By Maki Becker
News Staff Reporter
A proposed wind turbine farm on the old Bethlehem Steel plant site has passed a major hurdle as the federal government announced it is finished investigating contaminants on the sprawling 1,600-acre property.
“Nothing stands in the way,” said Lackawanna Mayor Norman Polanski on Tuesday. “Now, we can move. . . . It’s a positive move for Lackawanna.”
The developers, BQ Energy and UPC Wind, are planning to erect eight giant wind turbines, each taller than Buffalo City Hall, on a strip of the plant site next to the lake.
Under the agreement with the wind farm developers, the City of Lackawanna will receive $100,000 a year for the next 15 years, but no taxes.
The project, called “Steel Winds,” also will be eligible for generous federal and state tax incentives designed to encourage development of renewable energy sources.
The Environmental Protection Agency, which had been overseeing the investigation of the heavily polluted site, sent a letter Monday to the land’s developer, Tecumseh Redevelopment, saying it had ended its role.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation will now identify polluted areas and determine how to clean them up.
Because of the handover, the wind farm developers can enter into a state-run program for cleaning up and reusing “brownfield” sites. The program offers up to 20 percent of the value of the development deal.
The DEC has not yet decided whether to accept the Steel Winds project into the brownfields program, officials said Tuesday.
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, who sent a letter to the EPA earlier this month urging it to proceed quickly with its decision, hailed Tuesday’s developments.
“We in Western New York need to continue to be aggressive in removing the barriers that impede development in our community,” Higgins said in a statement.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., lauded the project as a “great chance for us to bring jobs here by establishing a real niche for the region.”
Polanski heralded the news as a sign that progress in Lackawanna and the region is possible, even on an old industrial site.
The developers still must obtain permits from the city to proceed with construction, but Polanski said he doesn’t anticipate any holdups.
BQ Energy and UPC Wind say they are on track to have the eight 2.5-megawatt turbines running by around Thanksgiving.
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