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State makes emergency change in siting regulations for wind power projects

By: Special to The Daily Record , Diana Louise Carter//February 17, 2020

State makes emergency change in siting regulations for wind power projects

By: Special to The Daily Record , Diana Louise Carter//February 17, 2020//

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The New York state Department of Public Service last week revised its definition of “revision,” making it possible for a company building a wind turbine to modify its approved plans without triggering a new public hearing.

An emergency ruling in the state’s Article 10 regulations went into effect Thursday, making some “revisions” into “modifications,” which don’t require a hearing.  Before the rule becomes permanent, the public has 60 days to comment.

“These changes are being adopted on an emergency basis because a substantial number of environmentally beneficial renewable projects are currently undergoing Article 10 review and the existing definition of ‘revision’ may jeopardize their completion,” the Department of Public Service (DPS) said in a notice explaining the change.

Public hearings and the regulations guiding them could cause months of delays to wind power projects potentially leading to them never being built, which would conflict with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s goals for clean-energy development, suggested a notice from the Public Service Commission (PSC).

“Without these minor changes, the economics of projects will continue to be jeopardized in a manner that could increase costs to New York ratepayers and slow the state’s progress to combat climate change,” the commission said in a press release.

The PSC continued that delays could prevent projects from being built during the upcoming  construction season or lose out on financing opportunities, such as a federal tax credit that ends in 2020,  “potentially making it more difficult and costly for the state to meet the clean energy goals set by the Public Service Commission and the recently enacted Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, or CLCPA.” The act went into effect Jan. 1.

Though the changes came in relation to a delay on a North Country project, they could impact projects all over the state. Changes were proposed and made within a week. Details of the changes were made public just two days before they were enacted.

Save Ontario Shores, a citizen group in Orleans and Niagara counties, is opposing the regulatory change.

“We think it’s significant that the climate act is now being used to do things on an emergency basis,” said Kate Kremer, vice president of Save Ontario Shores.

“If this is considered to be an emergency, then anything that is stated by the corporation building the project as financially or otherwise impeding its operations will be determined an emergency,” SOS said in a statement about the change. “This will further erode public participation, already diminished by the unreasonably short 12-month period to litigate issues and reach a final decision. This is precisely what energy developers want.”

The changes also include removing the standard of a “500-foot bright line” within the definition of a revision. Changes made inside 500 feet from the project typically had not required a hearing, but those greater than 500 feet had required a hearing.

“They took away that 500-foot bright line,” Kremer said. “The secretary of DPS will sort of make a decision on whether it’s a modification or not.”

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