COXSACKIE — The Coxsackie Elementary School auditorium Wednesday was filled to capacity as residents and elected officials from the local and state levels addressed the Hecate Energy LLC solar project proposed for the vicinity of Farm to Market Road.
State Sen. George Amedore Jr., R-46; Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102; U.S. Rep. John Faso’s District Director Ryan McAllister; Coxsackie Town Supervisor Richard Hanse; and Coxsackie Village Mayor Mark Evans each spoke about their support for the work of Saving Greene: Citizens for Sensible Solar, a group opposed to Hecate’s nearly 400-acre solar project.Political talk
All of the speakers addressed the Article 10 process, which takes the decision-making on large-scale utility projects out of local control.
Many projects, including Athens Generating, have come and gone in Coxsackie but haven’t provided any real benefits to the village, Evans said. This point has been expressed repeatedly to Hecate representatives, Evans said.
“If we’re going to have projects that are sited here, then we should have the benefit here or in New York state,” Evans said. “I would like to see a direct benefit to myself as a taxpayer.”
The town board sees the Hecate project is three separate projects sewn together in order to fall under Article 10 guidelines, Hanse said, adding the town and village boards recently submitted a petition to the state Public Service Commission declaring the project is not a proper subject for Article 10.
“We’ll see where that goes,” Hanse said. “If they agree with us, and they should, that would be great.”
Hanse showed Tague around each of the sites Wednesday where solar is proposed and one word came to mind, the assemblyman said.
“The first word that came to my mouth was ‘enormous’ and that was startling,” Tague said.
Tague does not want to see 25 percent of the town turn into a solar farm and elected officials in Albany shouldn’t have any say in local decision-making, he said.
“I’ll be here to support this community, I’ll be here to support your local government,” Tague said.The Q&A Session
Not everyone at the meeting agreed with Saving Greene’s message.
Eric Voellm, of Coxsackie, doesn’t understand the objection to the project because it will provide clean energy to the town.
“Here we have an opportunity to supply clean energy for many, many people and it’s like, ‘No, we can’t have any solar here, geewhiz,’” Voellm said. “I thought as a country and as a culture we were looking for clean energy.”
Greene County has plenty of brownfields, or formerly developed land, that should be used for solar projects before bucolic farmland is used, Saving Greene member Kim Rose said.
“Nobody wants solar in their backyard; it’s just not pretty,” she said. “Let’s exhaust all of the brownfields we have in Greene County.”
The Article 10 process leaves all decisions on large-scale projects in the hands of the developer and the land owner, Kim Rose said.
“I think that’s what people are missing when they say ‘Well, the farmer has a right,’” she said. “Yes he has a right, but what about all the people that live around that parcel? What about their rights?
The project’s size was debated by Saving Greene members and Mark Flach, whose property is being used for the proposed project.
“It’s 400 acres of solar, not 933, on my property,” Flach said.
Group member Jeffrey Rose asked Flach not to disrupt the meeting, saying the landowner had a chance to share his thoughts at a Tuesday town board public hearing on a proposed solar law.
“You had your ability to speak last night,” Jeffrey Rose said.Reaction
Voellm considers solar farms to be architectural wonders and schools can take children on field trips to them, he said after the meeting, adding Coxsackie residents tend to resist any project proposed in town.
“Everybody’s first reaction is before they even hear what is said is no,” Voellm said. “We have enough bucolic scenery in Greene County. You’ve got mountains upon mountains upon mountains.”
Karen Gunderson, of Coxsackie, asked the group about solar panels catching fire, which is a concern for her, she said.
“If they’re going to put it around people’s homes and there it goes, the whole thing will blow up,” Gunderson said. “They can’t do anything about it if there’s a fire. It’ll just burn.”
An issue that hasn’t been brought up is what to do with the weeds on the land proposed for solar, Gunderson said.
“How are they going to do that? Poison and that poison is going to go into the ground and that’s going to go into the water,” she said.
Saving Greene members vowed to continue hosting informational meetings on a monthly basis as needed, Kim Rose said after the meeting, adding varying viewpoints were heard and expected.
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