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Solar panels, fuel cells and water conservation equipment eligible for tax breaks

Legis. Siela A. Bynoe (D-Westbury) proposed the tax

Legis. Siela A. Bynoe (D-Westbury) proposed the tax break nearly a year ago, according to Nassau IDA chairman Richard Kessel.    Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Factories and other businesses seeking to reduce the pollution that they generate could be eligible for a tax break from Nassau County, officials said.

The county’s Industrial Development Agency will begin taking applications on Sept. 1 for a sales-tax exemption on the purchase of equipment to cut emissions into the air, water and soil.

The sales-tax break and other incentives would apply to solar panels, fuel cells and other alternative energy sources, and to water conservation equipment as well, IDA chairman Richard Kessel said.

"This is an opportunity for us to promote environmental protection and to help environmentally harmed communities," he said last week before the IDA board voted unanimously to establish the program.

Kessel credited Nassau County Legis. Siela A. Bynoe (D-Westbury) with proposing the tax break nearly a year ago.

"I remember talking to you on the phone for the first time [about the tax break], and I said, ‘This is a no brainer. It's a brilliant idea,’ " Kessel said, inviting Bynoe to speak during the IDA board meeting.

Bynoe said the impact on New Cassel homeowners from pollution caused by cement-recycling businesses was one reason why she contacted the IDA in August.

"Thousands of residents are living in close proximity to cement-recycling industries, which pollute the surrounding air with noxious odors ... emissions and discharges of harmful dust and particulate matter," Bynoe said last week.

She continued, "This is an issue that we saw really impacting these communities as we fought against COVID-19. … [Area residents] have asthma and other breathing conditions that made it difficult for them. Many of them succumbed to COVID."

Bynoe and others spoke about the "environmental injustice" of concentrating industries that pollute in minority communities on Long Island and nationwide.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said she hopes the new IDA program will "improve the living conditions of communities disproportionately harmed by industrial pollution."

Companies wishing to participate in the environmental protection initiative must submit an application to the IDA and pay a fee. They will be contacted by IDA staff about their request and make presentations to the IDA board and at public hearings. The applications must be approved twice by the board in separate votes.

More information may be found at nassauida.org/our-process.

The Nassau IDA program is unique, said Ryan M. Silva, executive director of the New York State Economic Development Council, a trade group in Albany that represents more than 100 IDAs across the state.

"I believe the sales-tax exemption portion to encourage the installation of pollution fighting equipment by the Nassau County IDA may be the first specific program like this which targets water conservation and pollution reduction specifically," he said.

Silva added that IDAs have provided tax breaks for some time to wind farms, solar panel installations and environmentally friendly construction projects.

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