Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The Struggle Over Solar

In his remarks at the inauguration on Sunday, Mayor Kamal Johnson said, "We've accomplished a lot on climate this year, but I would like to see us look more into solar, just not at North Bay." He then added, after a little burst of laughter had subsided, "I'm gonna talk to Tom about that." (In the recording of the inauguration, these remarks can be heard at 5:07.) It's hard to tell if Johnson was serious about his opposition to installing solar panels in North Bay. Earlier in his remarks, he told the audience that he and Council president Tom DePietro "receive a lotta shots." His comment about solar and North Bay may have been a humorous allusion to opposition from the Conservation Advisory Council to siting solar arrays on the capped landfill in North Bay. A week or so before the inauguration, Johnson and DePietro, as well as the rest of the Common Council, had received a communication from the CAC which read in part:
We, the members of the Conservation Advisory Council (CAC), are concerned about the fast tracking of an RFP for large-scale solar development on RC-zoned land in the North Bay. This includes the capped former Columbia County Landfill, a parcel whose disposition our charter specifically asks us to weigh in on.
In our most recent meeting with Commissioner of Public Works Peter Bujanow and Council President Tom DePietro, we expressed our resistance to this proposal without, at the very least, incorporation of long-sought recreational/conservation objectives. Our recommendation is to use, as a starting point, the Starr Whitehouse design for the Columbia Land Conservancy’s proposed North Bay Conservation and Recreation Area.
If this land is to be part of this project, we strongly advise the Common Council to seek provisions that will benefit the city and its environment. These include protection of Hudson River viewshed and important grassland habitat, and incorporation of a long-sought trail system that will connect the City by foot to the Greenport Conservation Area. This trail will enable residents of the city to walk to one of the County’s most beautiful landscapes without needing a car; it would be a major recreational asset for the City, and achieving it is a matter of environmental justice.
It is particularly important to seek such benefits since the proposed solar development may, in fact, deliver few other significant advantages to the City of Hudson. The landfill—the part that interests developers most—is owned by the County, not the City, and the City would depend on the County’s largess for any share of revenues. As to lowering energy costs for our residents and businesses, as one of our members noted last week, the County already has plans for community solar development that would bring savings to all Columbia county residents, including residents of Hudson.
Given the lack of immediately identifiable benefits—and the loss of rare open space—the rush to an RFP on the part of the City is difficult to fathom. While we heartily support the development of renewable energy, we believe the City should be thoughtful about this proposal, and that the CAC should have the opportunity to consider features and design parameters that would achieve a balance between solar development, recreational amenities and habitat/open space.
The entire memo from the CAC, as well as a statement from CAC member Michael O'Hara, who chairs the Columbia County Environmental Management Council, regarding plans for community solar at the county level, can be found here.

Alternatives for hardscape siting of solar panels, as well as goals for the new year, will be topics of discussion at tonight's CAC meeting, which takes place at 6:00 p.m. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.


  1. It's so ridiculous. Two months after Tom D. and Sneaky Pete held a Friday night meeting (5 pm) allowing 3 solar contractors to show us their plans for solarizing the landfill when the landfill was not part of the original scope of this idea, and our Mayor is "gonna talk to Tom about it." Too little, too late, Mayor.
    I feel like I'm back in grade school. B Huston

  2. "We've accomplished a lot on solar this year..."? What does that even mean? Would an example of this be the 17 enormous old school energy-sucking lights in the City Hall Municipal Parking Lot that often stay on all day on even partially cloudy days because the sensor for the lights is so poorly situated and Rob Perry doesn't give a crap whether the lights remain on all day? Is that an accomplishment "on solar?" B Huston

    1. Forgive me for being a stickler, but he said "We've accomplished a lot on climate" not on "solar."

    2. Yes, Carole, I meant to write climate, and my thoughts about the city's environmental efforts don't change. And thanks for the correction.

    3. Forgive me for being a stickler, but what was the mayor's accomplishment here? I recall Mike O'Hara years ago working on some climate initiative that Rich Volo took across the finish line. What was Kamal's contribution?

  3. Yeah, it would be nice to get one example from the Mayor about his accomplishments "on climate." Maybe one would be the electric car charging stations in the municipal lot, but that is debatable. What is not debatable is that the lot behind city hall has 110 parking spaces for vehicles and not one designated space, or a bike rack, for someone to lock a bicycle to. Visiting city hall by bike? Sorry, no accomodations for you here, we don't care how you arrive. Use a car next time.
    A new city hall employee who regularly rides a bicycle to work locks her bike to a parking meter pole in front of city hall. That is the best city hall can offer? When you don't accommodate or encourage bicycling and bicyclists rather than automobiles, you come across as a climate denier or, at the very least, climate indifferent. And, of course, not everyone can afford or wants to drive a car. Hudson City Hall, still stuck in the 1980s. B Huston

  4. Over the weekend, GW law professor Jonathan Turley returned to a perennial theme when warning the nation about the runaway administrative state as a de facto fourth branch of government.

    At the federal level, what insulates agency decisions from review is the controversial 1984 “Chevron Doctrine." But other than that societal "background radiation," what accounts for the same dynamic happening in Hudson? How is it that a mayoral appointee, Commissioner Bujanow of Kinderhook, enjoys such latitude to pursue his pet projects at Hudson’s expense?

    Notwithstanding residents’ wasted energies, consider the time and effort required of other city officials for the headstrong caprice of this one appointee. In addition to the Common Council, for months the hardworking volunteers of Hudson's Conservation Advisory Council expended dozens of hours reanalyzing the pros and cons of Bujanow’s fixation. In the end, they came to the same conclusion reached by every previous review.

    Moreover, Bujanow simply ignored anyone who got in his way, including last year's Common Council (see below), and a 2015 council Resolution formalizing an agreement between the city, the county, and the Columbia Land Conservancy (CLC).

    But it was only a year after that Agreement that Bujanow’s friend in County government, Ron Knott, resurrected the same scheme for the North Bay. Because the arrogant Knott had equally ignored everyone else's aspirations for the site, the CLC’s Paden had to remind everyone of the “hundreds of thousands of dollars” already spent “to test the concept of whether the North Bay could work as a recreation and natural area.” Paden also cited the years of work between the CLC, the city, and the county developing a plan that's at odds with the designs of Knott, and now Bujanow.


    Last year, when I first spotted the reappearance of the landfill as a proposed solar site in Bujanow’s draft REI, I immediately expressed my outrage to the Common Council.

    I can't imagine that Council President DePietro will possibly mind my sharing his own shocked response (after all, he didn't appoint the fellow!). His reply, excerpted below, goes straight to the point that Bujanow operates with total impunity to achieve his own ends at residents' expense; freely abusing city resources; misusing city officials who didn't appoint him (including his impositions on the CAC and perhaps even the one official who did appoint him); the Columbia Land Conservancy; and the city's mere handful of overworked volunteers. A single appointee manipulating all of the above and nobody protesting. Think about that. (I bet I know what Turley would say.)

    Common Council President Tom DePietro in an email dated August 29, 2021:

    "Oh my God. You are right. I just was sent your Gossips comments and am freaking out. I told Peter [Bujanow] many times: NO LANDFILL. .... the REI [is] being taken down as we speak. I'm furious, and your guess is probably right: Peter is obsessed with working with the county on using the landfill. IT WILL NOT HAPPEN.

    "I'm still aghast that Peter went ahead and did this, despite many conversations. ...

    "As you know, all I ever wanted to explore was the land above Charles Williams.

    "From the start I have only identified the property behind Charles Williams, and thought we might include a part of the property across the street--all of which fall in the single lot. That he [Bujanow] included the Atlas Brick Property goes against everything we discussed at the last CAC.

    "I like Peter [Bujanow], and he's been a great help on many matters, so I'm truly baffled by this .... Thank God it's only a draft."

    At some point, Hudson's pliable residents are the ones responsible for Bujanow's arrogance and outsized influence in the community. Taxpayers should force Mayor Johnson to get rid of Bujanow, or else get rid of the mayor who appointed him.

  5. I wonder how Sneaky Tom would react to your present Gossips comment. "Oh, that was then...." "You take my words out of context." "The landfill was never on the table..." Or, perhaps nothing at all. Hell, the guy is not accountable to anyone, he doesn't have to explain or justify his words or (in)actions to anyone.
    Get rid of Peter Bujanow and any other so-called commissioners who do not reside full-time in Hudson and make it law that no commissioners can reside outside of Hudson, the city they are supposed to represent. Why wouldn't the CC adopt this?

    1. Oh, is Tom singing a different song now? I don’t attend Council meetings so I didn’t know, but as you see it was only 4 months ago he was vehemently opposed to using the landfill.

      I agree that Bujanow’s behavior is a perfect example why the city should keep its Commissioners local and accountable. As far as I’ve ever been concerned, he was a county operative from the start, thinking nothing of subverting the will of Hudson residents.

      See how much trouble and unnecessary extra work he’s caused everyone. Enough is enough.

    2. When Bujanow first appeared at CC meetings as DPW Commish a few years ago, he would sit there and not say one word the entire time, but always taking notes. I often wondered "who is this guy, why do I never see
      him around town and why is he even involved in these meetings?" These commissioner positions are nominal at best, they do very little, aren't expected to do much of anything. The HPD commissioner? Never at CC meetings, it's kind of a joke. He signs the alternate side parking rules law when it changes every 6 months. Whoopee.
      Why was Sneaky Pete so interested in Hudson? He was just biding his time to get his paws on the county landfill, it seems. And what else is he here to do for us?
      What's the matter, Pete, not enough action in Kinderhook or wherever you call home? Go away! Stop f'n with us.