How does rural NY protect against disaster?
By Andrew Harris
The business of creating energy has always had risks. We’ve lived through countless natural disasters with oil and gas energy production. The cycle of clean ups and new regulations and innovations followed each disaster from the Exxon Valdez to the Deepwater Horizon. That disaster in the Gulf of Mexico seems to have been the last straw, when the momentum for “green energy,” really went mainstream.
In 2014 then NY Governor Andrew Cuomo put the “fracking” debate to rest with a temporary ban that became permanent in 2021, just before he left office in disgrace.
Cuomo’s personal faulter didn’t stop the momentum at all. Now Governor Kathy Hochul has doubled-down on green energy, especially wind energy. That policy has subsidized a massive investment in off-shore wind and inland wind farms. Wellsville NY based Ljungstrom has been a direct beneficiary of that policy and offered real hope for a long beleagured facility. Read our previous reporting on that business news:
Hundreds of jobs and rebirth of manufactuaring jobs in Allegany County created a sudden paradox for rural, Republican Allegany and Steuben counties. The upsides of the green energy movement had become tangibles and that softened the blow for many who dislike the sudden windturbines on the landscape. Becoming part of the future of domestic energy production seemed exciting and very few talked about the risks.
The Lojacono family from Buffalo New York bought a nice tract of land in southern Allegany County for a family retreat. When the news that wind energy developers were interested in a wind farm across their little slice of heaven the family starting waving big red flags. They lobbied fellow landowners, politicans, and even offered a public information session to the community about the downside of wind development. The bottom line of the case that the Lojacono’s made was that landowners and local governments must be aware of the dark side of wind energy. They implored local governments like the Town of Independence to write tough laws and they advised landowners to hire legal counsel before they signed any agreements. Read our reporting on meeting that the Lojacono sponsored event with industry lawyer Chris Denton:
The argument mirrored that which many had tossed at the oil and gas industry for years: Unfair land leases, deceptive promises of financial gain, environmental hazards, and a big issue with clean up. Many of the arguments that environmentalists have used to decrease oil and gas production are now being used to warn against wind, and to a lesser degree, solar energy. Noticeably, local environmental groups have had no comment on the disaster in Rexville in late March.
Like most things human, we don’t take dramatic action until after the disaster. Now that a local wind turbine has exploded, and by many accounts caused both environmental and personal damage, the Lojacono red flags have become, “We tried to warn you but we will still try to help you.”
The easy solution is to stop putting up wind turbines but that seems very unlikely in New York. The hard solution is imploring local town governments(the county has very little power in this case,) to work together on establishing the best wind and solar farm laws possible. Of course, New York State law controls many of the variables and local ability to flat reject wind development has been neutered by Albany.
If you listen to the Lojcono argument, local governments can still have some control over their destiny. One tool that town boards have is bonding requirements for energy developers. If you want to build a wind farm, or a solar farm, then the insurance policy must be sufficient to compel compliance and protect citizens in the event that disaster strikes.
Now that disaster has landed in Rexville NY we will learn how well the local law protected the population and what kind of protections the lease agreements provide those impacted.
I suspect that what is learned from this disaster will inform how towns like Wellsville, Willing, and Independence begin to react with local legislation efforts.
What do you think ? This poll has three answers, which camp do you fall into?
Thanks to Hart’s Jewelry on Main Street in Wellsville for sponsoring our regular poll questions. If you haven’t been in the store lately, it is well worth the visit to buy a special gift or just dream about the future. They have a new website that can get you shopping from home: HartsJewelry.com