Area Opinions Changing

Opinions shift on Rochester-area wind farmsWind-energy developers, who have flocked to the breezy hills south of Rochester, now are finding parts of the region a less-than-hospitable one.

A cross-border project has been blocked by local officials in Steuben and Yates counties, prompting aggressive lawsuits by the developer involved. Another wind-energy company just walked away from a planned project in Steuben County. And most recently, a Wyoming County citizens group has challenged a town board action that paved the way for a new wind project there.

Some say the shine has worn off an industry that in many communities had been welcomed both for its green image and its ability to pump money into the local economy. “I’m detecting a shift in the climate of opinion,” said Gary Abraham, a Cattaraugus County lawyer who has represented citizen groups in litigation related to wind projects.

The head of a statewide green-energy advocacy group said the public overwhelmingly supports wind energy, but despite that, discord and litigation in host communities has become an unfortunate fact of life. “Certainly it sends the message that it’s not going to be easy to get something done in New York. That being said, there are still a number of projects going forward,” said Carol Murphy, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York.

Indeed, the region remains a center of wind-energy development. Wyoming County has four wind farms with 236 turbines, more than any other county in the state. There is a working wind farm in Cohocton, Steuben County, as well. Those five projects have the capacity to generate up to 470 megawatts, which represents the electricity demand of about 200,000 households. Those 470 megawatts are a little more than a third of all the wind-generation capacity in the state. Nearly two dozen other wind-farm proposals in the Finger Lakes and western New York regions remain on the books of the agency that oversees New York’s electric grid, though developers have yet to make formal applications to town boards for many of them.

Of late, though, there has been a spate of controversy over the farms.

A citizens group in Orangeville, Wyoming County, filed suit last month against the Town Board there, asserting it had adopted an inadequate local wind-turbine siting law to make way for a 59-turbine wind project. That case has been assigned to a Supreme Court justice in Buffalo.

After supporting Ecogen Wind LLC’s 17-turbine proposal for years, the Town Board in Italy, Yates County, acknowledged growing citizen opposition by voting in October to kill the development. Observers said Italy’s board may have been the first in New York state to vote down a wind project. A suit by Ecogen asking a judge to override the Town Board and allow the project to proceed is pending before a state Supreme Court justice in Rochester.

Ecogen similarly sued the board in neighboring Prattsburgh, Steuben County, where the company has hoped to erect 16 more turbines. Pro-wind board members briefly settled the case in Ecogen’s favor before leaving office in December, but after a series of courtroom skirmishes, the newly seated Town Board canceled the settlement and declared a moratorium on wind-energy development in the town. Ecogen’s suit still is pending.

Another wind project proposed for Prattsburgh that had been in planning stages for years was formally canceled at the end of 2009. John Lamontagne, spokesman for developer First Wind, said the project was deemed expendable in light of the shaky economy. The Massachusetts company, which was given $75 million in federal stimulus aid in partial compensation for the 50-turbine farm it built in Cohocton, will pursue other projects in Erie County, New England, Utah and Hawaii, Lamontagne said.

Abraham, who represents the citizens group suing the Orangeville board, said he believes public opposition to wind developments is growing. Residents most often cite concerns about noise and the setback provisions that dictate how close turbines can be to homes and adjoining properties. He said, though, that he thinks elected officials often pay less attention to those concerns than they do to a project’s financial benefit to friends and family members. “They’re decided based on the importance the town (board) assigns to the money issue. That’s really the deciding factor. It’s not the environment,” Abraham said.

Murphy disputed the idea that people in host communities are turning against wind farms. “It’s the old adage about the silent majority. It doesn’t take more than a few people to stand up at a town board meeting and make a lot of noise and give people the impression there’s no support for it,” she said. Murphy cited a 2008 public opinion poll in Lewis County — home to Maple Ridge, which at a 322-megawatt capacity is the largest wind farm east of the Mississippi River — that found 71 percent of residents thought the wind farm had had a positive impact. Nearly 80 percent of respondents said they would support more turbines. “There’s always a lot of apprehension when there’s something new and something people aren’t used to seeing, but once they (turbines) are there we’ve found the level of support continues to grow over the years,” she said.

By Steve Orr, Staff Writer, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

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First Wind Quits Prattsburgh

Wind Developer calls it quits in Prattsburgh

Prattsburgh, NY - One of two potential wind farm developers in the town of Prattsburgh announced Friday it is abandoning plans to put up nearly 50 turbines in the town.
First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne said lease holders for potential turbine sites have been notified of the firm’s decision, made at the end of December.

Lamontagne said First Wind’s decision to pull out was made after a careful, internal review of pending, “viable” projects. “We appreciate the support – and there was a lot of support – from the people in Prattsburgh,” Lamontagne said.

First Wind also drew a fair share of critics, particularly after it launched eminent domain procedures via a divided town board. Plagued by the economic downturn during the summer and fall of 2008, the developer announced a yearlong hiatus in 2009, in order to reassess its projects.

First Wind intends to pursue projects this year in Maine, Vermont, Utah and Hawaii, but remains committed to its projects in the town of Cohocton and Lackawanna, Lamontagne said.
He did not rule out the possibility of future development in Prattsburgh, “but we’d be back starting at ground zero, so it would be pretty difficult.”

Lamontagne said the decision to leave was not influenced by the disputes that erupted last year between second developer Ecogen, town residents, and some town board members. The disputes -- which were driven in part over concerns about excessive noise at First Wind’s operating wind farm in Cohocton -- led to angry charges from both sides, unseated two pro-wind board members in November and resulted in a flurry of lawsuits.

The new town board is now considering a six-month moratorium in order to review its comprehensive plan and possibly set up a zoning board.

Town Councilman Steve Kula wondered if the move would benefit the Ecogen project. “Does this open up more land, to identify possibly new sites for Ecogen?” he asked.

Kula has advocated for greater setbacks than those currently in place to ensure residents’ health and safety. “Before, you had two projects squeezed into one small town. First Wind had 50 (turbines),” Kula said. “Now you’ll have one project and more land. I don’t know. But maybe.”

Supervisor Al Wordingham said a First Wind representative left a message, but so far he has not spoken with the developer’s agent. “All I can say is, after the experience they had in Cohocton, which is less densely populated than Prattsburgh, maybe they just decided this is not a suitable place for any wind farm,” Wordingham said.



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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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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Wind Opponents Win Hartsville

The results of the Hartsville race are in, and Zena Andrus has been elected Hartsville's new town supervisor. An independent candidate, Mrs. Andrus won with 112 votes over Republican Alice Bosch's 104. "I would like to thank all of the residents that took time out of their busy lives to come to the town hall and vote for me," said Mrs. Andrus. "It was a long wait from the time we voted until the results were finally tabulated but the new machines will make voting more accurate in the future. Alice Bosch was a worthy opponent and ran a clean campaign."

One factor that added to the Andrus victory was the fact that just before the election, the three way supervisor race became a two way race, between Zena Andrus and Alice Bosch. That was due to Mike Muhleisan dropping out of the supervisor's contest, and lent his support to the Zena Andrus campaign. "He was a great adversary and I appreciate his stepping down to support me in my quest for the role of Supervisor," Mrs. Andrus said after the election was finally finished.

Other Hartsville Town Board winners include Jim Perry (120 votes), Tom Dobell (115 votes). Perry and Dobell defeated Nick Petito and Ron Amidon, both Petito and Amidon recieved 103 votes.

The biggest issue in the Hartsville race is wind energy. Because of the defeat of the pro-wind candidates, it is now uncertain whether or not there will in fact be a wind project for the Town of Hartsville. If there is no wind project in Hartsville, there will be no wind project in Hornellsville.

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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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Clean Sweep in Italy Elections!

November 3, 2009 Italy Town Election Results

Bradley E. Jones 204
Margaret M. Dunn 170 (incumbent)
Write-in 1

Town Council (2 seats)
Frederick T. Johnstone 201
Donna L. Baran 200
Charles E Kreuzer 138 (incumbent)
Write-in 81

An articulate slate of candidates critical of industrial wind development in Italy, led by Brad Jones, have won the Town elections in a clean sweep! Our congratulations and prayers are with the new team as they begin the work of rebuilding trust and hope in the Town's future.

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Wind Opponents Run in Italy

Italy Town Board candidates say they'll reflect residents' wishes

Three candidates are running for Italy Town Board on the Republican and Independent party lines. Donna Baran and Fred Johnstone are running for the two Town Board openings, and Brad Jones is running for town supervisor.

"We have chosen to run for office because the current Town Board has steadfastly refused to listen to the people of the town and accept the fact that the overwhelming majority do not want the proposed Ecogen industrial wind project," said Jones.

"At every single public hearing over the last five years and in two separate surveys, the people of Italy have said no to the Ecogen project," Jones said. "Yet the Town Board continues to do everything possible to accommodate every whim and desire of the developer and to push the project through before the end of this year. So, our reason for running is pretty simple: we want the future Town Board to reflect and defend the wishes of the townspeople, not the wishes of the hired guns from Riverstone Holdings LLC, the latest owner of the Ecogen project. We believe that the Town Board has a serious responsibility to protect the health and general welfare of its people, and that is exactly what we intend to do."

The incumbents are Supervisor Margaret Dunn and Town Board members Amanda Gorton and Charley Kreuzer. Gorton is not seeking re-election.

Jones and his wife, Linda, reside on the family property on Donley Road. Following a career that included management positions at Eastman Kodak, Alstom S.A and Al Sigl Center, Jones now leads his own consulting business that specializes in human resources and business development. He has extensive experience serving on both corporate and not-for-profit boards.

Johnstone and his wife, Kathy, have lived on Emerson Road for 12 years. He has many years of not-for-profit board experience and currently serves as a captain in the Rochester Fire Department.

Baran and her husband, Leonard, recently moved to their new home on Italy Valley Road from the Virgin Islands where they managed their own business. She has 15 years of experience in community and human services as well as several years of experience on not-for-profit boards.

"We believe that the current board has been so preoccupied with the Ecogen proposal for so many years that other important priorities have been ignored," Johnstone said. "This is not intended to be a criticism of any member of the current board. To the contrary, we appreciate and thank them for the hundreds of hours they have spent dealing with this developer and their army of lawyers."

Jones said that a new board in January would begin its term with a renewed focus on the following issues:

  • A three-year plan for town road improvements with clear and objective criteria for all spending.
  • Controlling real estate taxes and exhibiting fiscal restraint.
  • Improved communications to all interested citizens through newsletters, web site, surveys and e-mail.
  • Sustainable economic development working with nearby towns and the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center to develop and implement specific initiatives for long-term economic growth that are sustainable and consistent with residents' wishes and values.

"Following the expressed will of the people, we will move quickly to restore the original Comprehensive Plan prohibiting large scale industrialization in the town," Jones said.

The Naples Record, Wednesday October 7, 2009

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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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Prattsburgh Project Meetings

Two Important Meetings will be held this coming week, the town board meeting in Ingleside on Tuesday and an Ecogen Presentation on Thursday. There has been great attendance at the last several meetings and we hope that next week many of you will be able to come to one or both meetings.

Tuesday, May 19 at 7:00 pm is the Monthly Town Board Meeting. Please note that it will be held in INGLESIDE. Call the Town Hall at 607-522-3761 if you need directions. It is very important that the Board Majority knows that their decisions are being watched and that people voice their concerns during the Public Comment period. If you want to speak during the first part of the meeting call the Clerk and ask to be put on the Agenda.

Thursday, May 21st at 6:30 pm will be a public meeting at which Ecogen will make a presentation and answer questions about their project. It will either be at the Fire Hall or the School. Call the Town Hall at 607-522-3761 for info. We cannot stress enough how important it is to show up at this meeting. Every one of us has an obligation to the town and to ourselves to hold the Board and the wind developers accountable for their projects.

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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.

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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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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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Farmland to Forest - Part 4

The Finger Lakes Today

This is the conclusion of a four-part story by Bill Banaszewski about the land surrounding the Finger Lakes and the wildlife and people who inhabited it in days gone by. While many details are based on research in Livingston, Ontario, Yates and Tompkins counties, the story is representative of the entire hilly landscape of the region.

Despite valiant efforts by early settlers to farm the rugged Finger Lakes hillsides, the process of “abandoning the farm” continued until 1925, when the hillside subsistence farmer essentially became a relic of the past. The land, no longer cultivated, followed a process called natural succession, where one vegetative type slowly emerges and replaces another, and if undisturbed over time, leads ultimately to a climax forest.

The early stages of succession started with lands that had been disturbed by farming. Weeds such as chicory and burdock emerged. Quickly a variety of volunteer annual and perennial plants followed, and the deserted farmlands were transformed into a tapestry of color painted by nature’s landscapers: goldenrod, knapweed and aster. As time passed, shrubs emerged and formed a meager canopy over the grasses and weeds. A variety of dogwood shrubs provided berries for migratory songbirds, while thorn apples offered protective nesting places for the increasing number of birds that found the emerging habitat to their liking. Gradually, trees such as aspen began to colonize areas of the Finger Lakes, aided by winds that blew their light seeds great distances across the hillsides.

By the early 1900s, on lands that were abandoned first, native hardwoods invaded the hills. The native oak, maple, hickory and ash trees continued the succession, shading out and eventually killing the sun-loving weeds, shrubs and aspen. Not to be outdone by nature, humans assisted in the process of re-forestation. Beginning in 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps planted pine and spruce seedlings that would eventually help prevent more soil erosion on the steep hillsides and provide cover for wildlife and future usable timber.

As the plant species changed, so, too, did wildlife populations. Absent from the area for over 50 years, deer began migrating north from Pennsylvania in the early 1900s to graze in abandoned apple orchards and on new plant life. Laws were enacted, management practices were employed, and the constantly evolving, new plant species all combined to attract and benefit wildlife. Turkey, hawks, owls, eagle, river otter and bear are just a few examples of species that have since returned to the Finger Lakes with populations, in some cases, much greater than in the past.

And so for over 100 years the arduous mending process of nature has been at work, slowly changing farmland back to forest. Today, the Finger Lakes Region is a vastly different place than it was when General Sullivan and his soldiers defeated the Senecas in 1779, or when the loggers and first settlers stripped the hillsides of forest cover, and since early farmers began abandoning their land around 1880.

Today approximately 70 percent of the Finger Lakes hillsides is once again forested, compared to 1880 when only 20 percent was in forest cover. Today there is a new breed of farmer in the region: friendly Mennonite family farmers are revitalizing agriculture, and nearly 300 grape growers have planted 10,000 acres of vineyards on the hillsides overlooking the lakes. The logger, generally absent for 150 years, has returned and is harvesting the majestic and valuable red oaks, maples and walnut trees. Our forested hillsides are now dotted with homes and recreational cabins. This new breed of landowner has settled here because of the rural character of the Finger Lakes, in a natural world that does not threaten them as it did the pioneer farmers.

Although I share a great nostalgia for the past, like many readers of this magazine, it is clear to me our past has often been over-glorified when it comes to the land, its people and wildlife. Yes, it was a simple life, but it was a hard life. Yes, the pioneers were surrounded by natural wonders and wildlife, but these resources were seldom appreciated and often viewed as enemies and threats to their survival.

As I reflect on what the Finger Lakes Region has become today – a special place indeed – I cannot help but wonder what our landscape will look like 100 years into the future.

With developers willing to pay $20,000 an acre for prime lake views, will Mennonite farmers and grape growers be able to stay?

Will the new breed of landowners and loggers succumb to economic pressures and harvest the red oak and the stunning old-growth forests that are evolving throughout the region?

Will black bear, coyote and other predatory wildlife once again be eliminated because we are unable to co-exist?

Will bulldozers continue to replace plows on our hillsides? And will the rural character that once attracted people to this area be replaced by sprawling suburbs?

My fondness for the past and what it can teach us about the future is ever-present when I walk in the forested hillsides and reflect on the relics I encounter.

  • A pitted axe head embedded in a chestnut stump or a piece of rusted farm machinery resting where it was last used
  • A split rail chestnut fence once used to corral livestock, now slowly rotting into the earth
  • An old stone foundation that once supported the house or barn of a pioneer farmer
  • A water pump that with some effort may still be able to pull water from the ground
  • A gravestone telling of the early death of a hardworking farmer
  • A lilac tree blooming in a shaded forest where a home once stood

These artifacts tell a story of where we came from and who we are, and, possibly, what we might become.

Adapting the words of William Chapman White from Adirondack Country, as we tramp through the woods and on the shores of the lakes we will find oaks and asters, blue herons and trout, shadows on the rocks and the glint of light on the wavelets just as they were in the summer of 1800, and as they will be in 2080 and beyond. We can stand on a rock on a hill and be in a past we could not have known and in a future we will never see. We can be a part of time was and a part of time yet to come.

For me, this is reason enough to both appreciate and protect our farmlands and forests.

Click here to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.

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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 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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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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Farmland to Forest - Part 3


This is part three of a four-part story by Bill Banaszewski about the land surrounding the Finger Lakes and the wildlife and people who inhabited it. While many details are based on research in Livingston, Ontario, Yates and Tompkins counties, the story is representative of the entire hilly landscape of the region.

By 1850 much of the forested green canopy that had covered the Finger Lakes region since prehistoric time had vanished. As the virgin forest disappeared, so did the loggers. They were replaced by farmers, who continued to clear the hillsides until 1880. By then only 25 percent of the lands remained forested, quite a contrast from the 90 percent forest cover that greeted the pioneer settlers nearly a century before.

As the land changed, forest-dwelling wildlife and species that were a threat to the livelihood of farmers became rare to nonexistent. However, species that preferred farmland and open fields, such as bobolinks and bluebirds, benefited from the changing habitat and flourished. Legend is the bluebird was almost as common during the late 1800s as the robin is today.

The early 19th century proved to be a prosperous time for some Finger Lakes farmers. After the Erie Canal opened in 1825, farmers were able to send corn, rye, flax and wheat to many new markets. For a short period of time the area was known as the wheat belt of the nation. Teasel growing, a specialized industry that used the larger thistle for raising the nap of cloth, was prospering near Skaneateles.

As new lands to the west opened, farm competition became fierce and affected everyone. No one was hurt more in the late 1800s than the hillside farmers. It might be said that these farm families enjoyed a simple, uncomplicated life, but it was certainly not an easy one. In fact the romanticism that is often associated with the past bears little resemblance to reality. The physical and spiritual punishment inherent in farming poor soil was accepted by the strong-willed pioneers, but far too often their hopes and aspirations were crushed by uncontrollable forces. Never much above a subsistence level at the best of times, they were constantly battling short growing seasons and shallow, unproductive soil. While glaciers deposited extensive amounts of till in the valleys, very little was deposited on the steep, higher elevations. Layers of topsoil there were thin. Stripped of trees and without crop rotation, the hillsides were exposed to sheet erosion, and within half a century any topsoil that was present had vanished. The hardpan that was left was useless for farming.

While circumstances varied throughout the Finger Lakes, the late 1800s was the time when the destiny of the hillside farmers was irreversibly sealed and doomed. Unable to afford new farming machinery that was changing the economic basis of agriculture, the now elderly farmers were forced from the hillsides and into towns. Younger members of the farm families had little interest in the dawn-to-dusk, seven-day-a-week, backbreaking work that would barely ensure their survival. With little interest in returning to the land, they too left for better work in town or to engage in flatland farming.

Between 1880 and 1925, one quarter of all farms in south central New York were abandoned. Families who came to the Finger Lakes’ hillsides full of expectations packed their meager belongings in their wagons and, for one last time, closed the doors of the farmhouses they had spent months building and transforming into homes. Much of the farm equipment and other remnants of their daily life were left in the fields where they were last used, resting in silent companionship with the illusion of their defeated land users. In essence the farms were left to rot.

Nature took precious little time in starting the process of breaking down man’s temporal effects. The forces of sun, wind, rain, snow, vegetation and wildlife soon asserted their collective power. Left undisturbed, the land follows a process of natural succession. Simply stated, it is nature’s way of repairing and reclaiming disturbances to the land. Natural succession proceeds in stages. In no time, grasses, vines and shrubs covered the abandoned farm machinery, fences, barns and eventually the homes of the pioneer farmers. Once again nature, the original change agent, was in control of the Finger Lakes landscape.

Farmland to Forest is adapted from a multimedia presentation coproduced by Bill Banaszewski and his friend and colleague, the late John Meuser, while they were professors at Finger Lakes Community College. Watch for Part IV, the conclusion of our year-long series, in the Winter Issue of Life in the Finger Lakes.

Click here to read Part I and Part II of this series.

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Windmills split upstate towns

John Yancey stands on his property with wind turbines
from the Maple Ridge Wind Farm in background

Windmills divide towns and families throughout upstate

Profits not enough to offset intrusion for some

"Listen," John Yancey says, leaning against his truck in a field outside his home.

The rhythmic whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of wind turbines echoes through the air. Sleek and white, their long propeller blades rotate in formation, like some otherworldly dance of spindly-armed aliens swaying across the land.

Yancey stares at them, his face contorted in anger and pain.

He knows the futuristic towers are pumping clean electricity into the grid, knows they have been largely embraced by his community.

But Yancey hates them.

He hates the sight and he hates the sound. He says they disrupt his sleep, invade his house, his consciousness. He can't stand the gigantic flickering shadows the blades cast at certain points in the day.

But what this brawny 48-year-old farmer's son hates most about the windmills is that his father, who owns much of the property, signed a deal with the wind company to allow seven turbines on Yancey land.

"I was sold out by my own father," he sputters.

Click here to read the entire Associated Press report by Helen O'Neill.

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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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A wind superpower?

New York's future:
A wind superpower?

Wind power accounts for 1 percent of New York's generating capacity - the amount of electricity power plants could produce in a given moment if they ran full tilt. When it comes to the electricity actually generated and consumed over a full year - the kilowatt hours a customer would be charged for on an RG&E bill, for example - wind produces less than 1 percent.

To compare, nuclear and hydroelectric account for 27 percent of the state's capacity, but 45 percent of the actual electricity generated. Those two sources, for the time being, are the most economical in New York, says Gary Paslow, manager of communications for New York Independent System Operator, the organization that oversees the state's power grid. That's because of the rising cost of fossil fuels like natural gas and coal.

But New York is attractive to wind developers. There's enough wind to power the turbines, state policies require increasing use of renewable energy, and laws allow consumers to specifically choose to buy wind power.

What's tough to get at is just how much wind power New York could produce. The American Wind Energy Association, an industry group, ranks the state as 15th in the nation in terms development potential. But one of the most reliable estimates comes from NYISO. In a 2005 analysis, the organization studied 101 prospective wind generating sites in New York State.

The sites had a total potential capacity of 10,026 megawatts, says the analysis. One megawatt can power up to 1,000 homes.

But there are caveats that go along with that number: capacity is only one part of the picture, and since developers can't control when the wind blows, it's tough to predict actual output over time; the potential capacity is based on peak, not average, output; not all of the sites will be developed; and there are physical limits to what the state power grid can handle from an intermittent power source like wind.

The last bit is crucially important as a limiting factor. The NYISO study says that, based on technical factors and physics, the grid can only handle 3,300 megawatts of wind power.

Click here to read the whole article by Jeremy Moule in Rochester's City Newspaper.

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Wind energy will not reduce dependence on oil

To the Editor, Syracuse Post-Standard:

Integrity of all government-regulated and supported programs is an absolute requirement in a democratic society. However, characterizing wind energy as a "vital industry" demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of wind energy's capabilities to contribute in a significant way to our energy needs.

If your editor had attempted to understand some simple technicalities of wind energy, via even a cursory glance at readily available resources, he/she would have learned the following:

1) Wind energy is produced intermittently, frequently at times when electricity demand is lowest and not at all when demand is highest (picture a sultry summer day with AC on high is there much air moving?).

2) Because of the unpredictability and intermittency of wind generators, the whole infrastructure of existing fossil and nuclear units must remain and grow with increasing demand, regardless of the number of wind generators. As evidenced by experience in other parts of the United States and the world with significant wind generating capability, the efficiency of the controllable fossil infrastructure is reduced, contributing more greenhouse gases to the environment.

3) The list of tax and other incentives from both the state and federal governments is astounding. Look at the reasons that the Spanish company, Iberdrola, is refusing to buy Energy East unless it can also own wind farms, contrary to the recommendation of the state oversight authority.

Iberdrola would pay greatly reduced or no taxes because of the generosity of the state and federal governments toward wind farms. Guess who will shoulder the burden of the lost revenue?

4) Contrary to the beliefs of many, wind energy will not reduce our dependence on oil, foreign or domestic. About 3 percent or less of electricity is produced nationally by burning oil, and most of that generation is from burning low-grade oil residues that are unsuitable for refining into other fuels. There are many other arguments as well that are unfavorable to wind energy.

The rage "du jour" is wind energy. Questioners of wind energy are excoriated, effectively eliminating sound decision-making. Why do you think that there are ethical problems in the state requiring investigation by the attorney general? Surely you don't believe that it's because all of these enthusiastic supporters of wind energy are fighting to save the world, do you?

Frank J. Congel

Three Mile Bay

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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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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.

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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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