Dear Editor,

The Goodland Township Planning Commission is currently reviewing the Ordinance for Industrial Scale Solar Developments at 7 p.m., August 10, 2023. I would urge all residents of Goodland Township to attend this meeting. I would also like to share a recent solar farm incident with you.

On July 27, 2023, the Chaumont Solar Farm in New York caught fire. The fire burned for over four days as plumes of smoke filled the air.

The Associated Press reported Governor Kathy Hochul issued a statement advising residents in the surrounding communities to avoid the smoke coming from the fire at the solar farm. The Governor’s Office stated, the fire had caused significant damage and emitted large amounts of smoke that may pose health risks. The Governor urged residents to heed the warnings of public health officials and avoid exposure to the smoke or any other toxins resulting from this fire.

In response to this catastrophe, State Senator Mark C. Walczyk and Assemblyman Scott A. Gray proposed legislation which would mandate all solar farms in the state to share safety and health information that first responders can use in response to any future emergencies, like the one at Chaumont.

Senator Walczyk expressed his concerns that the push to protect the environment, with a rush to implement green energy projects has been short sighted. He said, “This week, their hasty ‘Climate Action’ policy put the people of Chaumont and the town of Lyme in harms way. Emergency services had limited information on the ground…”. The proposed law would mandate all solar farms provide information and instruction to first responders regarding, “safely using equipment at the generation sites and hazards associated with the chemicals, materials and machinery installed there.”

Assemblyman Gray stated, “making sure our emergency personnel are completely equipped with the right equipment and information needed to respond rapidly and efficiently is the priority.” He expressed this type of legislation will help ensure public safety and health.

Goodland Township’s current ordinance does not require industrial scale solar developers and operators to submit emergency plans which might help first responders understand the personal protective equipment they might need to fight such a fire. Nor does the ordinance suggest the size and scope of evacuation plans to protect the neighboring communities from smoke and toxins. Further, there are no requirements to instruct and educate our first responders on how to safely use equipment at any future generation sites and the hazards associated with the chemicals, materials and machinery within any proposed industrial solar facility.

Lastly, Township’s current ordinance does not require a minimum level of safety levels for the equipment used in any industrial scale solar facility. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) publishes minimum safety standards for such equipment. I think Goodland Township should consider incorporating these types of standards into their ordinance.

Since the Township is working to update this ordinance, I would like to urge Commission members to consider these types of changes to the ordinance. If you agree or disagree, please attend the meeting and share your thoughts.

Thank you,
— Michael Puzzuoli
Goodland Township Resident