Monday, September 19, 2022

The Adirondacks’ largest solar project to date

benson mine solar

In April of last year, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state’s first “build-ready” solar project to be hosted on the old tailings pile of Benson Mines in the Town of Clifton. Well, we’re seeing this 20-megawatt facility again, with plans for more than 62,000 panels, this time with confirmation that the Adirondack Park Agency must weigh in on its approval. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has applied for permits including for a large, public utility, and APA commissioners will decide whether to sign off at their board meeting on Thursday. (Editor’s note: The project was approved. See story here.)

APA commissioners  approved Lyme Timber Company’s proposal to harvest 824 acres within the Perkins Clearing Tract. The property, according to the APA’s agenda, is within a New York State Working Forest Conservation Easement. There’s plenty more for discussion on the agenda, which you can check out here: https://apa.ny.gov/Mailing/2022/09/FullAgency/AgencyMonthlyAgendaSep2022.pdf. And if you’re really interested in learning more, the day’s meeting materials (draft permits and all) are posted here: https://apa.ny.gov/Mailing/2022/09/index.htm.

Speaking of timber, the state Department of Environmental Conservation is hosting two public comment hearings on proposed changes to the state’s forest tax law program, also known as Real Property Tax Law Section 480a. According to a DEC news release, the changes proposed include:

  • Extending the period an approved forest management plan would cover from 15 years to 20 years and requiring fewer plan updates;
  • Providing more flexibility to enrolled landowners to complete forestry treatments by changing the work schedule from year-by-year deadlines to a 10-year work window;
  • Strengthening forest sustainability requirements on enrolled lands, such as explicitly banning high grading and requiring efforts to establish adequate forest regeneration. High grading involves removing most of the commercially valuable trees at the expense of future growth and future financial return, often leaving a forest in poor condition; and
  • Establishing a training requirement for consulting foresters working with Forest Tax Law clients to help set clear expectations and standardize Forest Tax Law administration across the state.

The proposed changes would go into effect on March 1, 2023.

You might recall the state comptroller released an audit of this program in the spring that found the DEC was not monitoring private forest owners receiving these special tax breaks.

The DEC is accepting public comments on these changes through Sept. 19 to NYSDEC Private Lands and Forest Utilization Section, Bureau of Forest Resource Management 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-7254 or by email to: bslmregs@dec.ny.gov. For more information about the new and revised regulations, as well as how to participate in the public comment hearings go to https://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/125735.html.

In case you missed it, the Adirondack Council also released its annual State of the Park report. In its introduction, Communications Director John Sheehan called the park “stressed and challenged.”

“Congress fights more than it governs,” Sheehan wrote. “Environmental progress is challenging, at best.” Sheehan and the council were critical of some state and local politicians, opting not to name names in some instances, while calling others out directly. Several politicians received “thumbs up” including Republican state Sen. Dan Stec and Democrat Assemblyman Billy Jones for working together on a plan for the former Debar Lodge in Franklin County. The Adirondack Park Agency received mostly criticism from the council, though it did praise Gov. Kathy Hochul’s appointment of Benita Law-Diao to the board.

The council was also in the news for calling on the APA to implement a new policy prohibiting private weapons testing in the park. The letter came shortly after our story about ballistics testing of military cannons proposed in the town of Lewis. 

I talked with David Lombardo, host of the WCNY radio program The Capitol Pressroom, about our reporting on the 1996 Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act. You can listen to that here: https://capitolpressroom.org/2022/09/12/a-1-75-billion-environmental-learning-experience/.

Photo: View to the west toward Star Lake near J&L (Jones & Laughlin) Steel Co. entrance. The proposed solar project site sits across State Route 3 from the former ore processing site known as the Benson Mine. The pond on the right is the former pit, now flooded. During the 1950s, the mine was considered the largest open pit mine in the world with over 800 employees. Star Lake is located where Route 3 disappears from view. Also visible is the Star Lake Solid Waste Transfer Station (white building on left side of Route 3), a mine tailing pile (directly across the highway from the transfer station), and a Department of Environmental Conservation boat washing station (small brown building, bottom center). Photo by Tom French

Editor’s note: This first appeared in Gwen’s weekly “Adirondack Report” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Gwen is the environmental policy reporter for Adirondack Explorer.




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