Congressional candidate Elise Stefanik discussed policy issues facing the Adirondack Park, including invasive species legislation, FEMA funding and energy credits, with members of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board at their monthly meeting on July 30.
KEENE VALLEY — Congressional candidate Elise Stefanik demonstrated her Adirondack policy chops at the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board’s monthly meeting at the Ausable Inn on Wednesday, July 30.
Underpinning the discussion with regional leaders, including those from Warren, Essex and Hamilton counties, was the undercurrent that continually underscores policy discussions within the Adirondack Park: How to navigate economic development while ensuring preservation.
“Adirondack issues are not partisan issues,” Stefanik said. “They’re issues that require work across party lines and multiple layers of government.”
The former White House aide said it was crucial to listen to local officials about the issues facing them and opening up a dialogue that would continue if elected to succeed outgoing Congressman Bill Owens, a Democrat from Plattsburgh who is retiring after two terms in office.
Stefanik said she realized the importance of the timber industry through her work with Premium Plywood Products, her family’s Guilderland-based business. But she also called for a balance. “Our biggest asset is our natural resources — our clean water.”
The candidate said invasive species have a deep impact on the region, including property values.
“This has a significant impact on overall economic state of play,” she said.
Stefanik, 30, said she would work with New York’s junior Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, to increase federal funding and legislation to combat the spread of invasives and streamline the process for protecting endangered species.
Gillibrand had appeared in Lake Placid earlier that week to discuss the federal legislation designed to combat what’s shaping up to be one of the Adirondack Park’s most pressing issues.
Earlier, APLGRB Executive Director Fred Monroe expressed dismay at the outdated statutes and asked his colleagues to consider supporting Gillibrand’s Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act bill, which would streamline the listings process and strengthen enforcement, among other proposals.
“There’s a very long tedious process to list new species,” said Monroe. “If we had something like this many years ago, wouldn’t be dealing with problems we have today.
“I can be a longterm partner with you on these issues,” said Stefanik.
The candidate, addressing another federal issue important to stakeholders, said she hopes to have a designated staff person to focus on FEMA issues — her experience working in Washington would help expedite the process, she said — and would work with Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19) on lyme disease prevention, an emerging medical threat in the North Country.
“When I think of the Adirondacks, I also think of the demographic issues we face,” she said. “We need to find an appropriate balance for all people in the Adirondack Park. I think we have a great opportunities with great economic growth potential.”
The candidate said a previous biomass tour was enlightening and she hoped to be an advocate of biomass growth potentials in the region.
“It’s a common sense job creator,” she said. “It will help reduce heating costs and also help our family budgets in the microsense.”
Stefanik cited infrastructure development and broadband access as crucial tools necessary to compete in the global economy.
“There is an important federal piece in parenting with communities to find out what their needs are,” she said. “This is a key economic issue.”
Board Chairman Jerry Delaney asked Stefanik if she would be a federal ally in helping to procure tax credits for wood pellet boilers.
“We’ve been down to see Owens, Gibson and talked about getting wood pellet boilers,” said Delaney. “Tax credits would make a huge difference — much like they did with solar and wind — rather than struggling along to see industry getting to the point where it can be replaced.”
Delaney cited significant tax credits of up to 30 percent on solar, wind and geothermal energy sources. He said the emerging energy source has the potential to save families 40-50 percent on their heating budgets. Furthermore, he said, the prices of boilers have started to drop in other states, a sign of cautious optimism.
“The wealth retention will help save economies,” he said. “I’d like a real, good, solid hard look at biomass… the real winner is pellets. Thermal heat is much more efficient at creating electricity.”
“I think you’re spot on,” replied Stefanik. “We need to level the playing field with biomass. I absolutely think we need to level the playing field so biomass can compete.”
Bruce Brownell, CEO of Adirondack Alternate Energy, said the North Country needs carbon credits.
“We need to overhaul our entire energy program,” said Stefanik. “We need to ensure renewables have a level playing field to grow. Ethanol props up one sector at the expense of others.”
Increased competition will lower energy prices, she said.
The candidate also touched upon proposed legislation that would drape another layer of bureaucracy around the necks of farmers by redesignating agricultural ponds on farms, for example, as waterways in need of federal regulation.
“This is the top issue I hear from farmers and members of the ag community,” said Stefanik. “This falls into the broader category of how to reduce federal regulations. One of biggest problem from Washington is people writing these typically have no experience. I absolutely agree it needs to be addressed and reduced.”
Following the meeting, Stefanik announced the creation of an Adirondack Park Advisory Coalition, including State Sen. Betty Little, Assemblyman Dan Stec and Newcomb Supervisor George Canon, designed to dial her into local issues.
The APLGRB will not endorse a candidate and will hold similar meetings with Stefanik’s opponents in the race, including Democrat Aaron Woolf and Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello, later this fall.