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County motion opposing law regarding transmission fails

MAYVILLE – An effort by select Chautauqua County legislators to take a stand against the siting of major electric transmission facilities has fallen short.

During the recent county legislature meeting, lawmakers voted 12-5 on a motion regarding the “RAPID Act,” which stands for Renewable Action through Project Interconnection and Deployment. Motions, which are largely symbolic, require two-thirds majority to pass, so at least 13 legislators.

Voting in favor of the motion opposing the RAPID Act were Republican legislators Dalton Anthony of Frewsburg, Nina Gustafson of Busti, Tom Harmon of Silver Creek, Travis Heiser of Clymer, Phil Landy of Jamestown, Terry Niebel of Sheridan, Dan Pavlock of Ellington, John Penhollow of Stockton, Marty Proctor of Mina, Lisa Vanstrom of West Ellicott, Dave Wilfong of Jamestown, and Pierre Chagnon of Ellery.

Voting against the motion were the five Democratic legislators, Susan Parker of Fredonia, Bob Bankoski of Dunkirk, Marcus Buchanan of Dunkirk, Fred Larson of Jamestown, Tom Nelson of Jamestown, as well as Republican legislator Bob Scudder of Fredonia.

Legislator Fred Johnson of Westfield was absent.

The RAPID Act was approved by the state legislature when it adopted the budget.

In the county’s motion, it states, “The RAPID Act will undermine sound environmental review of majority electric transmission facilities by requiring ORES (Office of Renewable Energy Siting) to render a permit decision within a single year, otherwise the facility shall be automatically approved, regardless of a project size or impact on private property or conservation lands.”

During the debate on the floor, Nelson said he believes many residents in the county, including people in his own district, support the new legislation. “The RAPID Act will help streamline siting and permitting of major electric transmission infrastructure in New York. The changes will improve the current system by establishing a more efficient process with clear and concise timelines and it’s already been passed,” he said.

Larson agreed with Nelson about the fact that the RAPID Act has already been adopted by the state. He also complained about the motion in general, noting that motions have no legal authority, and county legislators are not experts in electrical transmission. “With all due respect, we should keep our nose out of things that don’t deal specifically with Chautauqua County and things that we don’t have more expertise than the legislators and the governor in Albany,” he said.

Proctor, who introduced the motion, disagreed, saying that the RAPID Act does affect Chautauqua County. “It undermines local municipalities’ authority. … We shouldn’t stay silent,” he said.

When the RAPID Act was first passed, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office issued a press release, stating “Critically, this process will be responsive to community and stakeholder feedback while bolstering the reliability and resiliency of the state’s electric grid.”

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