In a surprise move for many who closely follow of major electric generating facilities in New York, The New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment (the “Siting Board”) voted to deny North Side Energy Center LLC’s Application for a permit to build and operate a 180 Megawatt solar facility in the towns of Brasher, Massena and Norfolk in St. Lawrence County. North Side Energy Center LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC. This is the first such denial the Siting Board under Public Service Law Article 10.
In 2020, New York opted to allow Article 10 to sunset and pursue siting of major electric generating facilities under a new regulatory regime found in 94-c of the Executive Law and administered by the newly formed Office of Renewable Energy Siting (“ORES”).
While North Side Energy was one of the few remaining projects under the Siting Board’s jurisdiction, the message to Applicants was clear: some projects are simply too detrimental to the existing environment to justify approval. In this case, the Siting Board found that the adverse environmental impacts to wetlands and threatened and endangered species were not minimized or avoided to the maximum extent practicable. It’s notable that 67% of the project area was proposed to be located in regulated wetlands. Similarly, multiple threatened and endangered species had been observed within the project area, with nearly 900 acres of potential habitat for those species. The Siting Board said, “Although the CLCPA includes specific requirements for the development of renewable energy, it does not override other statutory obligations to preserve, protect, and conserve environmental resources, including freshwater wetlands.”
The Siting Board explicitly addressed how its rejection of NextEra’s application was consistent with the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act’s (“CLCPA”) mandated goal of a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and to reach economy wide carbon neutrality. It is unclear what ripple effect this decision will have on projects still in the pipeline.
For inquiries about the process for siting large power plants, please contact Bridget O’Toole. The Zoghlin Group, PLLC represents municipalities, individuals, groups, and businesses with legal needs relating to power plant siting at the state and local levels, environmental law, zoning and land use issues, and municipal law.
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