Legislator Foti Calls on State to Protect Ag Land in Somerset from Solar Development

Niagara County Legislator Shawn Foti today sent a letter to the head of the state’s Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) asking the agency to take a deeper look at the proposed solar plant in the Town of Somerset that will be built on some prime agricultural land.  Foti wants ORES to locate the project on the footprint of the former AES coal plant instead.

 In a letter to Houtan Moaveni, Executive Director of (ORES), Foti wrote, “As I understand it, ORES is mandated to mitigate the use of agricultural land for solar projects and the new state RAPID Act clearly states that such land should not be used unless it is unavoidable.  When it comes to the Somerset project, the useSomerset Plant Site of agricultural land is COMPLETELY AVOIDABLE.”

Foti continued, “AES has proposed using prime agricultural land that is within a stone’s throw of a former coal plant.  This site includes the former plant that could be utilized for rooftop solar; vast abandoned parking lots that could be utilized for rows of panels; and a large landfill that could actually be put back to productive use with solar panels,  as it currently sits fallow.  The state should be prioritizing the reuse/remediation of this type of site as a best practice for developers of solar projects.”

Foti pointed out that many communities who have expressed concern about solar projects feel that ORES ignores their issues and rubberstamps its approval because ORES says they are following their legislative mandate.

Foti said, “In this case, to approve this project as currently proposed would be in direct conflict with the very law you claim to uphold.  And let me be clear, we are not opposing this project.  We would welcome a responsible reuse of the former coal plant site.  We do oppose the AES plan to unnecessarily use farmland when there are better alternatives within the same footprint.”

Foti concluded by inviting OREA leadership to visit Somerset and see how “avoidable” the need for this farmland is.

“Let’s finally have a solar project built with community consensus rather than consternation and litigation that will surely follow should this project go forward as proposed,” wrote Foti.

Read the full letter here.