October 2, 2006
New York

Lawsuit filed over wind farms

An Article 78 action filed against several defendants challenges the State Environmental Quality Review Act process followed for the proposed wind-farm construction in Clinton County.

The town councils of Altona, Clinton and Ellenburg, says paperwork filed in Clinton County, “acted arbitrarily and capriciously and in violation of both the spirit and letter of SEQRA when they accepted the FEIS (final environmental impact statement) “¦”

Also named in the suit, which cites a Supreme Court date of this Friday “or as soon thereafter as counsel can be heard,” are Clinton County Industrial Development Agency, Noble Environmental Power and its Altona, Clinton and Ellenburg wind parks.

Citizens environmental advocacy group Neighbors for the Preservation of the North Country Inc. began the action, represented by attorney Robert M. Cohen of Ballston Lake.

“In my opinion, what they’re really saying is they don’t agree with our decision,” said Dan Spitzer, attorney for the towns of Altona, Clinton and Ellenburg. “This is no more than an attempt to usurp the actions of the democratically elected boards.”

Not so, said Garceau.

She and her group believe the SEQR process wasn’t followed completely or properly.

“They were given documents that were five volumes long, and two weeks later decided they were complete,” she said.

“I would think it would take more than two weeks.”

“The record will show all three towns took a very careful and very deliberate look at every issue raised,” Spitzer said. “(Garceau) is entitled to her sincere opinion – it doesn’t mean the towns didn’t do their investigations properly.”

Also, Garceau said, “when you look through their final impact statement, there are aspects where it says a future study will be done.”

One of those noted in the court documents is that of detailed field investigations of groundwater.

The complainants also claim the section on black bears “is speculative and does not contain actual data.”

How can the process be complete, Garceau said, when all the studies aren’t done?

Spitzer said there’s some missing information because yet to be acquired by Noble are certificates of public convenience and necessity from the Public Service Commission and wetlands permits from the Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“You can’t get the permit until SEQR’s done,” Spitzer said.

The fact that Neighbors for Preservation of the North Country would challenge such details illustrates lack of understanding of how the SEQR process works, the attorney continued.

“It’s about investigating the impacts,” he said.

“We believe that we properly complied with SEQR, that we properly posted all meetings, the IDA properly conducted their review, and that the reviewing authorities will agree,” Spitzer continued.
“I don’t have a problem with people who have a severe disagreement, but that doesn’t mean the towns did their jobs wrong.”

Garceau lives on Bull Run Road in Ellenburg. She said no wind turbines are slated for construction at present but appear to be in the future.

“I treasure where we live,” she said, “so do all the people that meet with me.

“It’s quiet.”

Recently, Garceau visited a Tug Hill wind farm, where, after a short time, she said, she felt a pressure that turned into a migraine headache.

In a statement among the court documents, she attributes that ailment to vibroacoustic disease, a controversial condition that Dr. Nina Pierpont of Malone says is caused by industrial wind turbines.

Web sites on vibroacoustic disease say it develops with long exposure to high-intensity/low-frequency sound.

Garceau said she wasn’t aware, when she went to Tug Hill, that such a condition could result.

It’s another example of how the towns and other entities ignored important issues when they accepted the final environmental impact statement, she said.

She found herself surprised when she visited the Tug Hill wind farm, she said.

“It wasn’t as loud as what I expected it to be,” she said. “It was more like wind coming through a crack in a window” that’s not closed all the way.

“But the longer I was there, the low pitch was having a major effect.

“After a while I put my hood up over my ears – it did seem to stick with you.”

By Suzanne Moore, Staff Writer

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