Press Releases

Guidelines Proposed for Adirondack Clean Energy Development

Advocates Call on the State to Encourage Renewable Energy and Combat Climate Change

ALBANY, N.Y. – The Adirondack Park has a unique role to play in leading the United States and the world toward solutions to catastrophic global climate change by generating more clean energy and capturing more carbon than it already does, the Adirondack Council said today.

The Adirondack North Country’s hydro-power facilities already generate more emissions-free electricity than its residents use. Adirondack forests capture over 600,000 metric tons of carbon annually (equal to the entire carbon footprint for more than 70,000 New York residents). But opportunities exist for additional clean power generation and more carbon sequestration that would be appropriate inside the Adirondack Park, the organization said.  

“Climate change is the defining environmental threat for our generation, impacting water, air, wildlands and people,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “The future preservation of the Adirondacks requires more be done to combat climate change.”

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a Green New Deal that will give New York a “national leading environmental agenda.” The Governor’s goals include “100 percent clean power by 2040,” a plan to “eliminate the state’s carbon footprint,” and protection of the Adirondacks.

Environmental leaders in the State Legislature, including Assemblyman Steve Englebright, D-Setauket, and Senators Todd Kaminsky, D-Long Beach, and Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, are among those sponsoring the Climate and Community Preservation Act that calls for a carbon free economy by 2050.

Janeway announced that the Adirondack Council’s board of directors recently approved a set of principles that the State, including the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), should adopt to guide development of expanded renewable energy capacity inside the park, to fight climate change, and to provide benefits to communities. Clean energy generation is one portion of the complex suite of solutions for avoiding a climate crisis, he said, noting that details over project location, scope, visibility, local benefits and other factors were also important.

Multiple state entities including the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Public Service Commission and State Energy Research and Development Authority are involved in implementing the state’s and the Governor’s climate agenda. The APA accepted comments in December 2018 on a “Draft Policy for Renewable Energy Production and Energy Supply.”

The Agency said at the time that “the purpose of the policy is to provide guidance for the review and approval of renewable energy projects inside the Adirondack Park with regards to the Adirondack Park Agency Act, the Freshwater Wetlands Act and the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act.” The APA said “the policy is intended to ensure that the APA: embraces the New York State Energy Plan….” along with other objectives.

The Council’s statement of principles notes:

“Global climate change poses real, long-term threats to the Adirondack Park’s natural and human communities and the world. Global action to aggressively address this threat starts at the local and landscape level. As the largest park in the continental US, the Adirondack Park can be a model for a large public/private conservation landscape combating climate change. In the Adirondacks this equals protection of nature, more carbon sequestration, more clean energy, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, more resilient communities, and stabilized energy production and supply infrastructure.

“Protected, undisturbed forestlands serve a vital role in mitigating climate change by sequestering human-generated greenhouse gases (GHG). Scientific studies show that land stewardship is the most effective method to capture GHG. With millions of acres of forest lands throughout the Park, people across New York State derive significant benefits from the health and vibrancy of the Park’s landscape.

“Natural landscapes, and the Adirondacks in particular, play a vital role in mitigating climate change. As one of the largest unfragmented, forested landscapes in the nation, the Park is able to absorb more CO2 than its local human communities produce and is functionally carbon negative. This is an enormous benefit and should serve an integral role in carbon reduction as NY strives to have carbon-zero power production by 2040. Given its ability to mitigate the impacts of climate change, protection of the Adirondack Park Forest Preserve and other undeveloped lands within the Blue Line, serves all of New York and should be celebrated as a central component of a robust climate mitigation effort.

“The path towards a cleaner future is rooted in natural landscape protection, the propagation of renewable energy sources, and the adoption of energy conservation practices. The Adirondack Council will advocate for renewable energy projects and policies that protect the Park and its communities.

“Efforts should focus on engaging community, municipal, and governmental decision-makers on Adirondack appropriate renewable energy solutions, facilitating innovation and technology that fits the scale and scope of the Park, and leading on understanding how to mitigate climate change at a regional scale. In this capacity, the Park will serve as a global model for supporting accelerated renewable energy development while preserving critical natural resources across a conserved landscape.”

The Adirondack Council will support renewable energy development policies or projects that:

  1. Defend Forever Wild (Article XIV) and Intensify Carbon Sequestration Efforts: Keep growing trees and sequestering more carbon and biomass on the Forest Preserve and private forest lands. Do not weaken “Forever Wild” protections. Forests within the Adirondack region play a significant role in carbon sequestration at a globally significant scale. Projects should not erode the essential value the Park’s public and private forests play in mitigating climate change.
  1. Maximize Energy Conservation: Reduce energy consumption and institutionalize conservation practices that reduce local and regional energy demand.
  1. Ensure Decisions are Science-Based: Use the best available science to determine the most appropriate design, siting, placement and scale of renewable projects to minimize and mitigate impacts to water, wildlife, vegetation, habitat, soil and other natural resources.

  2. Support Renewable Energy: Promote localized solar, hydro, small scale wind generation to reduce emissions. Maximize underground energy transmission infrastructure. Support a climate-smart, energy-smart, resilient and clean green energy Park. Encourage renewable energy development, with partners, through comprehensive regional, local and state planning and zoning to accelerate developments in a manner consistent with other land-use goals.
  1. Use Careful Siting and Design to Minimize (but accept some) Visual and Other Impacts: The aesthetic value and beauty of the Adirondack landscape is one of the Park’s great treasures. Potential projects should consider the following elements to minimize visual and other impacts:
    1. Placement matters. Use the best available science to site and design renewable energy projects. Ensure that individual and net cumulative visual impact of renewable energy development and associated infrastructure on open space, scenic vistas, prime farmland and working forests are minimized and mitigated to the extent practicable to protect ecological integrity, viewsheds and the Park’s wild forest character.
    2. Avoid wetlands, impacts to rare wildlife and critical wildlife habitat and migration corridors, ridgelines, steep slopes and sensitive geological and hydrogeological sites.
    3. Protect wildlife corridors. As the impacts of climate change continue to worsen over time, altering the physical landscapes and ecosystems of wildlife, the Adirondack Park’s large open spaces on both public and private lands will play ecologically significant roles in creating wildlife corridors as they migrate to survive. Projects should assess and seek to minimize to the (maximum) extent possible impacts to existing and projected wildlife habitat and migratory corridors.
    4. Scale matters. Renewable energy projects need to be North Country- and community-centered to support Adirondack regional energy needs. Prioritize local and distributed energy resources over bulk power, but support more renewable energy development and net export of green power as long as other principles are met.
    5. Individual projects should to the extent possible, be located in or near communities on disturbed, developed, “infill” or industrial lands.
    6. Co-location, such as solar on rooftops, should be the priority. Projects should adhere to best practices (such as using pollinator-friendly plantings to support bees around solar panels or accounting for bird migrations for wind turbines).
    7. Transmission infrastructure. Project review should include an assessment of how energy will be connected to the grid. Using existing ROWs and burying power lines should be preferred over new right of ways for aesthetic reasons.
    8. Decommissioning. Plans and funding should be available for eventual decommissioning, replacement with new technology, and/or site restoration.
  1. Promote and Generate Community Benefits: Renewable energy projects can and should deliver local economic benefits to Park residents and communities. Projects should help keep local energy costs low. Efforts should foster a “right-to-renewables” mentality to encourage community buy-in on the localized use and siting of renewable energy, such as community solar projects, and seek to aid in connecting communities with state incentives and grant opportunities to help catalyze renewable projects throughout the Park. Promote community engagement and participation in state-led renewable energy projects, investments and initiatives.
  1. Use Best Available Technologies: Mitigate environmental impacts with the best available technologies. Learn from other regions and recognize that technology will continue to evolve. Build in flexibility to accommodate advances in science and other changes.
  1. Foster Public Engagement, Transparency and Education in the Review Process:
    Encourage stakeholder and community participation in clean energy and climate-smart programs; support public education on renewable energy benefits; foster trans-jurisdictional information sharing; and, as technologies change, commit to upgrading standards and best practices. In addition, seek ways to foster the engagement of people of all ages in renewable energy projects and advocacy efforts, as climate change will continue to be the prominent issue of future generations.
  1. Strengthen Public Knowledge on Renewable Energy: Support and engage in educational efforts for a wide audience, particularly for stakeholders and policymakers. Education should be used to clarify renewable energy technologies, their benefits (air and water quality, economics, etc.), distribution (community generated distribution), and more.

  2. In Whole, Support a Climate Smart, Sustainable, Protected Adirondack Park: In sum, individual projects and the cumulative impact of multiple projects should support and advance the protection of the ecological integrity of the Adirondacks. Projects should be a net positive contributor to the Park being a model for how a globally special public-private conservation landscape does its share in the global effort to combat climate change while protecting the unique nature of the Park for the future.

While state officials will review the details of and provide an opportunity for public comment for each project, policy change or proposal, proposals consistent with these principles should be supported and approved, Janeway said.

The Adirondack Council is a privately funded not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park.  he Council envisions a Park with clean water and clean air, comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by farms and working forests, as well as vibrant communities. 

The Adirondack Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action to ensure the legacy of the Adirondack Park is safeguarded for future generations. Adirondack Council members live in all 50 United States.

For more information: John Sheehan, Adirondack Council, 518-441-1340 cell

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, April 15, 2019

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