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.

Labels: , ,


Hartsville Moratorium?

Hold on wind project proposed

by Bob Clark, Hornell Evening Tribune

Hartsville, NY - With little news from developers and fears of low returns on revenue, the Town of Hartsville might hold off on allowing anyone to build a wind farm until the details get ironed out.

The Hartsville town board voted 3-2 at Wednesday night’s meeting to consider a law placing a moratorium on wind turbine development. Town Supervisor Steve Dombert proposed the idea following a discussion on revenue benefits for the town and how they would compare to other municipalities.

Under the current Payment in Lieu of Taxes formulas, the town would receive between $52,000 and $180,000, Dombert said. “I’m really underwhelmed,” he said.

While the Town of Cohocton has received more than a million dollars in two years from a community host agreement, Dombert said recent court action by parties involved in the PILOT programs at other wind turbine locations may rule the community host agreement concept void.

He said he recently talked to representatives with E.ON, the company planning to build between 33 and 46 turbines in the town, “but I’m not feeling I’m getting a lot of encouragement on their end.”

The length of the moratorium would be between six months to a year, he said, adding it would give the town time to figure out its options and negotiate any necessary deals with the Canisteo-Greenwood Central School District.

Dombert added he feels the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency, which has the task of negotiating PILOT agreements, is not looking out for the town’s best interest. “They’re not negotiating anything at all,” he said.

Labels: , ,


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.


Labels: , ,


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

Labels: ,


Pickens Plan Problems

US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “We can have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

Slim Pickens was a cowboy and actor, but a slim picking is not the adjectival phrase for T. Boone Pickens and his wealth. One of his books is titled. “The First Billion is the Hardest: Reflections on the Life of Comebacks and America’s Energy Future.” He is busily making the second and likely the third billion much easier. His plan uses the combination of wind power with energy sufficiency and independence for the US.

Initially, his advertisements put wind power front and center. In doing so, he put on the cloak of green, a phrase I co-opted from Elaine Dewar’s wonderful book of the same name. I’ve used the phrase to describe what many politicians feel forced to do. They understand the real science of climate change, but dare not appear opposed to protecting the environment.

Pickens uses wind power as his cloak of green to buy credibility and time to make natural gas the primary power for vehicles and develop nuclear and coal sources. He throws in other alternative energies as a lining to the cloak. I’ve advocated natural gas for vehicles and nuclear and coal for electricity for many years. Oil will serve the petrochemical industry and produce aviation fuels. Reduced demand for oil means that even current reserves will last for a very long time.

So what concerns me about Pickens' proposals? Initially it was the wind power proposal, which clearly demonstrates his lack of understanding of the severe limitations of that energy. More recently, it is the advertisement of a natural gas company spokesperson talking about his “good friend” Mr. Pickens. I am not opposed to capitalism or profit; however, I am opposed to achieving the latter with deception. Mr. Pickens folksy manner and financial success are used to convince people wind power can provide 20% of US energy. He appears on television programs selling his proposal to a public and political leaders desperate for solutions.

Pickens’ facade of being knowledgeable with a clear solution is quickly dispelled with a few facts about wind power. Like all alternate energies it is not a panacea. He needs to spend his money on accurate cost benefit analyses of all alternate energies. He should urge government to do the same thing before he takes a penny of the massive government subsidies that are seriously distorting analysis of alternative energies.

Click here to read the complete article by Dr. Tim Ball in this week's Canada Free Press.

Labels: , ,


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.

Labels: , , ,


Problems with Iberdrola

Why are New York Political and Business Leaders putting the interests of Spain-based Iberdrola ahead of the interests of New York’s taxpayers and electric customers? New York’s taxpayers and electric customers are facing a serious threat:

• Iberdrola, the Spanish company that wishes to acquire Energy East and its electric and gas distribution subsidiaries is insisting that it will “walk away from” the deal if it is not permitted to build “wind farms” in New York.
• High-powered New York political, business, labor and media leaders (including Governor Paterson and Senator Schumer) are working to get members of the NY State Public Utility Commission (NYS PSC) to overturn the PSC Staff’s recommendation and the Administrative Law Judge’s conclusion that Iberdrola should not be permitted to own both electric generating capacity (including “wind farms”) and electric distribution companies in NY.
• These NY “leaders” are striving in favor of Iberdrola despite the demonstrable negative impacts that Iberdrola’s proposal would have on New York’s taxpayers, electric customers, and state economy.

This brief, researched and written by Glenn R. Shleede:

• Provides details on the financial reason that apparently underlies Iberdrola’s insistence on the right to own “wind farms” in NY. That is, huge tax breaks available for “wind farms” could permit Iberdrola to sharply reduce or eliminate liability for paying federal or state tax income tax on profits from Energy East Companies’ electricity and gas distribution operations.
• Speculates about the reasons why NY “leaders” are working so hard on behalf of Iberdrola – and against the interests of NY taxpayers and electric customers – and the state’s economy.

Labels: , ,


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

Labels: , , ,


VN 5/13 - WCCS Taxpayers

The Wayland-Cohocton School Board needs to hear from you. Attend the Wayland-Cohocton Central School District Budget Hearing in the LGI Auditorium at WCCS in Wayland on Tuesday, May 13th from 7–9 pm.

This public hearing is important because your real estate tax bill is facing a dramatic increase this coming year. Meanwhile, UPC/First Wind refuses to pay their fair share to the WCCS. The PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) arranged by SCIDA is a pittance compared to the $2,000,000 plus a year in school taxes that would be assessed on the real value of the development if the owners of the industrial wind factory in Cohocton were to pay based on their assessment and current tax rate, like the rest of us folks.

And who are the owners of this privileged project? That’s a well-kept secret, but you can be pretty sure that the real equity owners are the super-rich who invest in these projects as tax shelters, not residents of rural upstate New York.

The Town of Naples and the Town of Prattsburgh have filed legal actions against SCIDA PILOTS and are now in court. These school districts stand to reap big dividends. But the Wayland-Cohocton School Board has refused to file its own suit so far. You, the hard pressed taxpayer, will be told to pay a large tax increase this coming year, but UPC/First Wind will get a huge tax exemption that will last for twenty years. Some school board members may even have vested family benefit putting their profit above your interest.

Attend the public hearing on May 13th and demand that the Wayland-Cohocton School Board file a legal action on all of our behalf. If Naples and Prattsburgh School Boards are fighting for their property owners, our Board should do the same. If they refuse to respond to the fiscal welfare of taxpayers, send a loud and clear message and VOTE DOWN the proposed WCCS Budget at the annual school budget vote to be held in the LGI Auditorium on Tuesday, May 20th. Polls open at 10 am and close at 8 pm. Thank you for getting the word out to your friends!

Labels: ,


Windmills Save Poor Farmer?

Innovative Dairy Attracts International Visitors

Lancaster Farming ran an article this week extolling the virtues of Paul Walcott's farm in Cohocton, noting that “windmills and a rotary dairy parlor set [his] farm apart.”

Long known locally as “the King of Lent Hill”, Paul was an early advocate of wind power in Cohocton and, according to the article, has 13 or just over 25% of UPC Wind's 50 Cohocton turbines on his property. At an annual leasehold rate of somewhere in the vicinity of $3,000 to $10,000 apiece (the terms are confidential because the industrial wind developer is a private corporation), Paul stands to make anywhere from $40,000 to upwards of $100,000 a year just for “hosting” the turbines on his land.

What effect will this financial windfall have on a the future of farmers like Paul? Lancaster Farming reports: “Depending on the size of the windmill and how much wind blows, Wolcott points out that a small dairy operation might be able to lease its land to a wind farm and retire on the profits. However, it isn’t quite the same for a large operation. 'It’s an additional source of income, but it won’t save our farm if we don’t do a good job with the dairy,' said Wolcott.”

Money apparently isn't the only motivator, however. Saving the country from dependence on foreign oil is also: “I think it’s obvious to most people that we need to do something about energy in this country and it seems like it’s better than sending our money to the Middle East for oil,” the article quotes Wolcott as saying.

The article goes on to note that there are those who disagree: “However, there still remains a minority of people who are against the wind farm. Wolcott believes even with sound science and facts to back up the process, it remains an emotional issue with some.”

Unfortunately, the “sound science and facts” Paul has been relying on to are deeply flawed, and the “emotional issue with some” that he points out may grow as Cohocton residents begin to cope with the total industrial desecration of their once scenic and tranquil hills that Paul's industrial installation has brought.

For one thing, the intermittent and unreliable electrical power that onshore wind turbines provide (estimated to be 10-25% of their rated capacity), will do absolutely nothing to diminish our reliance on foreign oil, whether it be from the controversial Middle East or elsewhere, because of one simple fact: less than 3% of the electricity generated in the U.S. comes from petroleum and most of that is from waste disposal. And the specious argument that it will cut down our emission of CO2 is even more debatable.

What is incontrovertible, however, is that the turbines Paul so eagerly invited into Cohocton have destroyed the natural beauty of Lent Hill Farm's “1,850 acres of rolling hills overlooking the countryside below" as well as it's boast that the surrounding area remains "free from development and urban pressure.”

Labels: ,


VN 12/31 - What Tax Cut?


The Gospel of Wind

For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by UPC to be entrusted with the gospel of wind power, so we speak, not as pleasing the NIMBYs, but UPC who examines our hearts.

For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed (UPC is our witness!) nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of wind power we might have asserted our authority. But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of wind power but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.

For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of wind power. You are witnesses, and so is UPC, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of UPC who calls you to share in the glorious green of its kingdom.

For this reason we also constantly give thanks that when you received the word of UPC which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the Word of Green itself, which also performs its work in you who believe. For you, brethren, became imitators of the YES groups of UPC that are in Maine and Hawaii, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen.

Excerpted from Chris Swartley's Letter to the Cohoctonians (as adapted from 1 Thessalonians 2)

Labels: , ,


NBC Sees Green

An Inconvenient Segment: NBC Sees Green

One global warming angle that we cover in chapter one of "An Inconvenient Book" is how so many of the climate change cheerleaders that you see in the media are anything but independent. They love to talk about how the oil companies fund studies to distort the truth - but the reality is that conflict of interest works both ways - and it's always most dangerous when it's hidden from you.

For example, if you watched NBC last week, you probably saw their "Green is Universal" promotion. They changed their logo, their website, and even the plots of their sitcoms, by corporate mandate - all to bring awareness to issues like climate change. Wow, what stewards of the Earth they are.

Unfortunately, it's what NBC didn't tell you that's far more important: They are a subsidiary of General Electric; General ELECTRIC. That's important for two reasons: First, GE has a bigger lobbying budget than the three largest U.S. oil companies. COMBINED. But more importantly, GE owns major environmental businesses, like GE Energy, which has made big bets on things like wind power and clean energy technologies - and they stand to make boatloads of cash if Congress passes all sorts of environmental legislation, and you "go green."

Imagine the uproar if ABC did a week-long series called "War With Iran," complete with Islamic Extremists competing on Dancing With the Stars. But only later did you find out that ABC is actually owned by Raytheon, one of the Pentagon's largest weapons suppliers. You think the New York Times might cover that story?

This is one of the worst manipulations of the public trust that I have ever seen. In fact, I believe it's damn near criminal and someone should look into their license. NBC and GE have used the public airwaves against us, and they've done it all for the one type of green they really care about: money.

Glenn Beck (talk-radio host of The Real America)

Labels: ,


VN 11/27 - "Huge Tax Cut"?

Labels: ,


VN 11/6 - Big Time Spenders

And you thought 2 full pages was a lot? Last week’s Valley News had over 3 full pages of advertising for the Cohocton incumbents, including 1 full-page color ad with their obscure “Adopted Budget for 2008” (before the election, no less), another full-page color hatchet job on Judi Hall, and several smaller ads for UPC Wind, etc. After spending more than $15,000 in Valley News ads over the past 18 months, our UPC team is blazing toward the finish line by spending another $800 last week alone. And what do the incumbents want us to know about? How they propose to spend our money next year!

Do our incumbents have anything but spending money on their minds?
- Well, yes, they have wind turbines. Getting them up as fast as possible before the court can act and even before a valid PILOT agreement is in place. Can you believe that all this spending and talk about more spending is still just based on promises?
- What can an ordinary citizen do?
Come out on November 6 and vote Row E for the
Reform Cohocton Slate:

Judith Hall, Town Supervisor
Cesare Taccone, Town Councilman
Stephen H. Trude, Town Councilman
Dr. Frank "Stoner" Clark, Town Justice
Bonnie Palmiter, Town Assessor
Rebecca Conard, Town Assessor
Blair Hall, Town Clerk

This Tuesday Cohocton voters have the opportunity to elect a team of leaders who haven't been bought by UPC Wind, a group of men and women who are prepared to ask the tough questions and get our Town back on track again. Review the Reform Cohocton platform and slate of candidates at www.cohocton.net and then go to the polls and vote for leaders who aren’t dazzled by UPC’s money.

Labels: ,


What UPC Pays For

Jane Towner greeted me outside the UPC office yesterday afternoon as I was leaving the Post Office:

"Dr. Morehouse, I want you to know that we don't pay for political ads or Wayne Hunt's articles in the Valley News. I know you have concerns."

For those who don't know, Jane Towner was designated UPC's "Project Community Relations Representative" in August. Her statement begs the following questions and comments:

Who is "we"? Canandaigua Power Partners I? Canandaigua Power Partners II? Cohocton Wind? Dutch Hill Wind? The UPC Community Relations office? The UPC Construction office? UPC Wind Partners LLC in Massachusetts? Some other branch of UPC?

Who pays for the YES Wind Power group's expenses, including its Valley News ads?

Were Gerald Moore's and "Gramps" Drum's half-page, full color ads (and numerous others like them) "political" or paid for by the YES group or UPC directly?

If UPC (out of one or more of its many pockets) financially supports the YES group and donates to the incumbents' reelection campaign - none of which is presumably illegal - and then these groups run ads in the Valley News, like Wayne Hunt's ads, who has actually "paid" for them?

How have pro-wind people in Cohocton consistently been able to outspend their critics 3 to 1 for over a year and a half, when these critics are supposed to be so rich?

When the glove moves, it's the hand behind it doing the moving, Jane.

Labels: ,


VN 10/30 - Bought, Paid For

It’s amazing how money talks. Last week’s Valley News contained nearly 2 full pages of slick ads promoting the Cohocton wind projects, almost all of it in full color. There were 3 half-page color ads, one with a picture of “Gramps” Drum on his tractor, another with the Larrowe House, and a third flag-draped political ad for the incumbent slate. In addition, UPC had its usual office notice, and Wayne Hunt sounded forth again. Who do you think paid the $500+ that these ads cost? “Gramps”? Wayne? Jack? Cohocton citizens?

Has UPC bought the entire Town with its cash and promises?
- Only a court case and one small election stand between UPC’s supporters and the unobstructed fulfillment of their plans.
- Fortunately for all of us there is still a glimmer of hope that sound reason and prudence will win out in the end.
- Pray for wisdom for Judge Marianne Furfure and come out on November 6 to vote Row E for the Reform Cohocton Slate:

Judith Hall, Town Supervisor
Stephen H. Trude, Town Councilman
Cesare Taccone, Town Councilman
Dr. Frank "Stoner" Clark, Town Justice
Bonnie Palmiter, Town Assessor
Rebecca Conard, Town Assessor
Blair Hall, Town Clerk

Next Tuesday Cohocton voters will have the opportunity to elect a team of leaders who haven't been dazzled by UPC Wind's sales pitch, a group of men and women who are prepared to ask UPC the tough questions and negotiate a deal that makes better sense for all of us. Browse our "Updates," review the Reform Cohocton platform and slate of candidates, and help us get out the vote for leaders that UPC’s money hasn’t swayed.

Labels: ,


VN 10/23 - Money Matters

A major factor that members of the Cohocton YES Wind Power group point to when they proclaim that supporting UPC's project is a "no-brainer" is how much money they and the Town have been promised by the developer. Two kinds of money are promised: leasehold payments (private) and PILOT or Payments In Lieu Of Taxes to the Town (public). The project proposed 1.5 MW turbines when leases were first signed, then 2.0 MW turbines last year, and now 2.5 MW turbines. UPC Wind stands to make 67% more money from each of the larger turbines. Is this increase being shared with leaseholders? Each leaseholder knows the deal they got, leaving the rest of us in the dark.

But what about the proposed public PILOT money?
- First, even though we have a preliminary "Host Agreement" in place, the PILOT agreement apparently remains unfinished, so we really don't have anything but words in the air.
- Has anyone in our current Town administration even thought about computing how much UPC Wind would pay if they were taxed straight out as an electric utility? How can we judge any proposed PILOT without knowing what to compare it with?
- The school tax problem: we've just gotten a report from UPC's project in Mars Hill, Maine, indicating that half of their PILOT money has been lost through reductions in school tax subsidy. Have we computed this loss locally?
- The City Council in Lackawanna (Buffalo) has just discovered that it can tax future “phases” of UPC Wind's "Steel Winds" turbine project at the full rate, and last week they unanimously passed a law that would authorize them to do so.

In two weeks Cohocton voters will have the opportunity to elect a team of leaders who haven't been dazzled by UPC Wind's sales pitch, a group of men and women who are prepared to ask UPC the tough questions and negotiate a deal that makes better sense for all of us. Browse our Updates, visit our main site, review the Reform Cohocton platform and slate of candidates, and come out on November 6 to vote for leaders that count.

Labels: ,


Buffalo to Tax UPC

According to an article in The Buffalo News this week:

The Lackawanna City Council on Monday unanimously adopted a law that would allow the city to collect property taxes on a portion of the Steel Winds turbine project.

By state law, renewable energy projects, like the partially completed Steel Winds farm along Lake Erie on the old Bethlehem Steel site, are tax-exempt. However, municipalities that host such projects are allowed to opt out if they adopt a local law rescinding that tax exemption, which the Lackawanna Council did Monday at its regular meeting.

Why can't Cohocton make similar arrangements? It undoubtedly would take a new leadership team in Town to conduct the negotiations. Click here to read the entire article.

Labels: ,


Report from Maine - 9/26

Excerpts from testimony given by Wendy Todd about local effects of UPC Wind's project in Mars Hill, Maine. Note that this is a small project by Cohocton standards: only 28 towers, each fitted with a 1.5 MW turbine. Click here to read her entire testimony.

A Serious Payment Problem

What about the tax benefit to the town of Mars Hill? The town signed a TIF agreement with the wind company for $500,000 a year for the life of the project (20 years). Because of that $500,000 a year, the town of Mars Hill will be losing $249,000 in school funding. That brings the total benefit to the town down to $251,000.

The Noise Problem

People think that we are crazy. They drive out around the mountain, stop and listen, and wonder why anyone would complain about noise emissions. But believe me when we are having noise problems you can most assuredly hear the justification of our complaint. We have had people come into our yard, get out of their vehicles, and have watched their mouth drop. We have had company stop in mid conversation inside our home to ask, "What is that noise?" or say "I can't believe you can hear those like that inside your house."

Visiting a wind facility or sitting at the end of someone's driveway once or twice for 2, 3, or even 10 minutes to listen does not make that person an expert on turbine noise. To be an informed witness could take days or weeks for one to know and experience what we are living. Not until an individual has been in a home and has heard turbine noise emissions of 45 decibels or higher does that individual have any right to judge how turbine noise truly affects the lives of people. Even noise experts should be talking to residents who are living next to turbines to ensure they are collecting data that is relevant to the burdensome noise emissions heard by those who live closest to them. Let us tell the sound experts when we are having a noise issue.

Nick Archer, our Regional Director with the DEP thought we were all crazy, too. But he finally made it to our homes and heard what we were talking about. I don't believe he has ever heard a 50+ decibel day but he has heard close to that on more than one occasion and has made statements like these. "This is a problem." "We need to figure out what is going on with these things before we go putting anymore of them up." "I thought you were crazy at first but you are not crazy." "The quality of life behind the mountain is changed." Did he say these things just to appease us? I don't believe so.

Labels: ,


A Crucial Tax Issue

Steve Trude, Reform Cohocton candidate for Town Board, has raised a serious question with our Town Assessors about the tax status of the UPC Wind project. A copy of his letter follows:

Dear Ms. Damboise, Mr. Densmore, and Mr. Domm:

SCIDA has not approved a PILOT for the UPC/CPP/CPPII Projects. The developer has taken the risk of starting construction without building permits. As with any building construction that does not have “special exemption”, the value of the entire project is subject to industrial tax assessment.

These UPC industrial machines, if built, reside on land of several Cohocton property owners, who supposedly have lease agreements with UPC. A host agreement between the Town of Cohocton and the UPC developer does not cover the independent tax jurisdiction of the Cohocton - Wayland School District and the County of Steuben.

Without a valid PILOT, it is legally required that such a project must be assessed at full value and applied to each of the individual property accounts where any portion of the project is erected.

Every tax payer in the Town of Cohocton has a financial interest in the consequences of the proper tax assessment that your board will assign to each of the leaseholders property. Your board has a fiduciary responsibility to compute a market cost value for assessment of this industrial project, publish your determination and adjust the tax rolls accordingly.

A PILOT exemption cannot be approved after the fact. It has been publicly acknowledged by UPC that the entire project has a cost in excess of $150,000,000. There is no agricultural exemption for an electric utility, which UPC was granted by the Public Service Commission. NYSEG and Frontier are taxed in this manner, so must UPC.

Although it is recognized that the aforementioned circumstances are perhaps unusual as a normal course of business for your office, never-the-less it falls well within the realm of your responsibility and mandate. How you knowingly and intentionally go forward at this point with required and necessary decisions is now the question and will be monitored closely in and for the public interest.

In the interest of full disclosure, the Cohocton Assessment Board should release their full tax value assessment for the UPC Project before the 11/06/07 election.

Click here to view a PDF copy of Mr. Trude's letter.

Labels: , ,


UPC Lies to Ironworkers

As a matter of introduction I am Mike Altonberg, Business Agent for The Ironworkers in Rochester. Four or five months ago I was told by UPC Wind management that their general contractor for the wind turbine projects in Cohocton and Prattsburgh would be hiring all local people for the building of the towers. At a meeting last Tuesday in Cohocton, we were informed that things have changed and now all the workers will be brought in from out of state. The company, Mortenson Construction from Minnesota, will bring workers from out west, and local construction workers are locked out of all that work. All those wages paid will not be invested in our local economy but instead sent out west. Is that a slap in the face to all the hard working unemployed construction workers in our area? I've been told that UPC promised local governments (as they promote on their website) that it's important to hire locally, but obviously not in our case! Now that the project is a go and they've been caught in a lie, how many more lies have they told? UPC should be escorted to the state line and told not to come back.

Just for the record you most certainly can post my comments and phone number on your website. We were promised three years ago by Jim Sherron, Steuben County IDA, that this would be a project that would use local labor. Lawrence Mott from UPC actually told me a couple of weeks ago that Jim told him to contact me about the labor. Of course that went down the drain. We are extremely upset and plan some job actions against UPC and Mortenson. In the past Mortenson has used local people all across the country, but in Cohocton and Prattsburgh they feel like they can run rampant and do as they please!

Mike Altonberg
(585) 330-3109

Labels: ,


VN 8/21 - Cohocton Bought?

Apparently Canandaigua Power Partners, LLC (CPP) and Canandaigua Power Partners II, LLC (CPP II), which are wholly-owned subsidiaries of UPC New York Wind, LLC, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of UPC Wind Partners, LLC (UPC Wind) are convinced that they can buy Cohocton. And the main reason for their confidence can be found in a group of incumbent elected officials who apparently believe that Cohocton can and should be sold to the highest bidder. We’ve all just been told that, after months of negotiations, our Town leaders have entered into a 100+ page financial agreement with UPC Wind to sell the town for $10 million, to be paid over the next 20 years. During that time, in return, UPC Wind can and will do whatever it pleases with our town’s character, viewscapes, and politics.

What’s the problem with that?
- First of all, we don’t need UPC Wind’s money. Money is always nice, of course, but there is a difference between desire and need.
- Second, this is “funny money” that’s being put forward on a series (100+ pages worth) of carefully contingent promises.
- Third, there are already several layers of LLCs (Limited Liability Corporations) between the investors, their promises, and the Town. Many more will come over the next 20 years, so that by the time the cheating becomes obvious to everyone the originators of the scheme will already have taken their money and run.
- Fourth, what’s $10 million over 20 years in a project that’s going to cost $250 million, give or take, up front and reap its investors countless millions more in earnings and tax breaks? This is a deal?
- Fifth, sixth, seventh… the list can go on and on…

Who are we kidding?
By now UPC Wind must be laughing all the way to the bank. The rank deception and corruption of local politics that have characterized this entire process will only continue to accumulate unless men and women of good will rise to the occasion and take back our Town this fall. Visit us our main website, check out our “Updates” section, and then help us recall Cohocton from the brink.

Labels: ,


Turbine shortage problems

An article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal highlights a significant problem in the domestic proliferation of wind turbine installations, the relative unavailability of turbine and parts. While giving a broad and generally sympathetic overview of the international scene, the author repeats a number of grossly inaccurate wind industry claims, like the following:

In the U.S., more wind power was installed last year than in any country in the world - 2,454 megawatts, or more than the equivalent of two nuclear reactors.

Statements like these obscure the inconvenient fact that the nameplate capacity of wind turbines is not equivalent to the nameplate capacity of nuclear reactors. Due to the intermittent nature of wind, coupled with production that is often out of phase with demand, so-called wind farms only produce between 8-15% of nameplate capacity in usable energy, while nuclear reactors generate about 97% of capacity. This makes our wind-struck WSJ author's estimate off by a factor of 10, meaning that last year's large wind installation actually represents the equivalent of only about 1/5 of one nuclear reactor, hardly a large gain for the investment and landscape despoilation.

Click here to read the article, and then contact the author, Keith Johnson, to express your concerns.

Labels: ,


Has RG&E been bought?

According to an article in today's Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and confirmed by many other business news sources, RG&E is lined up to be purchased by Iberdrola, a Spanish energy conglomerate:

The parent company of Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. has agreed to be acquired by a Spanish company that is a worldwide leader in wind energy.

Under terms of the deal announced Monday, Iberdrola SA, which is based in Bilbao, Spain, will pay $4.5 billion in cash to acquire Energy East Corp., which is headquartered in Portland, Maine, and owns RG&E and NYSEG, another major New York supplier of electricity and gas.

The acquisition, subject to approval by Energy East stockholders and state and federal regulators, is expected to become final in 2008.

The following links help fill out the story.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out with the regulatory agencies and financiers. There's a lot of movement in the energy field, especially in the volatile wind energy industry, much of which seems to have been in quiet preparation for quite a while. The antitrust implications of what appears to be developing are staggering, however, and we may witness the whole house of cards come tumbling down, Enron-style, if we are just patient.

Labels: , ,


Antitrust Complaint Filed

Coalition of Citizens File Antitrust Complaint with the Department of Justice Against the Wind Energy Industry

Naples NY, April 25, 2007

A grass roots coalition of nearly 100 citizens from New York, Vermont, and other states have filed a federal Antitrust Complaint alleging that an international cartel comprised of foreign and domestic business entities have conspired to eliminate competition in the newly emerging U.S. wind energy sector.

This Complaint, filed today with the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, maintains that windfarm developers, suppliers, consultants, investors, and in some cases public officials have engaged in illegal geographic Market Allocation, Price Fixing and Bid Rigging in direct violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

As a result of this illegal conspiracy thousands of landowners and hundreds of municipalities have been denied substantial monetary gains that otherwise would be available in a free and competitive market.

The 94 citizen Complainants expect that the Department of Justice will act quickly to assign appropriate resources necessary to investigate and prosecute these allegations and to punish any and all criminal wrongdoing to the full extent of the law. The Complainants also expect that the Department will take appropriate measures to ensure that the members of this international cartel are prevented from retaliating against any of the listed Complainants.

According to the Department of Justice, price fixing, bid rigging, and market allocation by individuals or companies are felonies currently punishable by maximum individual fines of $1 million, maximum corporate fines of $100 million, and maximum jail terms of 10 years.

Citizens from the following locales in New York are participating: Naples, Cohocton, Wayland, Cape Vincent, Lowville, Stamford, Malone, Wyoming, Cherry Valley, Addison, Canisteo, Allegany, Rochester, North Bangor, Little Falls, Hornell, Fairport, Webster, and Prattsburgh. Citizens from the following locales in Vermont are participating: Sheffield, East Burke, Sutton, and Peacham.

Questions regarding this Complaint (available in PDF form here) may be directed to:

Bradley E. Jones
3996 Donley Road
Naples NY 14512
585-374-2627 (H), 585-233-8539 (M)

Labels: , , ,


VN 3/13 - The Bottom Line

A lot of things have been said in favor of industrializing the Town of Cohocton with an a wind power project that’s larger than anything like it in New England, but we often wonder what the real bottom line is. What’s really going on here? Why are people so dead set on changing the character of our Town so dramatically? Is it to save the planet from global warming? To increase tax revenues? To save farms? To make money? To prove a political point about who’s in charge? A few recent Valley News articles are beginning to give us the answer. Read our article in this week's VN and then add your voice to the community discussion.

Labels: ,


UPC Tax Scam in Buffalo

"One windmill up - seven more to go.

"The first of eight massive wind turbines that will make up the 'Steel Winds' wind farm at the old Bethlehem Steel site in Lackawanna was completed Monday afternoon as workers attached the three 153-foot-long blades to a tower.

"But Steel Winds has not been without controversy.

"School officials are concerned, and some even upset, that the district is not getting any tax money from the project.

"The developers, BQ Energy and UPC Wind, do not have to pay taxes on Steel Winds because wind and solar energy projects are exempt from paying taxes, according to New York property tax laws.

"In fact, the project is eligible for many millions of dollars in federal, state and local breaks because it is creating a renewable source of energy."

Click here to read the full article in The Buffalo News. For further input about this project, read this report submitted by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and then try to find out what UPC did with it. And how about this recent report from the Public Service Commission (PSC), filled with legal mumbo-jumbo that carefully exempts UPC's "Steel Winds" project from being defined as an "electric corporation" and thus coming under PSC jurisdiction? If people in Cohocton think life is going to be easy with UPC Wind in town, they'd better think about it more than twice.

Labels: , ,


VN 1/30 - Economic Engine?

In an ad in last week's Valley News, Town Board member Wayne Hunt, an ardent supporter of UPC Wind's local projects, proclaims that the proposed wind farms will be “the most significant economic engine that we have ever had.” We know these are difficult times for a number of citizens but wonder if turning the Town of Cohocton into a giant power plant is really the solution. We have a good base in our local economy already, some new but much of which has been carried by faithful families for generations. Are we in a crisis? Isn't there a better way to move forward together as a community? Our article in this week's Valley News opens up the subject and responds to some of Wayne's other points along the way. Your comments are welcome.

Labels: , ,


VN 8/22 - Money?

It's always helpful to pay attention to where the money is coming from and how it's being spent when a public project is under development. This Valley News article asks some unanswered questions that need to be addressed before any big decisions are made. Maybe the answers we get will be encouraging. Do you have any for us?