Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Aubertine Wins. Will Wind-Energy Win in NY State?

Maple Ridge Wind Farm, Tug Hill Plateau, Northern NYState
Photo by Jude Nagurney Camwell

The ripples from NY State Senate Democratic candidate Darrel Aubertine's historic special election victory for State Senate in the 48th District last night against Republican Will Barclay is being felt all the way to Albany, where Republicans have controlled the Senate for four decades. At the Daily Kos website, an Albany-based Democratic activist spreads the joy at the thought that Democrats, while heading toward November, are now one seat closer to taking control of the state Senate where the GOP's majority is now down to two seats [32-30].

The 48th District includes voters in the Northen NY counties of Jefferson, St.Lawrence, and Oswego. The region has more than its share of rural familes who have had trouble meeting the cost of high fuel bills generated by the need to heat their homes througout the tough Upstate winter.

One sometimes-contentious debate between the two candidates has been the respective stands on which they've taken over the region's energy demands, which have continued to increase although no new large power plants are being sited and one lies dormant in the balance between indecision and expired law. While both candidates supported alternative energies that were not limited to wind and nuclear power, I think that Aubertine was the more convincing spokesperson for the benefits of wind power in Upstate New York and less willing to accept business-as-usual on the Energy issue in NY State.

Alternative/Green Energy Solutions Win the Day in New York

In New York, there are currently six operating wind farms, five under construction, and at least 30 more planned. As you can imagine, New York has been inundated with proposals to build wind turbines and wind turbine ‘farms’ or ‘parks’.

An article from the Watertown Daily Times by Jude Seymour [quoted below] explains the difference on where the two candidates, Barclay and Aubertine, stood on Green energy-project regulation, involving Article X, a NY State Public Service law designed to streamline the siting review and approval process for major electric generating facilities, which has expired and is waiting to be newly authorized.

Power producers say the measure, which is to replace the expired Article X, is needed to attract investment in plants and to avoid electricity shortages. The ISO has warned that parts of the state could face shortages if new plants are not built by 2012.

Article X has given the state authority to override local objections to power plants and, since the law expired, State lawmakers have been unable to agree on a new bill in which major divergence ofopinion betweenRepublicanand Democrat is on the fuel sources. The Democratic-controlled Assembly has wanted to lower the plant-threshold from plants of 80-megawatt capacity to plants of 30 MW capacity. Democrats also aim to allow more local/community input on what will happen in their communities and wish to pay more regulated attention to Environmental Justice issues. Last May, the Republican-controlled NY State Senate passed a measure allowing nuclear and coal plants while the Democrat-controlled State Assembly allowed only coal plants that did not increasing global warming.

I believe, after looking at his stand on the Energy issue, that Aubertine's win is a vote of public confidence and acceptance for more wind power and other alternative energy projects in the region:

Last May, Mr. Aubertine voted for an Assembly bill, A8697, that would have revived Article X. At the time, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said the bill made "critical improvements to the law by enhancing health, safety and environmental protections as well as significantly improving community participation in siting decisions."

Any power plant that met or exceeded a 30-megawatt threshold would be subject to Article X, the bill said. That would include all proposed wind farms in Jefferson County.

Mr. Barclay voted against the bill, citing what it excluded.

"We would love to get another nuclear facility in Oswego County," he said. "With the Article X bill, it excluded nuclear power. It would have gone through the standard permitting process. That could make it more difficult to site a plant in Oswego County."

The Assembly bill also excluded waste-to-energy facilities and coal facilities that would not reduce carbon dioxide emissions, according to a May memo by the Independent Power Producers of NY Inc.

"By excluding these types of generating facilities from the Article X siting process, the bill limits the state's ability to obtain fuel-diverse electricity supplies to help maintain electric system reliability, and the bill creates competitive disadvantages among companies and between technologies," the memo noted. A Senate companion bill, S5908, passed that house but remains in the Assembly Energy Committee.

Mr. Aubertine said he "would certainly consider" a modification to the Assembly bill to make the siting process more fuel and technology neutral.

- Jude Seymour

When it comes to new "green" power generation, there will always be the NIMBY problem ["not in my backyard"]. For environmentalists, the inescapable paradox to obtaining alternative energy is the eventual need to place the green energy-producers on virgin land. In last summer's NY Times, author Henry S.F. Cooper, who is clearly speaking for the NIMBYs among us, suggested a legal alternative regarding Article X, and that is to:

"..give New York’s commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation a veto on approving turbine siting. All these bills are steps in the right direction; they have critical elements that are worth incorporating into the new Article X legislation, to assure burdened upstate towns that community character and historic and scenic resources will be protected."

Monks Seek To Break Wind in Mohawk Valley

Pardon the odd take on words, I mean absolutely no disrespect. The "break" of which I speak is related to the NIMBY issue and to Henry S.F.Cooper, who is quoted directly above. Added to the recipe of NIMBY is certainly a religious freedom issue. This dispute isn't taking place in Darrel Aubertine's 48th District, but is happening further South in NY State, precisely in Jordanville, a lovely town with lush rolling hills in the Mohawk Valley region where there's a plan to erect 68 wind-turbines within view of Otsego Lake.

From The Little Falls Times, January 7, 2008:
[..] JORDANVILLE — The Holy Trinity Monastery of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad is opposed to the 136-megawatt Jordanville wind project.

Its opposition to the proposed Iberdrola Renewable Energies USA wind farm received a boost Friday when the nonprofit Preservation League of New York State added the campus to its annual list of the state’s most endangered historic resources, “Seven to Save.”

Opponents to wind-power near Jordanville say:

[from article]: "The 49 wind turbines, some as close as one mile from the monastery’s 750 acres of agricultural and scenic lands, would impact the views from landmarks and places of prayer. It is for that reason that Holy Trinity Monastery was named to Seven to Save."

Proponents for windpower say:
[from article]"..Others contend that the turning rotor blades will not disturb the serenity that the monks and pilgrims have long sought.

“It’s disappointing that some opponents of clean energy have abandoned honest argument and are now using underhanded tricks in order to block the development of clean energy in New York State. There is simply no reason that the Holy Trinity Monastery cannot coexist with a wind farm for decades to come. Clean energy projects can and should be developed in concert with the protection of New York’s landscape and historic structures. This project is good for Jordanville, good for Central New York and good for New York State. The community of Jordanville should reject this dishonest attempt to curb the development of this important project in the effort to make New York green again,” said Carol Murphy, executive director of the Albany-based Alliance for Clean Energy New York, in a written statement.

F.O.R.E. (Friends of Renewable Energy), a southern Herkimer County-based citizen’s group dedicated to leading the way for green energy, issued a statement that said the issue is not the monastery, but those who are using it as a pawn to “squash any and all wind farms that try to come into the area so that visitors and residents won’t have to see them, in the distance, if the conditions are right and there is nothing in the way.”

From Cooperstown, NY's Freeman's Journal July 6, 2007:[...] "...the monks at Holy Trinity Monastery, the Russian Orthodox Church’s spiritual headquarters overseas, have begun a cycle of “molebin,” prayers of supplication somewhat like the Roman Catholic novena, and as many as a dozen people from the community have been attending.