended for you