Green is supposed to unite us all under one color. Wind power, solar power and electrically powered automobiles are supposed to unshackle us from dependency on fossil fuels that pollute our air and cause climate change.

Now, local officials are pointing to more practical considerations. They worry that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget amendment to overhaul the permitting process for solar farms will leave them out of the picture.

The amendment, announced Feb. 21, would create a new Office of Renewable Energy Permitting, replacing the current Siting Board process known as Article 10.

This could accelerate the development of solar farms across Greene and Columbia counties, including Hecate Energy’s proposed 700-acre facility in Copake and the Flint Mine solar project in Coxsackie.

This should be a virtue, but there is a problem. Under the Article 10 review process, each project’s review board includes two local representatives appointed by their communities. But those local representatives would be eliminated in the permitting process, instead leaving decisions to the new office, which would be part of the Department of Economic Development.

It’s right to make green the goal, but Cuomo is moving too fast to supplant the Siting Board, an action that would omit the voices of local communities.

This seemingly impulsive action will discard virtually all municipal testimony when it comes to siting a solar field or wind farm. The communities affected by solar projects will have no say, or even representation.

We’re in favor of renewable energy, but proper siting and planning are vitally important to the entire cycle of sustainability. The governor needs to slow down, consult some sensible members of the state Legislature and understand that shutting local governments out of siting development will be a travesty.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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