This page can connect you to ways in which you can get involved with the battles against the fossil fuel monsters that would threaten our future, and it can also offer you ways to make your voice heard in favor of renewable energy options locally and at the state level.
Stop the Vestal Town Board from opting out of the solar option
If you live in Vestal, and you would like the option of putting solar panels on your roof, or banding together with other members in your neighborhood to create a community solar garden where you could share the costs and benefits of solar power with your local friends and neighbors, then you’ll want to make sure the Vestal Town Board doesn’t opt our town out of the solar option.
How so? By opting out of the 1977 NYS law that creates a solar property tax exemption (PTE). This law prohibits the local tax assessor from raising a property’s assessed value due to the presence of solar panels for the first 15 years following the solar installation, so NY residents can invest in solar power knowing that during the payback period no additional unexpected costs will crop up due to the presence of the PV (photovoltaic) panels. When making the cost/benefit calculation, this PTE eliminates a large question mark that can cast a dark shadow over a potential solar deal, and in recent years, many homeowners across NY have plugged into the solar option and bought themselves a measure of energy independence, with the PTE helping to make the solar option more affordable.
Supervisor Schaffer insists that if Vestal opts out of the PTE, the Vestal tax assessor will not raise property assessments due to the presence of solar panels, but Councilwoman Messina says that property owners with solar panels should pay higher taxes, so if the Town Board does opt out of the PTE, they will create a large question mark for any town property owners interested in solar power.
If Vestal opts out of the PTE, what benefit would town residents receive from the action? Supervisor Schaffer has not yet answered that question. So why do it? Evidently to keep community solar gardens from sprouting. The rooftop solar option doesn’t work for everyone, but even if your roof doesn’t have suitable sunny space for PV panels, as of May 1, 2016, you can now take advantage of the benefits of solar power through a shared solar installation organized and created by your own neighborhood organization anywhere in NYS. However, the town board apparently doesn’t like that possibility, even though the Vestal taxpayers could benefit from PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) agreements generated by such projects which could create additional revenue for the town.
Why would they oppose community solar gardens? That remains another open question.
If you don’t want the Vestal Town Board to take away your choice for future solar possibilities, you need to tell them ASAP. At the very least, you can email or call the board members to say, “Don’t opt out of the solar PTE!” You can email Supervisor John Schaffer at firstname.lastname@example.org, Councilman Francis Majewski at email@example.com, Councilwoman Patty Fitzgerald at firstname.lastname@example.org, Councilwoman Sue Messina at email@example.com, and Councilwoman Shoba Agneshwar at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call John at (607) 748-1514 ext. 329. The other board members don’t have listed extensions, but you can call the main number and ask for them by name.
If the board intends to vote on opting out of the PTE, they will have to first craft a local law to do so, and then post a notice of it on the home page of the Town of Vestal website. Following that, at the next board meeting, they will hold a public hearing at the Vestal Town Hall (605 Vestal Parkway West) prior to the vote, and this would probably be the best time to tell them, “Don’t opt out of the solar option — don’t opt out of the solar PTE!” At a public hearing, even if they don’t like what you have to say, they will have to listen and take the public comments into consideration before voting. If they face significant public opposition to this move at the public hearing, it may force them to back down. So far, the town board has not yet chosen to create a local law to opt out of the PTE, but they might do so at any time, so VeRSE recommends keeping an eye on the Town of Vestal website. If a proposed local law to opt out of the PTE appears there, it will give the date for a corresponding public hearing, and if this happens, please make a point to show up for that public hearing and speak out against the board’s impulse to opt out of the PTE. If, somewhere down the line, you decide you’d like to take advantage of the solar option, you’ll be glad you spoke out when the town board was considering taking that option away from you.
Thank Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Seggos for Stopping NAPL
On Friday, 4/7/17, the NYS DEC decided not to grant the Northern Access Pipeline the 401 Water Quality Permit which the project would need before it could continue. If you’d like to express your gratitude to Governor Cuomo for stopping this reckless fracked gas export monster, you can call his office at (518) 474-8390 and leave a message thanking him for opposing it. Another good call to make would be to DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos’ office at (518) 402-8545 to thank him for opposing this beast as well.
We Must Stop AIM
In late February of 2016, Governor Cuomo asked FERC and Spectra to halt the AIM pipeline expansion project, and to allow for an independent review of the hazards that might arise due to the project’s close proximity to a nuclear power plant, but Spectra has refused to do so. One action that NYS citizens can take is to call or email the governor’s office to thank him for his concern over the possible dangers of the AIM project, and to let him know you agree with him that a large high-pressure natural gas pipeline should not have been planned to pass so dangerously close to a nuclear power plant. You can email Governor Cuomo here, and you can call him at (518) 474-8390.
On Friday, May 20, 2016, both Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand called on FERC to suspend the AIM project, pending the completion of the independent health and safety reviews. Now that these senators have expressed their concerns with AIM, we at VeRSE recommend that NY residents call or email them to thank them for their action. You can email Senator Schumer here and Senator Gillibrand here. The phone number for Senator Schumer’s Binghamton office is (607) 772-6792. Senator Gillibrand doesn’t have a Binghamton office, but her Syracuse office is at (315) 448-0470.
In addition, you can call the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Safety Concerns line at (800) 695-7403 and/or the US DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration at (202) 366-4595 to register your concerns. For more relevant information on this insanely-dangerous AIM beast, visit Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE).