Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia) and Senator George D. Maziarz (R/C – Newfane) are calling upon the State Legislature to immediately resolve disagreements regarding the renewal of Article X of the Public Service Law, which governs the siting of major electric generating facilities.
“We agree that we have to do something to generate more electric power so we can reduce utility costs for businesses and consumers, but we have to go about it in the right way. As we look at legislation to reauthorize Article X, we need to make sure that local governments have a sufficient amount of input into the siting process if a generating facility is proposed in their community,” said Maziarz.
Enacted in 1992 and commonly referred to as Article X, the current law establishes a review process in New York for consideration of any application to construct and operate an electric generating facility with a capacity of 80 megawatts or more. An applicant must meet Article X requirements to obtain a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need before construction of any facility may begin. Article X expired January 1, 2003.
During the legislative session, there were two bills before the Legislature regarding the renewal of Article X. Governor Spitzer also submitted his own proposal, but it did not reach the floor for a vote in either house. “There were some great environmental measures included in the new Assembly proposal, but ultimately I felt the new language was too obtrusive. This would prevent the growth and diversification of our state’s energy sources. Additionally, I firmly believe that the localities must have a say when such a project is undertaken in their community,” said Hawley who voted against Assembly Bill 8697, although it was ultimately passed.
Despite passage in the Assembly, the Senate did not address this specific bill. Instead, they debated their own version of Article X renewal legislation. Senate Bill 5908 addresses many of Hawley’s concerns by providing a balanced approach to siting power plants that: is extremely protective of the environment; incorporates ample local participation; and provides a mechanism that does not ultimately preclude the construction of power plants that are truly needed. The Senate bill was passed yet it remained in the Assembly Energy Committee at the end of the legislative session.
“Even with a 5-way discussion between the Governor and the Legislative leaders, no agreement was made on this important legislation. It is imperative that the Legislature come to an agreement so that the people and businesses of our state can move forward,” Hawley continued. “Both houses need to come together and I am hopeful they will do so soon.”
Both the Assemblyman and Senator share the hope that an agreement on Article X will soon come to fruition because this law is specifically geared to the proper siting of electric generating facilities. In the meantime, wind projects and any other power plant proposals are subject to review under a more general statute entitled the State Environmental Quality Review Act or “SEQRA.” Although it would be more beneficial to have the Article X siting law re-enacted with certain improvements, there is an alternative review process in place. Therefore, Hawley and Maziarz recommend that localities continue to develop their proposals. Hawley stated, “Because there are many Article X proposals on the table and no agreement has been made, I believe it is in the best interest of our communities to move forward with plans.”
There are many energy projects under consideration in Western New York including Alabama, Hamlin and Somerset, among others.