Rotterdam’s ban on big solar arrays violates state law.

By Oliver Townsend Jun 25, 2024
Rotterdam ban on large-scale solar arrays runs afoul to state law.jpegOrginal image from: https://www.dailygazette.com/news/rotterdam-solar-array-ban/article_19fdf838-326c-11ef-aba2-9f5c3e222bd0.html

Rotterdam, a town known for its scenic landscapes and natural resources, is facing a dilemma regarding the implementation of large-scale solar arrays. A proposed solar energy law aiming to preserve the town’s rural character has run afoul of state regulations, raising questions about local control and compliance with climate change goals. Let’s delve into the details of this controversial issue and explore the implications for Rotterdam and its residents.

The Rotterdam Solar Energy Law Controversy

The proposed solar energy facilities law in Rotterdam seeks to regulate all solar-energy systems and ban those exceeding 25 megawatts. This move is intended to align with the town’s Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2022, emphasizing the preservation of natural resources and the rural charm of Rotterdam. However, the ordinance faces challenges due to conflicts with state laws, particularly Section 94-C of the Executive Law.

State Regulations vs. Local Control

Section 94-C, established in 2020, created the Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) to oversee large-scale renewable energy projects, superseding local control for systems over 25 megawatts. The law aims to streamline the permitting process to meet New York’s ambitious climate change goals. Despite this, the Rotterdam proposal argues for the importance of local laws, citing a section of the statute that emphasizes compliance with applicable regulations.

Constitutional Crossroads and Legal Challenges

Rotterdam Town Board member Joseph Mastroianni views the state’s authority over solar projects as a violation of local Home Rule powers granted by the Constitution. He questions whether the town should yield to state mandates or uphold its autonomy in zoning decisions. The proposed law’s reliance on outdated statutes and the repeal of Section 94-C further complicates the legal landscape, prompting discussions on potential legal challenges and constitutional rights.

Implications and Future Steps

The controversy surrounding Rotterdam’s solar array ban underscores the complex interplay between local governance, state regulations, and environmental goals. As the town grapples with balancing preservation efforts and renewable energy initiatives, stakeholders must navigate legal uncertainties and community concerns. The upcoming public hearing on the proposed solar ordinance will be a critical juncture for addressing these issues and shaping the town’s energy future.

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