New York’s heartland is rich in energy resources, but companies that vied to take advantage of them in 2006 faced high hurdles and the opposition of many local residents worried about intrusions into their lives and the countryside.
Early in the year, Oneontans lived with the prospect that Catalyst Renewables Corp., a Dallas-based firm, would build a 35-megawatt power plant in the city’s former rail yards.
Catalyst’s experts estimated their $70 million plant would create 20 full-time jobs in Oneonta, 150 regional logging jobs and lots of tax revenue. The proposed plant had the support of Carolyn Lewis, Otsego County’s economic developer, and Theresa Lammers, the county’s Empire Zone coordinator.
Proponents said it would be ideally situated in Oneonta, a city surrounded by forest land. A woodburning plant was touted as an excellent use of the abandoned rail yards, but many local residents worried about emissions, the possible negative impact on the city’s water supply and the constant rumble and smell of trucks supplying the plant with wood.
According to Daniel Blacklock, a leader of the power-plant opposition movement, more than 2,000 people signed petitions showing their disapproval of this proposed project.
One signature, that of Oneonta Mayor John Nader on a letter to the company, probably had more impact than any other. In mid-September, Nader wrote to company officials, suggesting they find another place for the plant, which he believed “does not seem consistent with the city’s vision for the Roundhouse site.” Before the end of the month, Catalyst President Eric Spomer announced the company would “suspend” its proposal.
Like this plan to harvest trees and convert them into electrons, various proposals to harvest the wind faced stiff opposition.
For the second time in recent years, the Advocates for Cherry Valley have apparently stymied a proposal to site a wind farm in the Otsego County town. Four years ago, Global Winds Harvest proposed a large-scale project on two ridges in the town, but after engaging the opposition, the firm retreated.
After Global Winds withdrew, Reunion Power, a Manchester, Vt.-based company, proposed building 24 tall turbines on East Hill, but earlier this month, Cherry Valley enacted a law that makes this project more, and perhaps prohibitively, expensive to build.
Given the lay of the land, Cherry Valley’s law essentially forces the developer to enlist the support not only of those whose land will have turbines, but nearby landowners as well.
Cherry Valley Town Supervisor Tom Garretson said the law means when wind power comes to Cherry Valley, it will come “on our terms.”
David Little, Reunion’s project manager, said earlier this month that he doesn’t know if Reunion, which had offered to pay about half of all residents’ electric bills for 20 years, will go forward or pull up stakes.
Nor far from Cherry Valley, Community Energy plans to build a 68-turbine wind farm in Jordanville. This project enjoys the support of boards in the towns of Stark and Warren, where it would be built, but opponents to current plans, including Otsego 2000, have indicated they may sue to alter or stop the project.
In the Delaware County towns of Andes, Bovina, Meredith, Roxbury and Stamford, wind developers who want to harness the clean, renewable energy face opponents who say 400-foot-tall turbines will mar the landscape and reduce their quality of life. In response to pressures from people on both sides of the issue, boards in Andes, Bovina and Meredith enacted moratoriums this year to give themselves time to research issues and possibly draft laws to regulate wind farms.
Another energy project, the proposed New York Regional Interconnection power line, was almost unanimously condemned by area residents but still may be built.
The $1.6 billion NYRI line would take power from Marcy in Oneida County and route it to New Windsor in Orange County on its way to the New York City area. In its application to the state’s Public Service Commission, New York Regional Interconnect Inc. asserts the line will provide much-needed electricity downstate during times of peak demand.
The firm also acknowledges that upstate electric customers will see their electric bills rise if the line is built.
When NYRI staff held meetings about the project in the area, hundred of opponents, including several state senators, attended. The project has been questioned by New York’s U.S. senators, Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, and the state’s governor-elect, Eliot Spitzer has declared the project dead at the state level.
However in 2005, the U.S. Congress passed an energy policy act that allows the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to override state regulators, so the project’s ultimate fate is still in doubt.
By Tom Grace
Cooperstown News Bureau
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