Solar project supporters pushing back in Canton
BY PAUL MITCHELL
North Country This Week
CANTON – While a petition is circulating to address concerns of a massive 240-Megawatt solar project, some residents are pushing back.
A Canton resident, who resides in the center of the proposed EDF Renewables Rich Road solar project, says the Town of Canton needs to take full advantage of the economic impact of this project.Barry Whiteford, in a Letter to Editor submitted to North Country This Week and NorthCountryNow, expressed his displeasure with what he described as“negative enthusiasm” over the new $300 million, 240-megawatt solar project.
“Intelligent counterweight is obviously needed. Like everything else in this world, ignorance and poverty have its own momentum and it is difficult to stop and reverse the situation. But this solar project will be a financial Godsend to our community. The tax agreement is still to be negotiated so these are ‘minimum’ estimates at this time.”
Whiteford pointed to a total of $840,000 contributions to the Town, County and School in Year 1 and estimated “minimum” payments to Town, County and School in the first 20 years of project operation is $20 million.
“Our community now has an opportunity before it to “catch up” with some of the more affluent townships scattered around the north country. This is our opportunity to stop the spiral down and finally move off in a better direction,” said Whiteford.
These figures were confirmed by Jack Honor, EDF Renewables development manager.
“Our preliminary proposal would be $3,500 per megawatt so that's $840k. And it would escalate over time which leads to the $20 million amount after 20 years,” Honor stated.
Whiteford’s viewpoints are mainly in response to a watchdog group known as Canton Citizens for Responsible Solar that has initiated a petition driver and letter-writing campaign in an attempt to halt the solar facility. As of Tuesday, Feb. 21, the petition has 450 signatures.
“I would like to touch upon the economics of our town. When I was a young boy the towns of Potsdam and Canton were very similar in economic wealth and growth. Compare the town now and it would be the equivalent of comparing the town of Canton with the Town of DeKalb. For being the County Seat, Canton has not done very well. Look closely and you will see the brand of folks bolstering this opposition to the solar project. Notice who they are. They are the same brand of people who shot down the Canton bypass. Now, thanks to them, my family and I (along with yours) will forever smell diesel fumes, listen to jake brakes, and sit in traffic jams. This brand of people tried to stop New York State from replacing the infrastructure (mostly underground) throughout Main Street in Canton. We should be grateful that the state mandated a new system because now we all benefit from this,” he wrote.
“I live on Old Rt. 11 and in the middle of the solar project. Mary Evans has been my partner for 40 years at our present address. I have no horse in this race as the land belongs to Mary and our daughters. Mary deserves every damn nickel she will be receiving from EDF. The same as the other small farmers involved in this project as they have all been working their land, cattle and rear ends off since they were children.”
Whiteford also alluded to contamination created and left by large farms.
“Personally I have spent my life in construction. In one 10-year stretch, I trained and worked on one of the largest hazardous waste sites in the U.S., that being Alcoa in Massena. There I learned much about nasty ground. “My concerns have always been that the ground is polluted (and has been for decades) by large farms and our community seems to not understand this.”
He said thousands of tons of chemical and synthetic fertilizers are dumped on the ground every year before corn planting begins. After they have planted, herbicides and pesticides are routinely sprayed to wipe out everything but the corn. Most disturbing are the hundreds of miles of 4” plastic drain tile (pipes) plowed underground that will remain there forever. The tiles will likely plug within 10-15 years and then they will do it again packing our soils with plastic that breaks down releasing plastic polymers that forever change the microbial balance of our soil. The end product of all this preparation is a corn not fit for human consumption. When these contaminants make it into our aquifer we then have few remaining options.
“I am not aware of the Town, School or County receiving checks from the corn subsidy program,” Whiteford remarked.
“I’m not trying to sway anybody. I feel it’s important to educate the public,” said Whiteford. “So, to all the local naysayers, I say this; Start reading books, real books with real information and real facts and help us bring some prosperity to Canton.”
Second Pro-solar letter
In a second letter to NCTW, another Canton resident, a 30-year dairy farmer who resides on the Rich Road, also took a positive stance about the solar project.
Andrea Huber, who stands to gain financially from the energy project, said EDF Renewables has asked her to convert the dairy farm to a sheep farm to keep down the grass and weeds around the panels.
Huber says she does not believe the solar farm will have a negative impact on wildlife.
“I am not concerned, and neither should you be concerned, about the inherent impact the Solar Farm will have on the wildlife in the area because the solar panels have a much smaller footprint on wildlife than modern fairy farming,” her letter reads.
She also says the economic impact is a boon for Canton.
“If this is not enough to persuade you of the positive environmental impact, let me tell you about the positive financial impact this will have on the community as a whole. EDF projects that the Town of Canton, Canton Central School, and St. Lawrence County can expect a much larger tax revenue increase from this project as compared to what had been previously collected from agriculture use alone. This means more funding for teachers, textbooks, after school programs; more revenue for the Canton’s revitalization; and more revenue for the County. The ripple effect of the tax revenue from this project will have a broad impact on our entire community.”
Huber says New York State, St. Lawrence County, and the Town of Canton, have all required a decommissioning plan as part of the project. By law, when the solar farm comes to an end, the entire solar array must be removed from the land, and the land will be seeded back to its pre-project state. The costs of the decommissioning will be the responsibility of the solar company.
“To suggest that this solar farm is a new form of colonialism is an unhelpful statement that, detracting from a factual analysis, stirs negative emotions in opposition to a more sustainable, more green energy future,” she said.
“In my opinion, the benefits of this project to our community and to the environment cannot be overlooked.”