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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo faces decision: Pine barrens vs. solar

A bill on Cuomo’s desk would expand the protected area in Suffolk County, but also likely scuttle a Shoreham solar farm.

ALBANY — It’s solar power versus open-space preservation in a bill that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo must sign or veto in a matter of days.

At issue is a measure, approved by the State Legislature in June, that would expand the core pine barrens designation to more than 1,000 acres in Shoreham and Mastic in Suffolk County.

The measure would shield those lands from development.

But it likely also would scuttle an energy company’s proposal to use some of the acreage to install thousands of solar panels near the shuttered Shoreham nuclear power plant to help supply the state’s power grid.

Cuomo, a Democrat, must act on the measure by Dec. 18.

Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) is among state lawmakers and environmental groups supporting the bill. Englebright, one of the measure’s sponsors, said it would protect “pristine coastal forest” in Shoreham.

Middle Island Solar Farm has proposed a 100-acre project in Mastic. The company recently temporarily withdrew its proposal from the Brookhaven Town Planning Board, and said it will resubmit the plan soon with documentation of sufficient power purchasing agreements with PSEG Long Island.

Solar developers and a builders group have opposed the pine barrens expansion bill, as have some environmentalists, who say a solar farm is better than a warehouse or other light industrial use for which the land is zoned.

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