Thursday, April 13, 2017


Our local solar power kerfuffle is starting to look like a reflected microcosm of every 2016-17 communications problem between left and right. It really doesn't break down along partisan lines—some Democrats who love solar power in theory are unhappy with the size, location, and avian interference of the proposed solar farms, and some Republicans are quite gung ho. Nevertheless, a session last night indicated a strong division between what you might call utilitarians and libertarians. It's not exactly a battle between green development lovers and climate change deniers, although there's some of that; it's more like people who envision a greater good vs. people who assume that everyone is motivated by personal profit. It's also a bit about people dreaming of a better future vs. people bound to a beloved past. And neither side can possibly understand the other.

The developers deserve credit for making significant changes to the plan to accommodate views, wildlife, water protection, and so on. Although they are allowed to build in a wetland, they won't. Although they are allowed to operate tax-free in NYS, they are working out a PILOT. Meanwhile, there were those in the room who insisted that the town was being bilked and should charge utility taxes (which they cannot), or site the thing on Mt. Pleasant and hook into transmission lines rather than distribution lines (also not possible by law, although it seems to be a bad law), or give Dryden residents first dibs on power (which the town can and probably will do). The rumor is being floated that certain board members are personally benefiting from the solar project. Because why would anyone do anything if they were not getting kickbacks?

I left early so I wouldn't stove in the head of a noisy nearby naysayer, but I left thinking that a significant number of people were feeling better about the project, and the ones who were not would never be happy and would continue to scrabble for new reasons why. Last night it was mostly about the PILOT and how the whole thing was a scam. Earlier it was about the placement and water and the view. Tomorrow it will apparently be about graft. Impassioned statements from citizens about leaving our children a more hopeful future were greeted with great scorn, and strong complaints that "you people" were coming into "our town" to do something "we don't want" were met with mystification.

(I remain unsure why acres of gas wells are attractive, but acres of solar panels are hideous. To be fair, not everyone against the solar projects was for fracking, but several in that room were. It really must come down to dollars and who gets them.)

We live in a liberal county that has managed in the last decade or two to sink fracking, a pipeline, and two wind projects. Our penchant for saying no to everything would make us fit right in as members of Congress. Paul says it's time our town stood for something, and he's right. He and I gave a patch of our land so that a broadband tower might serve the greater good, although to be fair, we were among the recipients of the good, so it was not a grand sacrifice. At the moment, though, our town seems to be content to line its streets and highways with storage units. They provide lots of tax revenue for zero services, but are they really what we want as our legacy?

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