October 12, 2006

Renewable energy law hearing - details

It's been a week since the renewable energy law passed, and I haven't found time to do the detailed story on the hearing that I wanted to do last Friday. Since I'm not likely to get to that, here's a summary of what happened, told from my biased perspective.

There were a few perspectives offered at the hearing:

  • I was the first speaker, and thanked the board for taking an approach that would allow residential windmills without re-igniting the battle over industrial-scale windmills that had resounded through the town last year. There were a few other people with similar themes: let's get started with small windmills, see how that goes, and then consider what else, if anything, to do.

  • There were a number of Conservation Board members, notably Tim Woods and Craig Schutt, who had concerns about the details of the proposed law and offered replacement language to modify the law. They were generally pressing for more relaxed regulation and a clearer law.

  • Ron Szymanski argued that laws which didn't support generation of electrical power specifically for off-site use were direct opposition to wind power in general.

  • Town Attorney Mahlon Perkins expressly took off his attorney hat and asked that the town move more slowly on this, as the result could be windmills cluttering the landscape long after the incentives or need for them had disappeared.

  • Carol Schmook, who's been trying to put in a residential windmill, both told the board she wanted a law and noted that construction season is likely over for this year anyway.

  • A few other people were there expressly because they were interested in putting up a windmill.

There was some back and forth over the process by which the law was written and some of the details of the law, which seems to have inconsistencies. Nonetheless, when Supervisor Trumbull asked Zoning Officer Henry Slater, Town Attorney Mahlon Perkins, and Environmental Planner Dan Kwasnowski about whether the law was workable, they all agreed it was, and the board voted to approve a negative SEQR declaration and the law itself 5-0.

This isn't the end of the story by any means. It's clear that this law is the first step in a long process of figuring out how these things fit into both the Dryden landscape and the Dryden zoning laws. It will let a few windmills get built, and give the zoning office time to figure out how these work. It doesn't allow everything I'd like to see, but it doesn't seem likely to pollute the landscape with irrevocable mistakes, either. (Town Board member Steve Stelick cited the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area as a view he'd like to avoid.) I'm guessing we'll see several amendments to this law over the next few years, as the results of the experiment become clearer.

Posted by simon at October 12, 2006 12:52 PM in ,
Note on photos