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Windfarm opponents to get day in court

Opponents of proposed wind farm projects in the town of Prattsburgh will have their day in court.

The state Appellate Court recently ruled against a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency by the Advocates for Prattsburgh.

The Advocates allege SCIDA did not adequately review environmental information provided by wind farm developer EcoGen before the board gave the review its final approval late last year.

SCIDA’s approval gave EcoGen the go-ahead – with restrictions – to build 53 wind turbines in Prattsburgh. But the board said every site considered for one of EcoGen’s 400-foot high turbines must meet the same environmental guidelines as the review.

Advocates charge the final study was not adequately reviewed by SCIDA, which had the responsibility of making sure the project met state environmental standards.

SCIDA’s consultant on the environmental studies was Richard venVertloh, an engineer for LaBella Associates, in Rochester.

Allegations by the Prattsburgh group include that EcoGen provided incorrect data and that there was insufficient information on specific groundwater supplies and wells. Also, an analysis on the impact of property values was inconclusive, the group claims.

Advocates attorney Glenn Pezzulla said SCIDA should have required more exact information, such as what properties were used to determine the average effect of turbines on property values.

“Are we looking at property five miles away or next door?” he asked. “Define the area.”

Another issue that required greater scrutiny by SCIDA was EcoGen’s finding

that a proposed wind farm in Prattsburgh would not have a cumulative effect

with another proposed farm in the neighboring town of Cohocton.

SCIDA moved to dismiss the legal action because EcoGen was not named in the lawsuit.

The motion was first dismissed in early October by state Supreme Court Justice Harold Galloway, who is presiding over the case.

Galloway’s decision was upheld by the Appellate Court last week.

The action by the Appellate Court clears the way for Galloway’s ruling, although there’s no way to know when the ruling will be made, Pezzulo said.

“I’m not in the least bit surprised it’s taking a while,” he said. “There

were voluminous papers, including an exhibit 3,000 pages long.”

Galloway’s rejection of the original dismissal motion should not be seen as an

indication of how the judge will rule, Pezzulo said.

James Sherron, SCIDA executive director said the board is now waiting for the judge’s decision.

“We’ve heard it’s not going to take that long, but it’s been quite a while already,” Sherron said.

Wind farm development in the county has been the source of controversy since they were first proposed in the town of Prattsburgh in 2002.

Supporters claim the 400- foot high turbines provide an essential source of renewable energy and local revenue.

Opponents charge the turbines do not generate significant amounts of electricity and threaten people and the environment.

The Prattsburgh lawsuit is one of three current legal actions filed by opponents of proposed wind farms in the county. Recently, new lawsuits have been filed against the towns of Howard and Cohocton.

By Mary Perham
The Leader