No Wind Power on State Land?

The MidHudsonNews.Com reported this week that the Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition, Inc. has filed a lawsuit against the State Department of Environmental Conservation seeking to declare hydrofracking in state forests contrary to the state Constitution and related environmental laws.

Article XIV, Conservation, Section 1 of the New York State Constitution begins: Section 1.  The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”

Croton Watershed attorney James Bacon argues that the DEC is saying no to wind turbines, communication towers, utility lines, and commercial mining, and “hydrofracking is in that same type of industrial use which has to be banned in state forest.”

While Hudson Valley Green agrees that hydrofracking is inappropriate anywhere, including State property, using the fact that the DEC is saying no to wind turbines as part of the argument seems wrong. Hydrofracking not only presents the very real possibility of injecting toxins into the water supply, it is also a technology developed to extract every last possible pocket of natural gas. It’s on par with squeezing oil from tar sands. Both practices continue our dependence on fossil fuels, and at a an EROI–Energy Return On Investment–that is ridiculously low. If we use the popular analogy of being “addicted to fossil fuels” this is the equivalent of a cocaine addict combing the carpet for a bit of powder in the early morning hours.

Section 1 of Article XIV is full of exceptions and exemptions. Hydrofracking should not be among them. Wind power is a different story. There will be those who decry wind turbines as a blot on the landscape, but the fact is, the Fishkill Ridge, for example, is one of the best places to harvest wind power in the Northeast, and a good deal of it is owned by the State. We need to find a way to responsibly site wind turbines on this land to help power Hudson Valley communities sooner rather than later. Lumping hydrofracking in with wind power confuses the issue, and may help forestall what will ultimately be a necessary development if we are to end our fossil fuel dependence in time.

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