Fight climate change, not governor
By MARCIA JOHNSON
It was inevitable. Opponents of large-scale wind and solar projects have brought a lawsuit against the Office of Renewable Energy Siting, whose mission is to accelerate Neaw York’s move off fossil fuels. Have these opponents not heard that burning fossil fuels is heating the planet to dangerous levels, and that we must replace oil and gas with renewable energy as fast as possible? Hurricanes on the east coast are starting earlier every year. We are having record breaking weather events including heat waves all over the world, including over Antarctica and 100 degree temperatures in Canada. And we cannot forget the Deep Freeze in Texas. The Florida coast is experiencing high water levels that impacts the infrastructure, one of the causes of the building collapse in Florida. These events cost us the loss of life and billions of dollars yearly.
Triggered by Hecate Energy’s proposed Shepherd’s Run project in Copake and Craryville in Columbia County, this lawsuit is a distraction in the limited time we have to fight the climate crisis by building clean sources of power. It is also a peculiar strategy given the legal facts.
The Office of Renewable Energy Siting aims to speed the development of wind and solar projects for good reason. The climate crisis is working both slowly and dramatically to make life unlivable. What good is a bucolic view if farmland and habitats are being destroyed by drought and fire, as they are from the Pacific Northwest south to Arizona? If your town has to retreat from the coastline? If your home is washed away by a record storm surge, river, or ocean, due to the severe storms fueled by our warming waters and atmosphere?
We may not feel targeted right here now, but our children will, and their children. Wildlife is already affected. Animals and birds are moving north and migrating earlier. Habitats are changing and species are disappearing. The Audubon groups that are part of the lawsuit are taking a very shortsighted view of what risks birds face from wind turbines versus the destruction of their habitats if global warming is not abated.
The lawsuit seems to argue that ORES should be dissolved in favor of a return to the old Article 10 procedure, bringing back respect to local laws and planning boards. This is misleading. As far as the effect on local zoning laws and environmental review, the change from Article 10 to ORES is very modest. Under both processes, the state preempts local laws and can impose uniform standards, just as the federal government can preempt state laws in other situations. That’s just how our government works. That goes for environmental standards as well. Also, both Article 10 and ORES fund local opposition. The only difference between the two processes is speed, and it’s speed we need to catch up with our desperate drive to get to a carbon free electric grid by 2040, which is mandated by law in New York.
Interestingly, other communities have said yes to renewables and the economic benefits they bring. These communities see the future more clearly than the towns and groups opposed to wind and solar projects.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has led New York into the 21st century of energy, through regulations that led to the closure of coal-fired power plants and new government entities like ORES. Rather than fighting rearguard battles like bringing this lawsuit, New Yorkers must fight the much greater threat, the existential enemy – the climate crisis.
Marcia Johnson is a Fredonia resident.