Free Presentation Targets Climate Action Plan Concerns
ILION—Dennis Higgins and Keith Schue will speak about the New York State Climate Action Plan in a free community presentation next Wednesday, August 16 at 7 p.m. at the Litchfield Town Hall. The presentation, titled “Can New York Combat Climate Change Without Destroying Communities?” will address such concerns as ecological impact, cost to taxpayers and the state’s accelerated renewable-siting process. The Litchfield Town Hall is located at 804 Cedarville Road, Ilion.
New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act mandates that the state’s electric grid be carbon free by 2040. According to a press release issued by Higgins and Schue, the New York Energy Research and Development Authority’s plan is to achieve this through the installation of industrial solar and wind farms across upstate New York, along with sprawling transmission lines and the giant batteries required by both wind and solar.
So, what’s the problem?
“All this industrial wind and solar would not reduce our need for the fossil-fuel power plants that currently provide dispatchable backup capacity—critical when the sun’s not shining and the wind’s not blowing,” the release reads.
According to Higgins and Schue, local interest in the subject is particularly high as Upstate New York is being targeted to provide “green” energy to New York City. They reference a foreign-owned wind developer currently working to secure 20,000 acres in Herkimer and Oneida counties to build an industrial wind operation. In the Town of Columbia, also in Herkimer County, a solar developer is working to secure 2,200 acres for solar panels along with the requisite battery storage.
“Upstate New York already has a 90 percent carbon-free grid, thanks to hydropower on the Niagara and St. Lawrence rivers, and nuclear power plants on Lake Ontario,” the presenters contend. “In fact, New York State generates more power from hydro than any state east of the Rocky Mountains.”
Higgins and Schue point out that the state’s analysis ignores not only the ecological impact of such a massive buildout, but also the cost to ratepayers. They will share hard lessons learned from similar efforts in California and Germany and highlight the rising opposition to New York’s current accelerated renewable-siting process. NYS 94-C law, passed in 2019, can ignore full environmental review and local laws in order to site industrial solar and wind projects, effectively voiding home rule. Accelerated siting allows giant companies to cover forests and farms with solar panels and massive wind turbines, threatening rural economies, the environment, and Upstate New York quality of life, they warn.
Higgins and Schue ask: “Isn’t it a mistake to pursue a flawed energy plan that sacrifices nature, increases energy costs and does little to decarbonize the grid?” They will outline their ideas on a better way to address these critical issues. A question-and-answer session will follow the presentation, which is free and open to the public.
Dennis Higgins is a retired college professor residing in Otego. He taught mathematics and computer science at the University of Scranton, St. Lawrence University, and SUNY Oneonta, and has been involved in regional energy issues for more than a decade.
Keith Schue, of Cherry Valley, has a Master’s degree in engineering and worked in the private sector for 15 years. Before moving to New York, he was employed with the Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy on issues relating to the impacts of human development and infrastructure on ecosystems. He has been engaged in New York’s energy policy since 2010, and currently volunteers as a technical advisor for New York Energy and Climate Advocates. He has provided technical input on the federal Clean Power Plan, NYS Energy Plan, NYS Clean Energy Standard, industry regulations, legislation, and various projects.