Legal Duel in Prattsburg

Judge won't OK Steuben wind-energy project, but it goes ahead anyway

A mid-December vote by a Steuben County Town Board that allows a controversial wind-energy project to go forward will stand, for now, without a judicial stamp of approval.

In a ruling released this morning, state Supreme Court Justice Stephen Lindley declined to give his legal imprimatur to a 3-to-2 vote by the Prattsburgh Town Board in favor of a legal settlement with Ecogen Wind LLC.

Buffalo-area Ecogen had sued the board in November to force approval of a 16-turbine wind farm in the hilly Steuben County town. The company has said it spent $13 million on studies, legal fees and other expenses related to the project, which also would feature 17 more 415-foot-high turbines in the neighboring town of Italy, Yates County.

Ecogen brought suit against Prattsburgh shortly after the Nov. 3 townwide election, in which voters chose a new supervisor and a new board member, both of whom are openly skeptical about the Ecogen project.

The company apparently feared that the new board, once seated this month, would kill the project, and it sued preemptively so that pro-wind town lawmakers would have an opportunity to approve a settlement before two of them left office. The terms of the settlement allowed the project to go forward unfettered.

Two wind skeptics already on the board unsuccessfully sought to persuade Lindley not block the lame-duck board from settling the lawsuit. At the same time, Ecogen’s lawyers asked Lindley to give his approval to the settlement, presumably so that it would be more difficult for the new board to overturn.

Lindley said in his ruling, however, that it was “unnecessary and superfluous” for him to approve the settlement. He also said in his ruling that he was not disapproving it, either, and said the question of whether the mid-December vote was proper had not been put before him.

The Prattsburgh board, which now splits 4-to-1 against the Ecogen project, is scheduled to meet this evening.

“I guess that’s a good thing,” said Steve Kula, a wind-skeptic board member, referring to Lindley’s refusal to approve the settlement. “But it sounds like there’s a lot that’s open-ended at this point.”

Kula said he expected the board would begin working on a wind-turbine moratorium in the town and “trying to unwind the position of the previous board.”

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Cohocton Project Hits News

Huffing and puffing over wind power

Did the federal government, as some have said, give millions of dollars in stimulus funds to a non-producing wind farm in the Southern Tier town of Cohocton? Not exactly.

Cohocton Wind is a 50-turbine project with a total 125-megawatt generation capacity - the potential to power 50,000 homes, say officials with First Wind, Cohocton Wind's parent company. In September, the project was awarded $74.6 million in federal stimulus funds from the US Departments of Energy and Treasury - part of a large block of funding meant to encourage renewable energy development nationwide.

That grant's come under protest, however, by Congress member Eric Massa, who wrote the president to ask that the funding be revoked.

"We should not be rewarding anything, let alone cash grants, to companies like this that have abused the public trust and created such a toxic atmosphere in our region on the topic of wind power," Massa wrote.

The project's been plagued by controversy, including lawsuits and an attorney general's office investigation into First Wind and other wind power development companies. Since the project came online in January, it's been dogged by questions about what it's actually producing electricity-wise - lately that's been one of the most persistent issues. Massa made the claim in his letter, which he sent in September, that the project wasn't producing any power, information he said he received from the organization that operates New York's power grid.

"Nobody knows what they produce or what they don't produce," Massa said in an interview last week. "They demand the privacy of a private corporation and the subsidies of a public utility."

But John Lamontagne, a First Wind spokesperson, says the turbines produced 133,370 megawatt hours of electricity from when they came online in January, to the end of September. That's enough energy to power 1,200 homes with average monthly electricity consumption...

Click here to read the entire City Newspaper article by Jeremy Moule.

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Abandoned property

The company that was going to rejuvenate the economy of New London, Conn.—the site of the Kelo v. City of New London case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that it was legal for a government to use eminent domain to seize property for private economic development—is pulling out of New London and moving on.

Pfizer, Inc. has merged with Wyeth and just announced that it is moving most of its 1,400 employees to nearby Groton. Opponents of eminent domain are pointing to the move as proof that the development project was ill-conceived from the beginning. Scott Bullock, co-counsel for the case with the Institute for Justice, called Pfizer the "very lynchpin of the project" and said, "All of this really just demonstrates the folly of government abusing eminent domain and granting massive corporate welfare to corporations and to developers." Project supporters argue that the economy is to blame for the development halt.

As reported in "The Buzz" in WORLD Magazine's December 5, 2009 issue.



We Have the Right

Ecogen Wind LLC's lawsuit claims the town of Italy, Yates County, delayed a decision on its industrial wind development proposal since 2002 and now can't deny its application (Nov. 5 story). In reality, Ecogen caused this long, drawn-out, expensive process by refusing to accept the town's original decision to remain non-industrial. A 2006 zoning law prohibiting industrial turbines, two town-wide surveys and several public hearings on this issue demonstrated that Italy wants to preserve its major strengths — natural beauty and a peaceful rural character. It was Ecogen's lawsuit threats and unrelenting pressure on the Town Board that led to a reluctantly made zoning law revision, application review and final denial.

Evidence submitted by citizens overwhelmingly showed that the short setbacks and high noise levels required to fit Ecogen's massive facility among our homes could damage Italy residents' welfare, property values, health and safety. Cohocton's experience with industrial wind turbines has been a nightmare and a learning experience. Recent elections in Italy and Prattsburgh clearly showed the people's choice to remain turbine-free.

We should have the right to say "no."

—Joan Simmons, Italy, Yates County

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Post-Election Lawsuits

Which way did windmill voting tilt?

Steve Orr, Staff writer, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

As we’ve been reporting, a wind-power development company called Ecogen Wind has filed suit against the town of Prattsburgh, Steuben County seeking a judicial order allowing it to proceed with construction of a wind farm there without town board approval. This comes in the heels of a similar court action by Ecogen in early November against the neighboring town of Italy, Yates County, asking a judge to set aside a town board vote killing the project.

Ecogen, based in suburban Buffalo and backed by a firm with offices in San Francisco and Houston, wants to build a 33-turbine wind farm in the hills of the two towns, which lie not far from the southern end of Canandaigua Lake.

At least part of the motivation behind these bare-knuckles lawsuits is the fact that voters in Italy and Prattsburgh elected anti-wind farm slates in voting earlier this month. Ecogen clearly fears the new boards will try to deep-six their project, on which they say they have spent $13 million so far.

The question I have is whether the voting in the two neighboring towns is part of a groundswell of opposition to industrial-scale wind farms in New York’s rural towns. There are several dozen wind farm proposals resting with town boards across the state, including some in the Rochester region - and most of the host towns had local elections on November 3. Someone I spoke with recently suggested a number of those elections did tilt against windmills.

This is where I’d like to enlist you visitors to help. If you know who won and who lost in town elections where wind farms were a major issue, post a comment here or shoot me an e-mail. Between your information and what I’m able to gather, I’ll post a running tally as we move along.

By the way, here are the legal petitions filed by Ecogen against the towns of Italy and Prattsburgh. They’re slow going if you don’t like legalese, but they might be worth reading – for the rural town-versus-wind farm conflict could prove significant in New York’s renewable energy future.

In Italy the town voted to replace 3 of the town board members including the supervisor. Italy has been more reasonable than Prattsburgh as far as the current town board and their work on turbines. Prattsburgh who suffered through ridiculous 3-2 votes in favor of wind for the past several years has turned the tide and has now 4-1 in favor of Town Board Members that are not going to be greenwashed by Ecogen/Pattern Energy. The basis to both of these lawsuits is that the towns of Italy and Prattsburgh have used our democratic process and shown that they are "Mad as hell. and not going to take it anymore." Now the greedy corporation will turn to a bevy of lawyers to twist the facts into some sort of feeble attempt to go against the will of the people.... Maybe it is time for another Tea Party!

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Italy Responds to Threat

Town to fight wind company lawsuit

By Julie Sherwood, Staff Writer, Daily Messenger

A fight over whether a proposed wind turbine project bordering Naples will go forward heated up last week when the developer filed a lawsuit against the town, where 17 turbines were to go up.

The Article 78 action, filed in state Supreme Court in Monroe County by developer Ecogen Wind LLC, seeks to overturn the Town Board’s decision to stop the project by denying approvals and placing a moratorium on its development.

Last month, the board unanimously rejected the proposed wind turbine project, determining the gigantic, power-generating machines would have a negative effect on the environment. The board also imposed a six-month moratorium on wind turbines following a public hearing.

The decision followed a meeting the previous month attended by 116 residents. Most of those who spoke opposed the project over concerns about noise, light flicker, positioning on steep slopes and other concerns.

Supervisor-elect Brad Jones said he and other elected officials are ready to challenge the lawsuit that claims the town acted improperly and illegally in rejecting the project’s application.

“You don’t try to build a big industrial project when 70 to 80 percent said ‘we don’t want
industrialization in the town,’” said Jones. His family, like most others in Italy, choose to live there because of family history and the town’s rural character, he said.

“We need to represent the will of the people,” added Jones. “We will continue to fight.”

Messages left with Nixon Peabody LLP, Ecogen’s legal representative on the case, were not returned. Beth O’Brien, a spokeswoman with Ecogen’s partner on the project, Pattern Energy Group, said she could not comment because of the pending litigation.

Ed Premo, with Harter Secrest & Emery LLP, which represents the town, said the Town Board did due diligence.

“It went through the process of carefully reviewing the application, went through two public hearings and carefully considered all documents and evidence,” he said, before the board determined the benefits Ecogen offered did not outweigh “the substantial adverse impacts of the project.”

Jones said Ecogen had bought several properties in the town, with plans to build turbines there, claiming in the lawsuit it had spent between $10 million and $12 million on those land deals, while pegging its entire cost for the project at more than $150 million.

Town resident Vince Johnson said he plans to ask the town to set up a legal-defense fund to pay for the ongoing costs in fighting Ecogen in court.

“Sadly, Ecogen is coming back to town again with a legal gun and trying to bleed the town dry,” he said.

Italy and Ecogen have been involved in several legal battles involving the turbine project, which is tied to one in neighboring Prattsburgh. Ecogen and Pattern Energy Group want to put up 33 wind turbines across the two towns, with the companies saying the Prattsburgh project depends on getting the permit from Italy.

Naples also has a lot at stake. This summer the Naples Town Board asked the state’s Public Service Commission to stop development of turbines that would be built close to the town line. The town has focused on five turbines that Ecogen’s original plans sited on Knapp Hill in Prattsburgh. One would be within 250 feet of the Naples town line and less than 500 feet from a Naples landowner's property line.

Wind turbines are already towering over the landscape to the south of Naples. Fifty turbines — with most clustered on Pine and Lent hills in Cohocton — installed by another wind energy company, First Wind, became operational early this year. The company’s plans to erect more than 40 additional turbines for a project in Prattsburgh are currently on hold due to financing issues.
Lynn Barbuto, who owns Ceasar’s Pet Palace in Geneva, said she was dismayed when she drove to Naples recently with a friend who had been interested in buying a home there. When they saw the industrial wind turbines covering the hillsides south of town, they were “mortified,” she said.

Her friend, who grew up in Rochester and had been living in Florida, wanted to return to the Finger Lakes region — particularly the Naples area — and settle down, said Barbuto. “But she rejected that area due to those wind turbines.”

“We couldn’t believe these monstrous things were in this most beautiful site in New York,” said Barbuto. “What next?”

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Ecogen Sues Town of Italy

Wind-energy firm takes town to court

Angered by a Town Board vote in Italy, Yates County, to kill a turbine proposal, a wind-energy company is asking a judge to override the elected board members and allow the project to go forward.

Ecogen Wind LLC, which had been seeking permission to erect 17 wind turbines, each standing 415 feet, said in court papers filed Wednesday that town leaders had dodged and delayed a decision on the proposal since 2002.

When board members finally did vote 5-to-0 in early October to deny Ecogen the approvals it needed, the action was illegal and based on reasons that Ecogen lawyers said were "demonstrably false and/or pretextural."

Ecogen's lawyers, from the Rochester firm Nixon Peabody, said the board had no lawful reason to withhold the permit, had violated the state Open Meetings law by acting in private and had been "arbitrary and capricious" in handling the environmental review process.

The legal action will ask a state Supreme Court justice to reverse the Town Board action and grant Ecogen the permit it needs to proceed, or to order the Town Board to issue the permit.

Ecogen, based in suburban Buffalo, and partner Pattern Energy of San Francisco have planned to build an additional 16 turbines in adjoining Prattsburgh, Steuben County. The two-county wind farm could generate up to about 76 megawatts of electricity.

Because the Italy Town Board also declared a moratorium on any wind-related construction, the unbuilt Prattsburgh turbines are effectively blocked because they would connect to the transmission grid through an electrical substation to be built in Italy.

Ecogen said in the court papers that it has spent $13 million on studies, testing, land acquisition and other work related to the stalled project. It said $120 million in financing is jeopardized.

The action marks at least the fifth court skirmish over the Italy-Prattsburgh wind farm.

A spokeswoman for Pattern Energy did not return a call for comment Thursday. Neither did Italy Town Supervisor Margaret Dunn.

Dunn and two Town Board members who voted to deny the permit to Ecogen were ousted from office in voting Tuesday in favor of stridently anti-turbine candidates.

Supervisor-elect Brad Jones said he could not comment on the lawsuit because he hadn't seen the court papers. But, he added, the board will "continue to represent the expressed desires in the town, which is to resist industrialization."

Steve Orr, Staff writer, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

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Prattsburgh Update

  • Important Message from John Servo
  • The Ecogen meeting is at the Prattsburgh School Cafetorium at 6:30 pm Thursday May 21. Come early if possible, as it will be well attended.
  • Ecogen has a PILOT agreement with Prattsburgh for $9M less that their deal with Italy for a comparable number of wind turbines – 75% less than Italy's deal. We anticipate that Ecogen will present the Town about $1,000,000 in "sweeteners" – several trucks, maybe a new pole barn, some sidewalks, and Scholarship Fund. And where is the other $8,000,000? How stupid does Ecogen and the Town Board majority think we are? What was done to "grease the wheels of progress" to have this rip-off rammed down our throats?
  • Those people who will be potentially damaged by noise, and health and safety problems are supposed to just "shut up and take it". This is not acceptable, and citizens need to make ourselves heard.
  • This past week, Ecogen tried to get Prattsburgh Town board member Steve Kula to accept an artfully worded bribe – Steve's father would not get a (potentially several million dollar) gravel contract with Ecogen unless Steve Jr. recused himself from voting on any wind farm issues. And town attorney John Leyden – who also represents SCIDA, the lead agent for the Ecogen project – suggested that Steve accept and recuse himself! This, after Leyden has previously told Harold McConnell (who received money from a wind farm developer) – and before him David Hall and Andy Moesch, whose families leased to the developers – that they did not need to recuse themselves for conflict-of-interest! Evidently, attorney Leyden believes that only town board members concerned about noise, health and safety issues, and corruption should recuse themselves. If you want to protect the citizens and the Town, you better shut up! What do you think? Come to the Ecogen meeting and tell us what you think!
  • Last month, a 25 acre property in Naples located 537 feet an Ecogen turbine site in Prattsburgh had its tax assessment lowered by 60%. What does this mean? If the Ecogen project is built as planned, the assessments on dozens of damaged properties in Prattsburgh will also be lowered – and if the Town budget doesn't go down, everyone else's taxes will go up. Welcome to the "financial benefits" of a badly planned wind project in Prattsburgh! Tell Ecogen – and their fans on the Prattsburgh Town Board – that you want Ecogen to guarantee protection from these higher taxes!
  • Advocates for Prattsburgh will have a highly respected noise expert speak at the Ecogen meeting. He will address the health and safety impact on adjacent landowners which will result from these damagingly short setbacks. Please listen to what he says, and then tell Ecogen what you think, and what you want!
  • If you have concerns about what is happening and Ecogen's plans for Prattsburgh, please sign up to speak at the meeting.

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Update from Prattsburgh

Dear Folks,

It seems that some of us missed an interesting meeting in Prattsburgh last night. I have spoken to several people who attended and am passing along comments from Arnold Palmer, a landowner in Prattsburgh, who sent me this email.

Just to give you some basics - Prior to the regularly scheduled town board meeting there was a public hearing on the "wind law." Once there is a wind law the town is legally allowed to receive money for building permits from wind companies. They did not vote on the wind law last night - rather they agreed to have a workshop in a couple of weeks to discuss setbacks.

The following is from Arnold:

The meeting was standing room only.

A fellow from Cohocton - Lent Hill Road, [Judge Hal Graham] spoke eloquently about the noise resulting from a 2.3 turbine on his property, how strongly he supported the wind farm concept before they became operational, how completely frustrated he was with the noise level which is so different from what he was promised when he signed a lease, his complete lack of results in trying, now after the fact, to do something about it, how badly he felt about what he'd wrought on his neighbors, and urging the Board to act prudently.

He made the excellent point that, rather than relying on Ecogen or whomever to provide theoretical DB prognostications, the Prattsburgh Board had the option to simply come to Cohocton and listen. He urged them to visit his home and to do so on windy days without giving the wind company a heads up in that, whenever visitors were anticipated, the turbine speeds are slowed down so that visitors are treated to noise levels at 25% or less of what the residents are subjected to on a daily basis. Good discussion about what sorts of setbacks were necessary and what point from which the setbacks should be measured.

The overall tenor of the Hearing and Board Meeting was substantially different that any I've attended in recent memory.

However some things don't change:

The Town Attorney was his usual self, yelling at Al to keep quiet and bristling whenever his posture was questioned by attendees or the Board. Stacy got in a few "you people" epithets in a lengthy self-serving statement describing what a privilege it had been to direct the Comprehensive Plan initiative and remind everyone she was pleased with the Plan and couldn't care less whether anyone else liked the plan, or the people who worked on it or the process under which it was prepared.

When Judge Graham was speaking, the room was silent and he was given the courtesy of speaking when his allotted three minutes were up.

The star of the evening was Steve Kula. He was extremely even-handed on wind related issues, got Harold and the Town Attorney squirming on whether bills (attorney fees and engineering company bills, among others) were being paid properly and transparently or whether they were being sent directly to Harold rather than to the Town who had approved the bills and had them paid. He brought up a number of other equally lightning rod issues about propriety, including asking for an executive session at the end to present a 'legal solution' to end the issues of condemnation and Harold's vote.

So folks, the good news is that the wind law in its present form was not voted upon, and the Board appears to be taking the issue of setbacks seriously. Thanks to everyone who attended last night - the support from this group continues to stay solid, and it is appreciated.


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Hamlin reconsiders wind

Hamlin to consider new wind tower laws

by Meaghan M. McDermott, Staff writer

In the wake of a state Supreme Court decision striking down Hamlin's law regulating wind turbines, town officials plan to begin crafting a new law as soon as possible.

"We're looking at various options," said Town Supervisor Denny Roach, adding that he was "surprised and disappointed" by the Jan. 5 ruling from Justice David M. Barry nullifying wind turbine laws crafted through more than two years of public hearings, committee meetings and research. "Not only did we model our wind tower laws on other wind tower laws enacted throughout the state, but ours were more stringent than the other regulations, including some of the toughest noise restrictions in the state."

The Hamlin Preservation Group sued the town in August over the law, which would allow 400-foot-tall wind turbines to be constructed within 600 feet of property lines and public roads and within 1,200 feet of residences in areas zoned residential/very-low density. About 70 percent of Hamlin is zoned residential/very-low density.

The group claimed the Town Board ignored recommendations of its Wind Tower Committee — which included four of the 39 residents who filed the suit — to establish 1,500-foot setbacks from roads and property lines and 2,640-foot setbacks from homes.

Justice Barry ruled that town leaders violated state environmental quality laws in approving the new ordinance by not taking a "hard look" at environmental concerns related to wind towers or setting forth a "reasoned elaboration" on why the wind tower rules would not have a significant impact on the environment.

"We are very pleased with the decision," said Paul Lapinski of Redman Road, a member of the preservation group. "There are places wind turbines fit in, but they don't fit in right next to somebody's house."

Hamlin leaders began grappling with wind energy issues in late 2006, when Competitive Power Ventures Inc. erected two devices in northwest Hamlin to study whether it would be a good place for a wind farm. Since then, the company — now owned by Rochester Gas and Electric parent Iberdrola — has obtained options to lease about 15 properties for a possible wind farm in the northwest Monroe County town.

So far, Iberdrola has not put forth an official proposal for a wind farm in Hamlin.

But without a wind tower law on the books, Roach worries the town is vulnerable to developers. He plans to ask the Town Board to enact a temporary moratorium on wind farm development at the upcoming Jan. 26 meeting.

Lapinski said he'd like to see the town go even further than the wind committee's recommendations and prohibit turbines within 2,640 feet of property lines and 1,500 feet of roadways. He is concerned about noise, flicker, the possibility of ice thrown from spinning blades, destruction of airborne wildlife and what could happen if a tower were to collapse.

Roach said town leaders would take a harder look at potential environmental concerns.

But, Roach said, he's frustrated by more state and federal government calls for green energy and alternative fuels that don't come with any guidance for local governments for regulation.

"These are all grand goals, but there's no guidance and in the meantime the towns are left with the expense of getting regulations together and in place." he said.

Arthur J. Giacalone, attorney for the preservation group and a proponent of tight controls on wind energy companies, said he's aware of three towns that have banned industrial turbines altogether: Brandon and Malone in Franklin County and Meredith in Delaware County.

"Town boards need to understand they do have a right to keep these things out," he said.

Hamlin is the first Monroe County town to attract attention from a wind power firm. Other projects are ongoing in the region, however. Two farms are planned in Ontario County, there are three in the works in Genesee, one in Orleans and one in Livingston County.

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Hamlin wind law out

NYS Supreme Court Judge Nullifies Hamlin Wind Energy Law

The Wind Energy Law adopted in April 2008 by the Monroe County Town of Hamlin has been “set aside and annulled” by the Hon. David Michael Barry, Justice of New York State’s Supreme Court, in an “Order and Judgment” granted on January 5, 2009. The court’s decision concludes that the Hamlin Town Board violated the requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) when it neither took a “hard look” at the relevant areas of environmental concern, nor set forth a “reasoned elaboration” for its determination that the wind energy law would not have a significant impact on the environment.

The wind law nullified by the court would have allowed construction of 400-foot-tall wind turbines within 600 feet of property lines and public roads and 1,200 feet of residences. In adopting the local law, the Hamlin Town Board chose to ignore the recommendations of the town's Wind Tower Committee for 1,500-foot setbacks from roads and property lines, and 2,640-foot [half-mile] setbacks from residents. The Town Board also disregarded the WTC's recommended noise standards intended to protect the health and wellbeing of nearby residents.

The judicial proceeding was brought in State Supreme Court, Monroe County by the "Hamlin Preservation Group" [HPG], an association of town residents and landowners determined to protect Hamlin's rural character and natural environment, and thirty-nine (39) Town of Hamlin residents. Of special concern to the Hamlin residents was the town board’s failure to take the required “hard look” at potential adverse impacts on human health associated with industrial wind farms prior to establishing minimum setback requirements and noise standards in the challenged wind law.

Attorney Arthur J. Giacalone expressed HPG’s response to the decision:

The members of the Hamlin Preservation Group are thrilled with the court’s ruling, and grateful to Justice Barry for holding the Hamlin Town Board to the tough standards mandated by the State’s environmental review law. If a town chooses to allow, rather than prohibit, industrial-scale wind development, it must, at a minimum, protect its residents' health, maintain the town's rural character, and preserve property values by establishing meaningful setback requirements and noise standards. The court’s ruling will help to ensure those protections.

For further information, please contact Arthur J. Giacalone, at 716-687-1902.

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Naples Appeals to PSC

Naples: Don’t get too close with those windmills

By Emily McFaul, correspondent

Naples, NY — The Town Board says wind turbines planned for neighboring Prattsburgh come too close to the Naples town line. Board members agreed this month to send a letter asking the state Public Service Commission to intervene and order a developer to move the towers further from town line.

“I think the board has made clear, we’re not against wind turbines, but we are against the improper siting of towers,” Supervisor Frank Duserick said.

This is not the first letter of protest the town has issued regarding the location of towers in neighboring townships. In July, the town appealed to the state Attorney General’s Office, arguing that Naples landowners’ property rights and safety are threatened by the placement of the towers. While a date has yet to be set, the Attorney General’s Office has expressed interest in meeting with the town.

At issue are turbines planned for Knapp Hill in Prattsburgh, part of the Ecogen project. Five turbines are scheduled to go up in the area, with the closest only 489 feet from Naples landowner John Servo’s property line. Servo is president of the group Advocates for Prattsburgh, which has opposed this project.

Technically, the setbacks meet project guidelines established for Ecogen through an environmental study headed up by the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency. But both Servo and the Naples Town Board say the setbacks are not enough.

The neighboring town of Cohocton passed a zoning law prohibiting the placement of turbines closer than 1,500 feet from a residence, a step that Duserick points out to the PSC as precedent that another town has acknowledged the undesirability of building within that range.

By placing turbines less than 500 feet from the Naples property line, Duserick and Servo argue that the project is creating “reverse zoning” that effectively limits Naples landowners from full use of their property for safety reasons. “The safety zone is 1,500 feet,” Duserick later said. “There should be a 1,500 feet setback, and actually it’s not enough. That’s for the smaller turbines.”

At a hearing last month, the Steuben County IDA outlined Ecogen’s new plans to install larger 2.3-megawatt turbines instead of the originally planned 1.5-megawatt model, but Naples received no advance notice of the hearing.

The increase in the turbine size means that only 36 towers will be placed instead of the 53 originally planned, but the towers will be 26 feet taller to generate the increased output. Ecogen project manager Thomas Hagner said contrary to what some project critics have suggested, no new environmental study is required.

And despite the number of towers being scaled back, with the site earmarked a prime wind resource, the Knapp Hill towers are still planned. Technically, Ecogen is within its rights to do so, said Hagner. “The turbines meet the permitting requirements of the government agency with jurisdiction on this issue,” he said.

For Duserick, frustration goes back to initial planning phases for the wind project, when the IDA notified the village but not the town of the impending development, leaving the town out of the loop in the environmental review process.

“It’s inappropriate and unethical to place towers so close to the town line without even talking to (us),” said Duserick. “I clearly question the ethics of what’s happening in Steuben County.”
In the letter to the PSC, the town also asks for setbacks of five miles from designated historic sites in Naples like the Memorial Town Hall, in order to protect the town’s scenic views and tourism trade.

The environmental review process for wind developments evaluates the visual impacts of turbines for a radius of 5 miles; for the Ecogen project, the determination recorded in the environmental impact statement is that there would not be “significant adverse impact for distant views (greater than approximately 2 miles).”

But there is some precedent in the PSC limiting turbines from being built in sites where they could be visually and economically detrimental. Last year, the PSC required Jordanville Wind to eliminate 19 of the 68 turbines planned for its Herkimer County project, since they would be visible from the Glimmerglass Historic District. Though the district fell outside of the 5-mile radius, the PSC acknowledged the district as a “nationally significant” historic resource, and a key factor in a regional economic plan developed around heritage-based tourism.

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Good News from Prattsburgh

Dear Folks,

We just learned this weekend that First Wind is indefinitely postponing the Prattsburgh project. We have also heard from a reliable source that they are also refusing to pay the legal bills for the Town of Prattsburgh that they said they would pay. In addition, we believe the company owes the town money for other things (roads or something) that they have not paid.

We think it will be very hard for a court to allow the town of Prattsburgh to condemn property for a company that is indefinitely postponing the project and which OWES THE TOWN MONEY. And if the condemnations are disallowed, that will be disturbing for Ecogen, since we believe that the Ecogen project was counting on a precedent being set so that they could also ask the town to condemn land.

And speaking of Ecogen, there is reason to believe that their partner (and major financer) Babcock and Brown, is almost bankrupt. A recent look at the financial pages showed that their stock fell from $35 over a year ago to TWENTY FIVE CENTS. We are presently looking into this.

It's not over yet, but this news is VERY exciting.

We are very grateful to those of you who have not allowed yourself to be bullied by the companies -- those of you who have stood firm when pressed to sign leases and have chased off the wind company surveyors when they trespassed on your property. Because of all the letters written, meetings attended and attention to detail that has been paid, the wind companies have not been able to railroad through their projects.

If the condemnees had not chosen to appeal, First Wind could have possessed that land four months ago, and we might have had a very different scenario than the one we have now. Thank you to everyone who has supported the condemnees; thank you to those who have answered our most recent appeal for funds; and for those of you who want to help the condemnees with the final bill [see below], please send your checks to Advocates for Prattsburgh, Box 221, Prattsburgh, NY 14873.


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Prattsburgh Update

Members of Advocates for Prattsburgh are continuing to monitor wind happenings, even as the condemnees prepare for the December 12 appeal. We know that nearly everyone on this list continues to be concerned about the future of Prattsburgh, because wherever we go we are asked for the latest update.

Because of generous financial donations the condemnees will have their day in court for a case that affects every community besieged by wind companies. At this point, just $2000 is needed to ensure that the final legal bills can be paid.

Due to our vigilance, most Prattsburgh residents are not yet suffering from turbines with inadequate setbacks, although the Cohocton project has begun to affect some Prattsburgh properties. A drive to Cohocton will demonstrate the reality of the size of the turbines. There have already been noise complaints.

If you read the Naples Record a couple weeks ago, you know that Francis Hall, the father of former Prattsburgh Council Person, David Hall, received $439,250 from Ecogen Wind LLC for a deed transfer. This happened when David Hall was on the Town Board. Since Francis Hall began doing business with Ecogen in about 2003, David Hall voted on several resolutions having to do with wind companies – never once did he recuse himself.

It is impossible for people like David Hall and Harold McConnell to honestly assess the pros and cons of wind projects in Prattsburgh when they or their families are benefiting financially. And without constant monitoring by Prattsburgh residents and landowners, no one would know about these deals that are going on.

On December 12, the lawyer for the condemnees will appear in court to present their case that the benefit of the First Wind project will not be worth the cost. He will argue that the town has overstepped its bounds by condemning property for use by a private company and that, due to conflict of interest, the Supervisor’s tie breaking vote for condemnation should not be allowed to stand.

Because of your support, the condemnees have raised nearly $20,000. Just $2000 more will ensure that the lawyer is paid for the court appearance and for last minute responses to First Wind’s lawyers. If we all chip in, that goal can be reached. Please send whatever you can to Advocates for Prattsburgh, Box 221, Prattsburgh, NY 14873.

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Hamlin wind regs get scrutiny

Things are about to get interesting out in Hamlin.

During his community forum in Irondequoit last night, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo told a group of Hamlin residents that he'd send an environmental attorney to look into the town's wind tower regulations and the circumstances under which they were passed. He was responding to repeated requests from a group of town residents, all members of the Hamlin Preservation Group.

To be clear - Cuomo did not say that his office would take any action, just that he's sending a lawyer to take a look at the situation.

The Hamlin Preservation Group, which is suing the town over the regulations, has a couple of concerns. The first is with the regulations themselves: they allow the towers to be built too close to homes and roads, they say. The second is a perceived conflict of interest: one of the Town Board members has a lease agreement with Iberdrola - the company interested in building turbines in Hamlin - though he abstained from voting on the regulations.

Neither concern is unique to Hamlin.

"It's a big issue all across the state," Cuomo said.

Earlier this year, the AG's office issued a code of conduct for wind developers to help prevent improper relationships with town officials. Noble and First Wind have signed on, but Iberdrola has not. Among those that helped develop the code is Monroe County District Attorney Mike Green.

The Hamlin situation brings a larger problem into sharp relief: there are no uniform regulations for wind farm placement in New York. As Hamlin residents pointed out, that leaves the decision in the town's hands.

Cuomo says that his office has put together a task force to address issues like standardizing setbacks.

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Prattsburgh Needs Help

Dear Friends,

We have very good news in the battle against the property condemnations to benefit First Wind, condemnations triggered by a Town Board decision in which Prattsburgh Town Supervisor Harold McConnell cast the tie-breaking vote. Last week, in a document submitted to the judge, attorneys for windfarm developer First Wind revealed that Harold McConnell actually had more to do with their real estate transaction than previously admitted. Harold wrote the purchase offer, he reviewed the counter offer, and he interacted with the listing agency – an extent and level of involvement not disclosed in his affidavit for the court. Mary Perham used the word "perjury" in the article she wrote for the Corning Leader on Sunday.

First Wind appears to be sacrificing Supervisor McConnell to protect themselves, and their document makes our case for conflict-of-interest much stronger.

We are waiting for the judge to rule, however, there is a good chance she will refer this case to the Appellate Court for the hearing December 10. The court would then rule on the conflict-of-interest at the same time it considers the appeal by Prattsburgh landowners whose land was condemned by the Town as a result of Harold's tie-breaking vote. And while our case is strong – and getting stronger – this court case is an enormous expense, and Advocates for Prattsburgh needs your help.

If you have any doubts what is in store for us if we don't fight for our rights, just see what these wind turbines look like in Cohocton, especially up close. And the BIG issues are not their overwhelming visual dominance, but whether those of us near them will be able to live in our homes, and – let's face it – the personal financial impact. For most of us, the value of our homes and our property represents much of our life savings. What will happen if your property is devalued or becomes unsellable, or you can't get an equity loan to help pay your bills?

What about the NOISE? Last week, one Cohocton resident 4000 feet from a wind turbine said it sounded like a freight train. Is THIS what we want? And the potentially severe negative impact which peppering the Town with wind turbines would have on our local economy and our taxes is coming at the worst possible time.

Please contribute to the legal battle against eminent domain, and to throw out Harold McConnell's tainted vote to condemn the land of Prattsburgh property owners. We have worked tirelessly for nearly six years to hold the windfarm developers and state and local agencies accountable for the health and safety and environmental integrity of our area, and at this critical juncture, AFP needs your help. We need $5000 to pay legal expenses through December 10, when the court will decide. By every indication, we have a very strong case, and your contribution of $50, $500 or any amount will make all the difference.

So please, do what you can and send donations to Advocates for Prattsburgh, Box 221, Prattsburgh NY 14873. It is the donations of concerned citizens like you which make this fight possible. Thank you, for all of us in Prattsburgh.

Sincerely for Advocates for Prattsburgh

Al Wordingham
Arnold Palmer
Ruthe Matilsky
Terry Matilsky
Al Muscianese
John Servo

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Prattsburgh wind deal

New info calls statements into question

BATH - New court documents appear to contradict sworn statements by Prattsburgh Supervisor Harold McConnell about his involvement in a windfarm land deal. Kevin Bernstein, attorney for Windfarm Prattsburgh, submitted additional information about the transaction Monday to state Supreme Court Justice Marianne Furfure.

McConnell, a real estate agent, is under fire for voting on issues involving the wind developer after he received payments for his role in selling property to Windfarm Prattsburgh. McConnell has maintained the payments were for token assistance and should not have prevented him from voting twice in favor of eminent domain proceedings on behalf of the energy company.

Click here to read Mary Perham's whole article in this week's Steuben Courier.

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Pressure from Big Wind

Italy zoning changes pave way for wind energy

PENN YAN — The Yates County Planning Board approved proposed incentive zoning amendments to the Town of Italy’s comprehensive plan that would make way for wind energy development.

Incentive zoning refers to designated areas in the town where wind turbines would be allowed and developers eligible for financial incentives.

At Thursday’s meeting, board member Dave Christiansen asked Italy Town Supervisor Margaret Dunn why the town didn’t address the zoning issue during its moratorium on wind farm development.

At that time, Dunn said a majority of people opposed wind farm development and the town eventually banned wind farms. However, a lawsuit filed by wind farm developer EcoGen LLC prompted discussions with the town attorney on incentive zoning, she said, with feedback from the town board and residents supportive of such an option.

She said the proposed zones encompass two locations, which were chosen because the areas have already attracted interest from developers and town residents there are interested in leasing their properties.

Board Member Carroll Graves asked if a developer could still sue the town over potential development areas that are excluded from the incentive zoning plan. Dunn replied that she hopes the zoning proposal will show courts that the town is allowing such development, even if it’s in a designated area.

Click here to read the complete Finger Lakes Times article by by Amanda Folts.

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Lawsuits blown away

Steuben judge dismisses CWW efforts to halt $230 million First Wind project

Bath, N.Y. - Cohocton town officials are breathing a sigh of relief today after three legal challenges to the $230 million wind turbine development in the town have been dismissed.

Steuben County Supreme Court Judge Marianne Furfure sided with Cohocton town officials, developer First Wind and leaseholders Tuesday morning, dismissing three lawsuits filed by local advocacy group Cohocton Wind Watch to halt work on the 50-turbine wind development in the town.

According to Cohocton town Supervisor Jack Zigenfus, Furfure made her ruling from the bench. No written copy of the decision was available Tuesday afternoon, according to employees at the Steuben County Supreme Court Clerk’s office. “She just dismissed it without comment,” he said.

Click here to read Bob Clark' entire Hornell Evening Tribune article.

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Italy Under Pressure

Not in my valley, say Italy residents

Members of the Italy Town Board listen to people speak during
a public hearing to rezone land to allow windmills in the town on Saturday.

Nearly 70 concerned residents and neighbors spoke out about potential rezoning for wind turbines in the Italy Valley at a public hearing Saturday. The discussion continued a forum that began at a meeting last week in which emotional residents protested the proposed changes, which would allow developer Ecogen LLC to move forward with plans for wind turbines in two areas in the southern portion of the town.

About two-thirds of the speakers on Saturday opposed wind development, said Town Board member Malcolm MacKenzie. Of those, many surmised that developers are not concerned about the best interest of the residents.

Click here to read the entire Messenger Post article.

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Whiff of Corruption

In Rural New York, Windmills Can Bring Whiff of Corruption

Click on image to view a slide show

BURKE, N.Y. — Everywhere that Janet and Ken Tacy looked, the wind companies had been there first.

Dozens of people in their small town had already signed lease options that would allow wind towers on their properties. Two Burke Town Board members had signed private leases even as they negotiated with the companies to establish a zoning law to permit the towers. A third board member, the Tacys said, bragged about the commissions he would earn by selling concrete to build tower bases. And, the Tacys said, when they showed up at a Town Board meeting to complain, they were told to get lost.

“There were a couple of times when they told us to just shut up,” recalled Mr. Tacy, sitting in his kitchen on a recent evening.

Lured by state subsidies and buoyed by high oil prices, the wind industry has arrived in force in upstate New York, promising to bring jobs, tax revenue and cutting-edge energy to the long-struggling region. But in town after town, some residents say, the companies have delivered something else: an epidemic of corruption and intimidation, as they rush to acquire enough land to make the wind farms a reality.

“It really is renewable energy gone wrong,” said the Franklin County district attorney, Derek P. Champagne, who began a criminal inquiry into the Burke Town Board last spring and was quickly inundated with complaints from all over the state about the wind companies. Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo agreed this year to take over the investigation.

Click here to read the entire New York Times article by Nicholas Confessore.

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Hamlin Residents File Suit

Hamlin residents sue to block wind farm plans

by Michael Zeigler, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle Staff writer

Hamlin residents who oppose a new town law regulating the development of wind farms have sued the town.

The Hamlin Preservation Group and 39 town residents filed a lawsuit Tuesday in state Supreme Court against the law, claiming it will ruin Hamlin’s rural nature and environment.

The Hamlin Town Board unanimously approved the law at a contentious meeting April 24. One board member abstained because he had signed a lease agreement with a wind energy firm

The law, which was the first passed by a town in Monroe County, allows electricity-producing wind turbines up to 400 feet high in parts of town zoned residential-very low density. Turbines may be placed within 600 feet of property lines and 1,200 feet of residences.

Attorney Arthur J. Giacalone, who represents the Hamlin Preservation Group, said about 70 percent of the town is zoned residential-very low density, including fruit orchards near Lake Ontario. He said the town board ignored recommendations of its Wind Tower Committee to establish 1,200-foot setbacks from roads and property lines and 2,640-foot setbacks from homes.

Town Supervisor Dennis Roach didn’t immediately return a call requesting his comment.



Report from Prattsburgh

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced last week "the launching of an investigation into two companies developing and operating wind farms across New York State amid allegations of improper dealings with public officials and anti-competitive practices."

Under investigation is our very own "First Wind", formerly known variously as "UPC" and "Global Winds Harvest". First Wind, as the developer of Windfarm Prattsburgh, has pressed the Prattsburgh Town Board to initiate condemnation proceedings and exercise eminent domain for their benefit. While we are hopeful that that the Attorney General's investigation will lead to proper regulation of windfarms across the state, it is still necessary for us to continue the legal strategies that are underway.

For this reason, Advocates for Prattsburgh is proceeding with its Article 78 to annul the decisions of the Town Board to proceed with eminent domain. As we mentioned earlier in Latest News, the tie-breaking vote was cast by Town Supervisor Harold McConnell, who refused to recues himself, even after admitting he receiving money from First Wind. We are doing as much as is humanly possible to get these projects properly regulated, and we need your financial support for legal fund. Please send your donations to Advocates for Prattsburgh, Box 221, Prattsburgh, NY 14873.

Another pressing concern is that, at the same time that First Wind - owner of Windfarm Prattsburgh - is under investigation, the other windfarm developer operating in Prattsburgh - Ecogen - seems to have stepped up its attempts to acquire easements for transmission lines as well as new sites for towers. People have reported finding four-wheeler tracks as well as surveyor's marks on their property when no permission was granted. In addition, we have been told that the leases that have been offered put significant restrictions on a landowners' use of his own property.

Ron and Lynn Iocono have filed an appeal of the condemnation of their property by the Town to provide an easement for Windfarm Prattsburgh. Three other landowners have joined them in the appeal. Ron and Lynn live in Delaware and were planning to retire here in a few years. He is working overtime as an EMT to help pay for the appeal.

On September 5, our Article 78 will be heard in Bath. We are asking the judge to set aside the vote of the town supervisor on eminent domain because of conflict of interest. This is the second time our case will go to court and it has cost us additional funds. Many of you have been very generous in responding to our most recent appeals and we really wish that taxpayers didn't have to use their own money to see justice done, but that is the system we live with, and we continue to need donations. So please send what you can.

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Whistle blown on wind power

Corruption allegations swirl around push for wind power

At first there were sporadic complaints last year to the office of Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne. Then the outcry grew. North Country residents alleged that undue influence was being put on local leaders to approve multimillion-dollar wind farms, with turbines 200 feet or taller, in their rural communities near the Canadian border.

To Champagne's dismay, he thought some of the public officials approving the contracts were also leasing their own land to the wind developers. Champagne found as many as seven town board members in Franklin County who had apparent conflicts of interest.

"These elected officials (who had lease agreements with wind developers) were the same ones who would have to pass the appropriate local legislation to allow them to be constructed," Champagne said last week at his office in Malone. "And they would do it."

As New York seeks to produce 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2013, the push by developers and the state to expand wind farms is creating unintended results: bitterly divided communities, accusations of corruption and complaints of poor state oversight for a new type of energy.

Champagne calls it New York's version of a "gold rush" and said it could be the next Enron scandal in the making. He sent out a memo to every town board in his county, urging them to adopt stronger ethical codes.

Some critics question whether the wind farms will produce adequate electricity or instead are being built to tap into public subsidies and sell wind-energy credits on the open market to offset pollution from other industries.

Michael Lawrence, supervisor of Brandon in Franklin County, said the battle over whether to have a wind farm "has created devastation in the community."

Champagne has turned over his cardboard box of documents on cases across the state to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Last week, Cuomo issued subpoenas to two of New York's major wind-farm developers, saying that "if dirty tricks are used to facilitate even clean-energy projects, my office will put a stop to it."

Click here to read the whole front page story by Joseph Spector, Albany bureau, published in today's Democrat & Chronicle.

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AG Investigating UPC Wind

Cuomo Probing Conduct Of Wind Power Companies

ALBANY—The Attorney General’s office has launched an investigation into two companies developing and operating wind farms across New York state amid allegations of improper dealings with public officials and anti-competitive practices.

Wind farms are clusters of large electricity-generating turbines powered by wind and connected to the electric grid.

Subpoenas were served on Newton, Massachusetts-based First Wind (formerly known as UPC Wind) and Essex, Connecticut-based Noble Environmental Power, LLC. They are part of an investigation into whether companies developing wind farms improperly sought or obtained land-use agreements with citizens and public officials; whether improper benefits were given to public officials to influence their actions, and whether they entered into anti-competitive agreements or practices.

In recent months, the Office of the Attorney General has received numerous complaints regarding the two companies from citizens, groups and public officials in eight counties alleging improper relations between the companies and local officials and other improper practices.

“The use of wind power, like all renewable energy sources, should be encouraged to help clean our air and end our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. “However, public integrity remains a top priority of my office and if dirty tricks are used to facilitate even clean-energy projects, my office will put a stop to it.”

The Attorney General’s subpoenas seek, among other things:

–All documents concerning any benefits conferred on any individual or entity in connection with wind farm activity.
–All agreements, easements or contracts with individuals regarding placement of wind turbines.
–Agreements between wind companies that may indicate anti-competitive practices.
–All documents pertaining to any payments or benefits received from local, state or federal agencies.

First Wind has three operational wind farms and 48 others in development across the country, according to its web site. First Wind developed the Steel Winds wind farm in Erie County and has wind farms in development in Steuben, Chautauqua, Genesee and Wyoming (GenWY Wind) counties.

Noble Environmental Power, LLC, has three active wind farms and five in development in Allegany, Chautauqua, Clinton, Franklin and Wyoming Counties.

The investigation is being led by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Heffner of the Syracuse Regional Office under the supervision of Special Deputy Attorney General Ellen Biben, who oversees the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau. Assisting in the case are Investigators Thomas Wolf, David Bruce and Andrea Burnham.

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Prattsburgh Fiaso Unfolds

Prattsburgh tables eminent domain issue

7/18/08, Prattsburgh, N.Y. - A final vote by the Prattsburgh Town Board on whether to move ahead with eminent domain proceedings is on hold for a week.

The town board agreed Tuesday night to a proposal by town Councilman Steve Kula to try to iron out legal difficulties with two local school districts before voting on the eminent domain issue.

The board will invite representatives from the Prattsburgh and Naples central schools, the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency, and the county to discuss their issues in executive session at 7 p.m. June 24 at the town hall.

Earlier this year, the school districts challenged both an agreement between the town and wind farm developer UPC and a 20-year tax break for the developer provided by SCIDA. UPC has since changed its name to First Wind.

The two districts charge the town agreement was used to reduce payments they should receive through SCIDA’s tax incentive. The districts estimate they will lose a total of $1.6 million in funds they would have received under similar SCIDA agreements.

“I just want to be sure we’re playing from the same playing field,” Kula said later. “I want honesty and openness.”

Representatives of several of the agencies met recently with SCIDA board member and county Legislature Chairman Philip Roche, R-Erwin, but no settlement was reached. First Wind was not asked to attend the meeting.

The town board was poised to vote Tuesday night on condemning portions of roadway owned by seven property owners, a step necessary before eminent domain proceedings can begin. The seven have refused to sign easements allowing First Wind to lay underground electrical transmission cables for the proposed 36-turbine windfarm.

Tempers grew heated at the meeting as residents questioned town Attorney John Leyden about the proceedings.

Leyden said 60 out of 70 written concerns submitted during a recent public comment period had no bearing on whether the roadway should be condemned. Leyden said the comments dealt with the value of the wind farm and not condemnation.

The board will make a decision based on oral comments, 18 exhibits and the written comments, he said.

Ruth Matilsky, an opponent of the project, said Leyden’s explanations added to her confusion.

“I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone,” she said.

The questions about the proceedings angered one man, who said the seven property owners should be forced to sign.

After words were exchanged between those for and against the issue, town Supervisor Harold McConnell told the opponents they had no right to tell supporters to shut up.

“You people make me sick,” he said, angrily.

by Mary Perham, Corning Leader

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Judge Nixes Iberdrola Deal

PSC should kill Iberdrola deal, law judge says

The state Public Service Commission should reject the proposed takeover of Energy East Corp. by a big Spanish utility, an administrative law judge said today in a much-awaited recommendation.

Energy East is the parent of both Rochester Gas and Electric and New York State Electric and Gas.

The Department of Public Service law judge, Rafael Epstein, picked apart the proposed $4.5 billion deal between Iberdrola SA and Energy East, writing that the commission should disapprove the transaction “on the ground that it does not satisfy the ‘public-interest’ requirement of Public Service Law.”

But if the commission does approve the sale of Energy East, there are pre-conditions that should be met, he wrote.

They include forcing Iberdrola to sell its wind power plants in New York; to agree to $646 million in public-benefit adjustments; and to abide by safeguards and rate proceedings as proposed by the PSC staff.

Iberdrola officials had earlier said they would walk away from the deal, which has been approved by other affected states and the federal government, if New York demanded they sell their wind power farms.

Epstein's recommendation sets the stage for the parties in the case to respond - they have until July 1 to do so -- and then a vote by the PSC.

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Letter to the Governor

Governor David A. Paterson
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

RE: State Energy Policy and Iberdrola Takeover of Energy East

Dear Governor Patterson:

You have inherited policies from two previous administrations, and your agencies are still tenaciously clinging to these policies and promoting them. Times have changed, however, and it is imperative that you reformulate at least one of those policies – the state energy policy.

As a Democrat in a heavily Republican district, I can tell you that trouble is brewing here around the most contentious issue to appear in upstate New York since the Abolition Movement. Wind turbine construction is seen as a huge threat to our economy and our way of life in upstate New York. Citizens are becoming aware of the scam that Iberdrola and other wind developers are perpetrating on us, and in this post-Enron era, the public has little patience for corporations that lie, cheat, and steal. This undoubtedly will become an election issue next fall, and political hopefuls are recognizing the importance of being on the right side of this issue. Politicians who encourage Iberdrola’s takeover of Energy East, who support Article X, who champion wind development as the solution to our energy crisis, will find themselves criticized, ridiculed, and heavily challenged come fall.

Please provide leadership to our party, and give these incumbents and challengers the support of a thoroughly enlightened, objective, and science-based energy policy. Clean house at NYSERDA, where too many officials have close ties to the industries they are supposed to be overseeing. Redirect DEC, OPRHP, and Ag & Markets to return to their mission of protecting the resources under their charge, rather than exploiting them for corporate profit. It is becoming painfully clear that the Pataki administration led us way off track in this regard. We are looking to Democrats to set things right. If they don’t, they stand little chance of beating back Republicans in the next gubernatorial race.

The party that shows the public that it is not in the pocket of foreign corporations, but instead is courageously standing up to their posturing and threats, will ultimately be the one that triumphs here. Please support the Public Service Commission in its efforts to save us from being exploited by a foreign corporation. Please give clear instructions to your agencies that they must safeguard the welfare of all the people of New York State, and not just a tiny fraction of wealthy businesses. Your leadership is key.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.


Andrea Rebeck, AIA Columbia University ‘78
4652 Oak Orchard Road, Albion, NY 14411-9509
Telephone: 585-590-1199

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Prattsburgh Testimony

Do they have what it takes to take what you have? Ask the people in Prattsburgh, NY

On May 21, 2008 nearly 150 people attended a public hearing in Prattsburgh on a proposal for the town to seize the roadway owned by seven residents. The properties are needed for a 100-mile underground electrical cable system for the 36-turbine wind farm being developed by UPC (now “First”) Wind.

Don't believe it? Click here to read more. Or click here to watch a video of residents faced with having their land taken in order to accommodate an industrial wind farm. Or click on each name of those giving testimony to link to video of that testimony.

When you had the eminent domain hearing April 21st, [I received] a certified letter that was postmarked on the 17th, a Thursday. By the time I received this letter on Monday the 21st I would have had to have driven 350 miles in six hours to attend the hearing. Right now what's taking place in this town affects people all across the United States. Eminent domain is a very serious issue
- nobody's property is safe.

If you think a project of this magnitude is accepted by the residents of Prattsburgh, then why wasn't this put up for a general vote by the residents? The reason is because you all know it never would have passed. A man's land and his home are second only to his family. I hope you realize the Pandora's box you are opening over this eminent domain. The magnitude of the power you are authorizing is beyond expression. Whether you are for the turbines or not, authorizing eminent domain will affect every member of this community.

What's next for eminent domain issues? Gas companies are pounding on our doors as we speak for easement rights. If I say no, they're going to come running to this board and request eminent domain. You do it for one, then the precedent is set for all other corporate giants to hand this board a bauble and get their way.

Was it proper to threaten property owners with eminent domain before the April 22 meeting? Because two of my neighbors were threatened, and eventually did sign easements. One of my neighbors did not cave in, but she was also threatened with eminent domain before it was even discussed in a public hearing. It's a question of ethics, and what's right and what's wrong. And for foreign owned companies to come into this community and tell people they're going to take their land, U.S. property, because of eminent domain, is not right.

Prattsburgh is indeed economically and socially depressed. It has been for many years. It's clear that's one of the main reasons members of the board have signed host agreements with industrial wind turbine corporations that promise to bring such growth and positive changes.

If the wind farms are allowed to come here based on eminent domain, it will truly be a miscarriage of justice. The streets of this village will be paved with gold if what [developer] First Wind is promising is true. You have only to look at other communities where they have built, and then left, to know that will not be the case.

I urge everyone who believes this power is clean or green to do your own research. You really don't have to dig very far to see the truth. It's important for all of you to know that many who oppose industrial wind turbines are very committed to the earth and trying to reduce our personal carbon footprints, reducing our consumption, using solar, or photo voltaics, which doesn't hurt your neighbors.

Continued below:

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Prattsburgh Testimony, 2


This is not about turbines or no turbines this is about fundamental rights of all property owners. .....The night you passed the resolution [for eminent domain] the entire presentation by UPC was about eight properties along Fisher Road. When the resolution was read, it encompassed the whole project area.

There are just three Prattsburgh residents [who will benefit from the wind farm]
- Mr. Taylor, the Jensons, and the Smiths. Ms. Jenson made a statement at a public hearing and she mentioned she had lived around wind turbines and it wasn't bad, that you get used to them. After the hearing my wife and I approached her and asked how close she had lived to the turbines. She replied, “Around twenty miles away.”

Taking land from individuals to push through this project is disgraceful.... we know that only three people with wind turbines actually live in Prattsburgh. We know all 170 adjacent landowners whose property will be devalued will result in harm to the entire tax base of this town...

We need confirmation that any insurance that is provided through UPC project is aware of the setbacks of this project and that they are within what has been determined to be a hardhat area for Vestas turbines, 1300 feet, and does not meet GE manufacturers specifications for safety.

Last month I was informed of the town boards intent to use eminent domain in order to complete UPC's wind farm project. I attended the April 21st town board meeting. The main focus of this meeting was on eight parcels of land in which eminent domain would be used in order complete UPC's project. It was stated that the owners of these properties had been sent certified letters informing them of the vote to be held that evening. The eight properties discussed are positioned on Rosie Hill, Block School, Fisher and Cook School Roads. Those are four roads.

Just prior to voting, the resolution was read. Rather than listing the eight properties discussed during the meeting, the resolution gave approval for eminent domain to be used on any property positioned along those four roads as well as four additional roads that were not mentioned once during the meeting. I find this exclusion of information very deceiving. My property happens to be located on one of those roads. I am directly affected by the town boards vote to use eminent domain but I've received no notification regarding this matter. No certified letter inviting me to attend a meeting in which a vote was held to condemn my land. It concerns me that the town board would or could pass a resolution of such magnitude without contacting all the landowners who would be directly affected by it. It also concerns me that a resolution of this magnitude is being passed in favor of UPC, a private corporation, not a public utility. In fact at the April 21st meeting, UPC was asked, and refused to reveal their wind data. How can we consider this project a benefit to the community when UPC won't disclose their supporting data?

What's really surprising about eminent domain is what it's doing to your community - it's ripping you apart. What it's also doing, which is not listed in any of the studies is people's health or welfare, or any health effects from emotional stress due to an eminent domain situation.... What we're doing here is setting a precedent for the rest of the state. All these wind farms, which you know are coming in all over the state now, are going to use anything possible to get the job done.... Is any amount of money worth it?

The beneficiaries of Prattsburgh's eminent domain actions are not the general public, as required by eminent domain laws, the fundamental justification for exercising property condemnation and acquisition has not been met. ...This eminent domain action will benefit only the wind developer and not the community at large.

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Letter to Prattsburgh Board

Town Board Prattsburgh, NY
19 N. Main St
Prattsburgh, NY 14873

RE: Eminent Domain Resolution

Board Members:

I challenge the propriety of using eminent domain for the benefit of a private company, UPC now First Wind, in Prattsburgh. The Constitution of the United States allows eminent domain in cases of "public use" only, and is intended to be used for providing essential services.

Industrial wind development does not meet the qualifications of an essential service, since it only duplicates the generation of electricity and does not replace our current generating facilities. The existing facilities must be kept on standby as backup for wind power; therefore the wind facility is redundant and not essential.

The perceived "public good" of the wind development helping solve our environmental problems and global warming has not been proven with any actual scientific data, for the reason that real world operation of industrial wind projects does not support this premise. Indeed, there are many negative effects associated with wind turbines, including serious safety issues, that would most definitely NOT be in the interest of Prattsburgh citizens.

An examination of the proposed economic benefit to the community reveals numbers based on estimates, without guarantees and without consideration of the overall costs to the community in lost property values, higher electricity rates and taxpayer subsidies and tax credits to the developer. Again, the public benefit is extremely questionable.

The increase in the abuse of eminent domain for the benefit of private entities has created a groundswell of opposition from New York and Detroit to California. Many individuals are fighting the practice, and the courts, which used to routinely rubber stamp local condemnations, are responding. Six state legislatures have passed bills increasing protections for people threatened with eminent domain. Eleven others are considering such bills, including New York.

Your actions affect not only Prattsburgh, but your neighboring communities as well. A decision to use eminent domain in this matter shows that the Town Board has no interest in protecting the fundamental rights of its citizens or in following the spirit of the United States Constitution. I strongly urge you to reconsider your stance on this resolution and do the right thing for your community and future generations in the Town of Prattsburgh.

Joan Simmons
Town of Italy

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Eminent Domain Hearing

Prattsburgh residents weigh in on eminent domain

5/25/08, Prattsburgh, N.Y. - Both sides of a dispute over eminent domain proceedings in the town of Prattsburgh weighed in with vigor Thursday night in the volunteer fire station.

Nearly 150 people attended the public hearing on a proposal for the town to seize roadway owned by seven residents. The properties are needed for a 100-mile underground electrical cable system for the 36-turbine wind farm being developed by First Wind.

Eminent domain allows a municipality to take private property if it serves a common good. The municipality must pay the owner for the land, determined by fair market value.

Click here to read Mary Perham's entire article in The Corning Leader. For those who are new to the controversy, background articles by Mary are linked in a preceding post.

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Eminent Domain Remarks

The following is from Jim Sawicki's public presentation to the Prattsburgh Town Board this past Thursday:

Good evening. I would like to thank the Town Board of Prattsburgh and everyone here tonight for giving me the opportunity to speak with you. I am a neighbor of Prattsburgh. My name is Jim Sawicki, and I own property in the town of Italy. So, it has come to this. Here we all are this evening faced with difficult issues... Neighbor pitted against neighbor. Communities split apart. For what? For whom?

Click here to read Jim's entire presentation. It's well worth your time.

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SCIDA Stiffs Schools Again

SCIDA refuses to alter windfarm agreement

5/16/08, Bath, N.Y. - A disagreement over the terms of a tax deal for a windfarm development in Prattsburgh will apparently have to be settled in court.

The Steuben County Industrial Development Agency refused to change the terms of a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement Thursday for a 36-turbine project by First Wind, formerly known as UPC.

Attorneys for the Prattsburgh and Naples school districts requested a renegotiation claiming the company should be paying hundreds of thousands of dollars more in taxes.

The tax agreement involves First Wind paying a fixed amount of taxes to the school districts, the town of Prattsburgh and the county over a 20-year period.

SCIDA approved the tax agreement Thursday and attorneys for the school districts said they will follow through with a court challenge. The two sides argued their cases in court in late April, prior to the final agreement being approved. Supreme Court Judge Peter Bradstreet presided over the hearing and a decision is pending.

Click here to read Mary Perham's entire article in The Corning Leader. For those who are new to the controversy, background articles by Mary are linked below:
4/4/08 - Schools sue over wind farm payments
5/3/08 - Schools await windfarm decision
5/9/08 - Opponents demand investigation into wind farms

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Urgent Hearing in Prattsburgh

This coming Thursday, May 22, from 7 to 9 pm there will be a Public Hearing at the Fire House at 15 Allis Street in Prattsburgh on Eminent Domain. Mentioned in the town’s resolution of April 21 are eight specific properties as well as any other property it might need on Rosey Hill Road, Gay Road, Cook School Road, Davis Road, Fisher Road, Dillenbeck Road, Block School Road and Matoon Road for the same purpose.

Those property owners who may subsequently wish to challenge condemnation of their property may only do so based on the issues, facts and objections raised at the Public Hearing. We have been told, but as of this date it has not been confirmed, that written comments can be submitted up until and including 5 pm May 27.

I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of attending this public hearing. This project will affect not just Prattsburgh, but all the surrounding towns. In this writer’s opinion, the reason that land needs to be condemned for the project is that, bottom line, the majority of people in Prattsburgh do not want this project.

Windfarm Prattsburgh has never proved its public benefit. The wind data has never been revealed, despite countless requests. Forcing landowners to sign easements for a project that will put 400 foot towers right next door to their property is nothing short of criminal. nd if Prattsburgh will do this for Windfarm Prattsburgh, they will do it for the Ecogen project and any other project that might come along. And once the precedent is set, other towns will be affected.

If you have any concern at all about Eminent Domain for this Project, please make your voice heard.

Very truly yours, Ruth Matilsky

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