The Schoharie County Agriculture & Farmland Protection Board has gone on the record with concerns over the loss of prime farmland if NextEra Energy’s 352-acre solar project in the Town of Sharon goes through.
In a November 26, 2019 letter submitted to the state Public Service Commission, which has begun its formal review of the Article 10 project, the Agricultural & Farmland Protection Board asks the PSC to “reconsider your decision to allow the siting of solar panels on productive farmland” instead calling for the proposed solar facility to be directed to “an alternative site with lesser impact to prime farmland.”
The Ag & Farmland Protection Board’s letter is one of just eight filed with the PSC since plans for the project were first made public in 2018.
A year-long state review of the 50-megawatt proposal began January 31 and an Informational Forum on the Article 10 project will be held March 19 at the Sharon Springs Firehouse.
In a letter signed by Cobleskill dairy farmer and Chair John Radliff, the Ag & Farmland Board notes that the Town of Sharon’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Law place limits on conversions of prime farmland.
“It’s difficult to protect farmland on a local level, allegedly a priority for the State of New York, when the State decides to allow the siting of solar panels on prime farmland in a state-certified Agricultural District in an agricultural community,” Mr. Radliff wrote.
“It is contradictory and most disturbing to this Board that the State spends millions of dollars to preserve farmland in highly congested suburban areas while choosing to cover prime agricultural land in a rural area with solar panels, rendering those acres useless for agricultural production,” the letter continues.
“It is the opinion of this Board that there are better locations for this infrastructure…”
Stressing that he was speaking for himself—and not Ag & Farmland—Mr. Radlfif said Friday that while some argue that leasing or buying farmland helps farmers struggling to stay in business, it’s too little too late.
“This isn’t help…it’s an escape plan,” he said.
“Agriculture is so out of whack in this country and now we’re going to take more farmland out of production? This is some of the best farmland in the county…”
Like others, Mr. Radliff also questioned the project’s impact on tourism, even more important, he said, as the number of farms declines.
“This just shows a total disregard for rural New York,” he said, accusing Governor Andrew Cuomo and his green energy policies of “balancing New York City’s needs for power on the backs of upstate New Yorkers.”
“It’s smoke and mirrors,” he said. “We’re the garbage can.”
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The next step in the review process for the East Point Energy Center will be an Informational Forum Thursday, March 19 at the Sharon Springs Firehouse beginning at 5pm, when Administrative Law Judges will explain the Article 10 process.
A brief presentation on the project by NextEra reps will follow.
At 6pm there will be an opportunity for public comment. There may be time limits, those who wish to speak will be required to fill out a request card.
All questions and concerns will be entered into the public record and considered as the project is reviewed.
Questions and concerns may also be posted on the Town of Sharon’s website and according to the PSC, may be submitted in writing online, by mail, or by email.
When submitting to the PSC, refer to “Case 17-F-0599.”
To submit comments electronically, go to the Department of Public Service website www.dps.ny.gov and click on “Search” at the top of the page.
Enter “17-F-0599” into the “Search by Case Number” field, then clock on the “Post Comments” box at the top right of the page.
Email comments to the Honorable Michelle Phillips, secretary, at Secretary@dps.ny.gov.
Mail or hand-deliver comments to: Secretary Phillips, New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, New York 12223-1350.
All written comments will become part of the record.
There’s also a toll-free opinion line, 1-800-335-2120, set up to receive in-state calls 24 hours a day.