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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CPA to Host Meeting

Meeting on wind turbines in the works

South Bristol, NY — A coalition of groups concerned with industrial wind turbine development in the Finger Lakes region will bring together state and federal elected officials at a conference next month at Bristol Harbour Resort. Hosting the event will be Naples Town Supervisor Frank Duserick, with U.S. Rep. Eric Massa, D-Corning, as keynote speaker.

“We want a sane, rational energy policy,” said James Hall, a Cohocton resident with the event’s sponsor, Citizen Power Alliance. The alliance works to hold public officials and regulators accountable, while seeking to protect the public interest.

The goal of the invitation-only event is to get all the elected officials representing the region in the same room, he said, to discuss the effects of wind turbines, share insights regarding current regulations and offer recommendations for federal and state policies.

“These alternative-energy projects would not exist without federal and state government,” said Hall, referring to government subsidies. For example, he said, the company that put up wind turbines in Cohocton, south of Naples, received a cash grant of nearly $75 million in federal stimulus funds. Fifty turbines in Cohocton became operational last year.

Two other neighboring towns, Prattsburgh and Italy, are in disputes with wind turbine companies. In Prattsburgh, wind farm issues are back to square one. The Town Board earlier this month rescinded a legal settlement with wind farm developer Ecogen Wind LLC and took the first step toward enacting a moratorium on any wind farm-related development for six months.

In Italy, the Town Board late last year rejected an application by Ecogen to erect 17 turbines. Ecogen responded by filing an Article 78 action in state Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the board’s decision to stop the project by denying approvals and placing a moratorium on its development.

Hall said an attorney will also speak at the Feb. 16 conference, addressing legal issues with turbines. “There is an attempt to iron out realistic, protective laws that make sense,” said Hall.

By Julie Sherwood, staff writer, Messenger Post



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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Wind Turbine Syndrome

Clinical study of health effects of large wind turbines published

Rowe, Mass., Nov. 28, 2009 -- Dr. Nina Pierpont, a pediatrician and population biologist in Malone, New York, has announced the publication of her book-length study: Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Report on a Natural Experiment.

In interviews with 10 families living 1,000-4,900 feet away from recently built industrial-size wind turbines, a "cluster" of symptoms was revealed: from sleep disturbance, which affected almost everyone, to headache to tinnitus, vertigo, nausea, irritability, memory and concentration problems, and panic episodes. Industrial wind turbines have a total height of 300-400 feet or more, with blades of 125-150 feet that sweep 1.5-2 acres of vertical airspace.

The book includes supportive reviews and notices by several noted physicians in related disciplines. Although primarily directed towards medical professionals, it includes an informative and often poetic version for the lay audience.

The individuals affected by Wind Turbine Syndrome noticed that they developed symptoms after the turbines near their homes started turning. Symptoms were relieved when they left the area and resumed on their return. Eight of the ten families eventually moved away from their homes because of the severity of the symptoms.

Although not everyone living near turbines is subject to these symptoms, the data Pierpont presents are a concern, considering the current political drive to construct more and ever larger industrial wind turbines close to people's homes, as well as in the habitats of other equally or more sensitive animals.

Pierpont's sample size was large enough to show that individuals with pre-existing migraines, motion sensitivity, or inner ear damage are particularly vulnerable. People with anxiety or other mental health problems are not particularly susceptible, she says, contradicting the common claim of industry developers that "it's all in their head".

"This report is a public health wake-up call that our elected officials and administrators need to take very seriously", said Eric Rosenbloom, president of National Wind Watch, a clearinghouse for information about the adverse effects of industrial wind energy development.

Pierpont and other health and noise experts agree that at a minimum, large wind turbines should be 2 kilometers (1-1/4 miles) from any residence.

According to Pierpont, low-frequency noise or vibration from the wind turbines acts on the balance organs of the inner ear to make the body think it is moving. And this misperception of motion affects other brain functions, including physical reflexes, spatial processing and memory, and physiological fear responses (such as pounding heart and nausea).

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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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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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Letter to Italy Town Clerk

Dear Ms. Trischler:

Please share this with the members of the Town Board, and please confirm receipt of this email.

My husband and I are in escrow for the purchase of 5100 Sunnyside Road in Italy. We also have owned, for 15 years, 110 acres of wild land on Lent Hill in Cohocton. We dearly love the Finger Lakes region, and hope some day to retire there. At present, due to jobs, we must live elsewhere, and so cannot attend the September 19 meeting in person to express our concerns about the wind projects proposed for Italy township.

My husband works for an environmental consulting company that is world-renowned (see www.esri.com). We are both very eager to support sustainable, renewable resource management and energy production. We were initially supportive of the wind project planned for Cohocton, but as we researched it and got more informed about it, we became very concerned that it would turn out to be a disaster--both for the town and also for us personally.

It is turning out to be exactly that. The turbines are badly engineered and break down constantly. The crews ruined the roads putting them in, and the town has had a terrible job and has generated a lot of pollution rebuilding them. The town inhabitants have divided along pro and con lines and many don't speak to each other any more. The people who live within earshot of the turbines hate them with a passion, and that includes many people who were very supportive at first. The wind isn't consistent, and the turbines are usually not producing at "capacity" although they are still very noisy. I could go on and on.

We have a small cabin and we spend many weeks there each year, contributing to wildlife management and also to the local economy with our groceries and other purchases. We also pay taxes! So even though we don't live there year-round, we are not just absentee vacationers who don't care about the community.

The turbines often keep us awake at night. The blades make the sound of a jet engine, and the gears and machinery (that turns the turbine into the wind) are very loud, making loud crashing booms and creaking and grinding noises. You can't just learn to tune the noise out, because it changes all the time. The red night lights and the flicker caused by the sun through the blades are annoying, but the noise is just torture.

Ecogen does not care about the citizens or the quality of life in Italy. They are just using you, counting on your naïveté and ignorance. PLEASE don't make the same mistake that Cohocton made!

Carolyn Morehouse

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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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Cohocton project online?

Project online despite report from grid operator

Cohocton, NY - Despite reports from the operator of the state’s power grid, the 50-turbine project in Cohocton is online.

The New York Independent System Operator, the not-for-profit organization that runs the state’s power grid, stated Friday the 125 megawatt project in Cohocton was not operational, a claim refuted by town officials and later by NYISO itself.

Kenneth M. Klapp, the senior communications and media relations specialist with NYISO, Monday said the information provided by his own agency Friday was incorrect.

“Unfortunately, you were given information on the status of another wind project in Steuben County, which has been proposed for interconnection to the grid,” he said. “In answer to your original question, both phases of the 125 MW wind project in Steuben County (known as Cohocton Wind and operated by First Wind) are currently in service.”

That comes in contrast to what officials at the organization had said previously.

Richard Barlette, manager of government affairs for NYISO, said Friday no power generated at the site has been sold for consumption. “They’re currently under the connection process,” he said at the time. “As far as ‘flipping the switch,’ a ball park figure is December 2010.”

Others contacting NYISO had received similar information, including U.S. Rep. Eric Massa, D-29, who responded to the mistake during a press conference call this morning. “What you’re saying is it’s hard to get a straight answer out of anybody,” Massa said. “There is a lot of misinformation out there.” Massa added much work is left to do on the project, including sound studies that were the topic of discussion at a Cohocton town board meeting Monday night.

Jack Zigenfus, town supervisor in Cohocton, provided The Evening Tribune with a spreadsheet from NYISO showing the project was in service as of the most-recent update of the document, recorded as Feb. 5.

Cohocton officials applauded First Wind for “throwing the switch” on the 50-turbine wind energy development in December, while according to John Lamontagne, director of corporate communications for First Wind, the project was believed to be up and running in 2008. “The time frame was to be by the end of the year,” he said in a Dec. 16, 2008 phone interview.

According to company officials in 2007 — when the company was known as UPC Wind — the project was expected to be up and running about a year after construction began.

Dirt first started moving on the project Sept. 18, 2007, with tower construction commencing in November. Work on the first two towers, complete with turbine blades, was finished Jan. 3. Of the 50 towers, 47 are spread across Lent, Pine and Dutch hills, dominating much of the view around Cohocton, North Cohocton and Atlanta. The three remaining turbines are on Brown Hill to the south of the village, where the project connects to the regional energy grid.

First Wind officials did not immediately return a call requesting a comment.

By Bob Clark, The Hornell Evening Tribune

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No Power from Cohocton?

Power grid operator: no power so far to state grid from Cohocton

Cohocton, NY - After years of development, construction, anxiety and lawsuits, the hills surrounding Cohocton have sprouted 50 commercial wind turbines.

Now that First Wind has wrapped up its construction in Cohocton and the turbines are now spinning in the breeze, is that energy being sold?

According to the grid operator, no. And that’s not expected to change anytime soon.

Richard Barlette, manager of government affairs for the New York Independent System Operator — the not-for-profit company that moderates the state’s power grid and gives all power projects the green light — said no power generated at the site has been sold for consumption.

“They’re currently under the connection process,” he said. “As far as ‘flipping the switch,’ a ball park figure is December 2010.”

That connection process contains several steps, Barlette said, which are long and complicated.

“It’s not just sticking a turbine in the ground one day and producing electricity,” he said. “Every plant you build goes through the process.”

The biggest test, he said, is seeing if the grid can handle the extra power — 125 megawatts, in Cohocton’s case.

“We need to know the impact and reliability on the grid. We need to make sure it doesn’t negatively affect the grid.”

NYISO’s word comes in contrast to what town officials have heard from First Wind in the past.

Jack Zigenfus, Cohocton town supervisor, was last told by First Wind that the project was ready to transmit power and he thought it was.

“I received a letter that it had met all the criteria from all the regulatory agencies,” Zigenfus said. “They have to be operating to be obligated to pay the town.”

Zigenfus said the town has received at least $1.81 million from the project so far. The first payment — of $725,000 — came to the town in 2007 from the project as part of the community host agreement, with an additional $937,500 entering the town’s coffers by the end of 2008. First Wind also transfered to the town $150,000 for historical remediation, which the town and village boards hope to put towards renovating the Larrowe House, which currently houses the town and village clerk offices.

He also said he heard from officials at the Wayland-Cohocton Central School District it received the first Payment in Lieu of Taxes check from First Wind.

Cohocton officials applauded First Wind for “throwing the switch” on the 50-turbine wind energy development in December, while according to John Lamontagne, director of corporate communications for First Wind, the project was believed to be up and running in 2008.

"The time frame was to be by the end of the year,” he said in a Dec. 16, 2008 phone interview.

According to company officials in 2007 — when the company was known as UPC Wind — the project was expected to be up and running about a year after construction began.

Dirt first started moving on the project Sept. 18, 2007, with tower construction commencing in November. Work on the first two towers, complete with turbine blades, was finished Jan. 3. Of the 50 towers, 47 are spread across Lent, Pine and Dutch hills, dominating much of the view around Cohocton, North Cohocton and Atlanta. The three remaining turbines are on Brown Hill to the south of the village, where the project connects to the regional energy grid.

First Wind officials did not immediately return messages for comment.

By Bob Clark, The Hornell Evening Tribune

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Update from Prattsburgh

Dear Folks,

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

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

The following is from Arnold:

The meeting was standing room only.

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

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

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

However some things don't change:

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

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

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

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


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An Early Test

Wind Energy will be an early test of Obama's White House Staff

President-elect Obama has said that he would promote "wind farms" as one way to create more jobs. This idea is consistent with popular wisdom about wind energy and, therefore, sounded good while Mr. Obama was in the Senate and during his presidential campaign.

The problem for Mr. Obama now is that this popular wisdom is wrong. Contrary to reports issued by various wind energy advocates, "wind farms" provide few energy, environmental, or economic benefits and create very few jobs - far fewer than could be achieved if the money were used for other investments. Also, wind energy has adverse impacts that advocates like to ignore.

Difference between campaigning and governing

"Good ideas," even if costly, can be useful during a presidential campaign. Once elected, however, presidents typically find that they have many more "good ideas" thrust upon them by staffers, campaign contributors, special interest groups, and heads of departments and agencies than their Presidential budget can accommodate, or that have benefits outweighing true costs.

Therefore, all presidents need effective procedures and trusted staff with discernment skills near at hand who can tell them whether the claims made by proponents of various "good ideas" are really true and whether a proposal will be cost-effective in meeting his goals.

The question now is whether Mr. Obama's White House and Executive Office staff will have the capability and "clout" to protect him from being pressured to adopt unworthy proposals. This will be a test for NEC Director Larry Summers, Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes, ERAB Staff Director Austan Goolsbee, and OMB Director Peter Orszag and their staffs.

Click here to read Glenn Schleede's entire article in American Thinker magazine.



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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Naples Appeals to PSC

Naples: Don’t get too close with those windmills

By Emily McFaul, correspondent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Prattsburgh wind farm stalls

Construction of energy-producing wind turbines in the town of Prattsburgh is on hold for at least a year.

Prattsburgh officials were notified late last week of the delay by the wind farm developer – First Wind.

“While we remain committed to wind development in the Northeast, we’ve made a strategic decision to postpone construction on the Prattsburgh wind project,” said Chris Swartley, the company’s vice president of development.

Swartley said the company appreciates “the strong community partnership” and will continue to maintain its Prattsburgh office, existing towers and the existing leases now in place with landowners.

The announcement caps a year of trouble for the energy company, which announced last spring construction of 36 turbines in Prattsburgh would begin in the fall.

Since then, a flurry of lawsuits have been filed regarding the project, with the first legal action this year brought in January by the Naples and Prattsbugh central school districts. The districts charged they didn’t receive a fair share of money from a tax relief agreement between First Wind and the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency.

Another lawsuit included challenges to eminent domain proceedings brought by the Prattsburgh Town Board to help First Wind lay underground transmission cables. Also, there have been charges of improper and unethical action by town Supervisor Harold McConnell.

First Wind also is one of two wind farm developers under investigation by the state Attorney General’s office.

Click here to read Mary Perham's entire article in this week's Corning Leader.



Good News from Prattsburgh

Dear Folks,

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Prattsburgh Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hamlin wind regs get scrutiny

Things are about to get interesting out in Hamlin.

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

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

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

Neither concern is unique to Hamlin.

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

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

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

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

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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.

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Pressure from Big Wind

Italy zoning changes pave way for wind energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lawsuits blown away

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

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

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

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

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

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Italy Under Pressure

Not in my valley, say Italy residents

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

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

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

Click here to read the entire Messenger Post article.

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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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Report from Prattsburgh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Whistle blown on wind power

Corruption allegations swirl around push for wind power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Letter to the Governor

Governor David A. Paterson
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

RE: State Energy Policy and Iberdrola Takeover of Energy East

Dear Governor Patterson:

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.


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

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