NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — On Long Island, a debate is brewing that pits the environment against the environment.

As CBS2’s Elise Finch reported, a plan by Suffolk County to cut down trees to out in solar panels is drawing a lot of heat.

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Going solar is usually one of the most politically correct things anyone can do, but Suffolk County’s plan to put a solar farm in place of trees at several sites it owns, including a property in Yaphank, has environmentalists seeing red.

“It’s bad public policy to pit one environmental asset against the other, especially when you can have both,” Richard Amper, Executive Director, Long Island Pine Barrens Society said.

Amper said the county is in the dark with its plan to cut down more than 40 acres of trees since trees are so efficient at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“Solar belongs on cleared property, abandoned developments, or rooftops, or parking lots,” Amper said.

County officials claim the environmental benefits from the solar farms would be 20 times greater than what is lost from cutting down the trees.

“It would also save county tax payers $1.2-million per year for the next 20 years because it will reduce energy costs,” Deputy Suffolk County Executive, Jon Schneider said.

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County officials said the solar farms could power the county jail and other county facilities. They added that the land has already been declared surplus and could have been sold publicly, resulting in it being cleared for development.

“Maybe people would put up homes or use it for some other purposes,” Schneider said.

County Legislator Kate Browning said it makes no sense, considering the county spent more than a billion dollars preserving open space.

“Here we have open space that now the county executive wants to tear down the trees,” she said.

Browning suggested putting the solar panels in the county police department’s parking lot.

The plan still has to pass environmental review. The county said it expects to submit the solar over trees plan to the county legislature early next year.


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