UPDATE 04/16/2023: The Buffalo News has not published the op-ed piece below that I submitted to its “Another Voice” column. Likewise, Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle has chosen not to print a slightly modified version of the piece posted below (its maximum-word length is 425 versus the “Another Voice” 480-word limit).
[I am posting below an op-ed piece that I sent on 03/027/2023 to the Buffalo News for publication in its “Another Voice” column. I’ll let you know if and when it gets published there. On March 20, 2023, I sent a much longer set of written comments to Thomas P. Haley, NYSDEC Region 8 Headquarters, 6274 E. Avon-Lima Road, Avon, NY 14414, by email to DEP.R8@dec.ny.gov. Here are my written comments: AJGiacalone’s Comments on STAMP Take Permit – 03-20-23. If either the piece below, or my official comments, move you to action, please know that the deadline for submitting written comments to the DEC is March 31, 2023.]
STAMP – the 1,262-acre Western New York Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park in rural Genesee County – is a failure. Created over a decade ago with more than $30 million in public funds, it has struggled to attract tenants to a campus 40 miles from both Buffalo and Rochester.
STAMP had lofty goals, envisioning a high-tech campus employing 9,000 people, and accommodating 6 million square feet of advanced technology manufacturing space.
Despite a decade of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC), it’s owner, proclaiming STAMP’s advantages, only one project has broken ground: Plug Power, a “green hydrogen” company. But it took tax breaks and hydro-power discounts totaling $270 million – in exchange for a paltry 68 full-time jobs – to attract Plug Power (a subsidy exceeding $4 million per potential job).
STAMP’s insurmountable problem, its location a significant distance from any major city, has led to an endless series of disappointments. Dreams of luring multi-billion dollar microchip manufacturing facilities, such as Samsung or Intel, never materialized.
The realities of the market place have apparently made GCEDC desperate. It has lowered its standards from a search for high-tech “green” manufacturing facilities to settling for a proposal to develop, on speculation, a massive truck distribution complex. If constructed, the truck traffic, noise, air pollution, and lighting resulting from this low-tech facility would adversely impact the nearby Tonawanda Seneca Nation and surrounding rural community.
GCEDC is also taking its frustrations out on two challenged avian species – the Short-eared Owl and the Northern Harrier.
In 2021, the State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) determined that the entirety of STAMP’s 665 acres of open fields is “occupied habitat,” an area where an “endangered” species (the Short-eared Owl) and a “threatened” species (the Northern Harrier) are feeding and overwintering. As a result of DEC’s decision, GCEDC may not lawfully industrialize its 665 acres – and, by doing so, unintentionally engage in “a take or taking” [that is, killing, harming, or harassing] of the subject species – unless it first receives an “incidental take permit” from DEC.
To obtain the permit, GCEDC must propose a “mitigation plan” that will result in a “net conservation benefit” to the two listed species, that is, will benefit the winter raptors to a greater degree than if the proposed STAMP activity were not undertaken.
Rather than meeting that standard, GCEDC has proposed developing 607 acres of its 665 acres of open fields, leaving the two grassland species a mere 58 acres of land for overwintering and feeding.
GCEDC has also engaged in a sinister campaign to intentionally diminish the value of its fields as a useful habitat for the two species. Believing that the owls and harriers prefer hayfields and grassland to row crops, GCEDC has converted 170 acres of hay fields to row crops in hopes they’ll no longer be “occupied habitat.”
Perhaps it is time for STAMP to become extinct.
Arthur J. Giacalone
Land Use & Environmental Lawyer