ONEIDA, NY — New York state has extended the public comment portion of its scoping plan to July 31. The Draft Scoping Plan is the State’s plan to enact New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, or Climate Act.
Climate Act officials, as part of the state’s Department of Environmental conservation, had sent out various experts to formalize a plan to continue their work. Madison County’s Board of Supervisors objected to the findings because they felt not enough local voices, especially among farmers, would agree with the state’s findings. The board had wanted the state to extend its comment period until December.
“The Climate Action Plan will have a huge impact on every New Yorker. We appreciate the DEC extending the timeline,” Madison County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Becker said. “However, we feel with how important and drastic some of these changes are, the window for public comment should be extended until the end of the year.”
The county board voted unanimously on May 10 to ask the DEC to extend the public comment period until the end of 2022. This will allow the state to receive accurate feedback from its residents and also local experts before proceeding with any plans.
“Madison County does not believe that the plan has been vetted well enough by the public,” Becker said last month. “This document is being drafted by individuals who do not understand that rural New York state is not the same as the cities. This plan will change our rural landscape forever.”
The public comment portion of the scoping plans ends June 10. Online comment forms are available at:
Email comments may be sent to [email protected]
Written letters may be sent to Draft Scoping Plan Comments, NYSERDA, 17 Columbia Circle, Albany, NY, 12203.
Becker and the board agree that the plan disregards how replacing solar panels on productive farmland with solar panels has on the local food supply, or how the cost of transition from carbon to all-electric power and heat sources would impact businesses and residents.
“We are not against finding ways to limit our carbon footprint or creating more efficient ways to power our vehicles and our homes,” Becker said at last month’s meeting. “However, taking over valuable farmland for solar panels is not the answer.”
Some local farmers agree. Stu Houck is a local farm worker who is considering buying a farm in the county. He said not all county farmers want more green energy.
“I drive to work in the town of Fenner, and I see signs on the road saying green power or windmills are not welcome there,” he said.
The last Census of Agriculture in New York State was in 2017. According to the census, Madison County has 171,865 acres of active agriculture. the county is aware of solar projects that, either in the planning stages or completed, generate 233 megawatts of wind-powered electricity.
It takes about six acres of solar to generate one megawatt on average, and that would equate to 1,398 acres. In most cases, farms don’t actually sell. Instead, they lease the land, but it is not useable farmland when the solar panels are on it.
“It’s not worth losing this precious farmland just for the sake of a quick payday,” Vicki Townsend, who owns five farms in the Town of Lenox, said. “My son has been offered some good money for his farmland and he’s not taking the offer.”
The Climate Act commits New York to reduce greenhouse emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The act is the most aggressive green-energy plan to reduce greenhouse gases and install green energy as an eventual replacement for fossil fuels, in the country.
Greenhouse gases, or GHGs, are compound gases that trap heat or longwave radiation in the atmosphere.
These gases warm the planet and will, according to some sources, warm the planet to dangerous levels. This theory is known as the Greenhouse Effect.
The main gases responsible for the greenhouse effect include the natural gases carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor, and synthetic, man-made fluorinated gases. Fears abound that the man-made gases will cause global warming and will make life on the earth unsustainable.
Sunlight or shortwave radiation passes through these gases and the atmosphere to warm the earth. Gases actually trap heat and make the planet livable. Without these gases, the earth’s temperature would be too cold to sustain life. Several criticisms exist that dispute climate change, and some believe the call to combat climate change is politically motivated.
Madison County logo as seen outside of the highway garage in Eaton, NY. (File photo)