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Long Island needs Gov. Cuomo to find pine barrens solution

Citing the lack of public hearings and the

Citing the lack of public hearings and the potential to block a solar-energy proposal in Suffolk County, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2017, vetoed a bill that would have expanded Long Island's pine barrens area, including this area near the shuttered Shoreham nuclear power plant. Credit: Randee Daddona

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s decision last week to veto legislation to preserve more than 1,200 acres of pine barrens in Shoreham and Mastic was disappointing. That’s especially true because negotiations were moving in the right direction and getting close to fruition on a land swap that would give the owner of the Mastic parcel other places to build his proposed solar array.

But Cuomo did more than veto the bill. By using his veto message to express his optimism that a solution can be reached and to instruct his staff to work with all parties to that end, he took ownership of the legislation. Given his track record of finding solutions once he has promised them, that’s good news. And given that Cuomo also said he wants the plan included in the 2018 budget, that means this problem should be resolved by the end of the March.

So we’re going to take the governor at his word. The deal isn’t dead. It’s just on hold for three months.

The key is the Mastic property; preserving the irreplaceable 800-plus acres of pristine forest in Shoreham has generated little controversy. Everyone with a stake in the legislation has expressed hope for a deal. That includes bill sponsors State Sen. Ken LaValle and Assemb. Steve Englebright, Brookhaven officials, environmentalists and renewable-energy advocates, and the owner of the Mastic property, Gerald Rosengarten.

And, now, Cuomo. Brookhaven has land at its landfill perfect for a solar array, and other parcels it can offer. Cuomo can find state land, too, such as various utility rights of way, to make sure an agreement is reached that solidifies his well-established record of support for both solar energy and land preservation.

The parties need to stick to the basics. These properties are worth preserving. Solar power is worth siting. Forests once cut are gone. But the sun shines all over Long Island. Find the right places and make the deal.

The clock is ticking. — The editorial board