To help the public understand more about the impacts wind developments will have on our local economies in Steuben County and who is making the decisions to install the developments here, the Steuben Greens have organized a panel discussion on wind issues with five local activists on Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 7:00 pm. The program will be held at 198 Main St. in Hornell.
Brad Jones from Naples will speak on his research into the promises of wind power. Steve Trude and James Hall from Cohocton will update us on the efforts of their group, Cohocton Wind Watch, to get more accountability in the DEIS process. Valerie Gardner and Jack Ossont from Yates County will discuss how their group, Democracy NY, works with local communities who prefer not to be governed by corporate directors, but to govern themselves.
“The Steuben Greens support the development of renewable energy sources, including wind energy in appropriate places,” said Joe Duffy from Hornell, chair of the Steuben Greens and 2005 candidate for Mayor of Hornell. “But we think decisions about what is appropriate for a community should be made democratically by the community.”
“Wind energy is ideal for distributed generation, where energy is produced where it is used,” Duffy said. “Unfortunately, the wind generation facilities proposed for Steuben County don’t take advantage of this characteristic. Much of the power produced by the proposed facilities will be lost over long-distance transmission lines.”
“Communities in Steuben County are finding that the impact industrial wind developments will have on our local economies is more complicated than the rosy picture outlined by wind developers,” said Brad Jones. Currently, there are nine proposed wind farms in Steuben and Yates counties with a total of 519 wind turbines. Together, these projects will comprise the largest wind farm east of the Mississippi.”
“I am not a member of any advocacy group,” Jones said recently. “My wife Linda and I are lifelong environmentalists who are blessed to live at our conservation project adjacent to the state’s Hi Tor property. We have conducted extensive research and analysis of the wind energy developments proposed for our area in the belief that informed citizens who understand all sides of important issues will make decisions that are in the best interests of their families and their communities. We have been disappointed to discover that in nearly every case the benefits of wind energy are exaggerated while the actual risks and costs are overlooked or understated.”
“The economics at the core of these projects are government subsidies,” said James Hall from Cohocton Wind Watch. “The fact that our region does not have consistently sufficient wind velocity to make wind generation projects financially self-sufficient is being concealed from the public and from our government officials. Wind developers should be required to show that the prevailing wind patterns are adequate before approval of a project is granted.”
“One of my fundamental objections to the wind development proposals being touted in our area by limited liability corporate (LLC) shells is their 95% retention of cash flow revenue,” Hall continued. “The insufficient revenue sharing provided in the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) programs being offered will cause bankruptcies in our local townships as overall revenues are reduced and real estate devaluations for individual property owners as their taxes increase.”
“The problem is compounded by the proposal to create Empire Zones and exempt developers from paying full industrial tax assessment rates,” said Steve Trude, President of Cohocton Wind Watch. “We have crunched the numbers, and this scheme gives wind developers a free ride at the expense of average citizens.”
“Look at the facts these citizens have gathered,” said Valerie Gardner, “and then look at who is getting to make the decisions about the wind developments. The citizens of the communities where the projects are located should be the ones deciding, not the directors and officers of corporations.” Gardner is an attorney in private practice in Penn Yan and a long-time board member and co-chairperson of the Citizens Environmental Coalition. She currently serves on the coordinating committee of Democracy NY, a not-for-profit corporation founded to encourage community education through rights based organizing. Her husband, Jack Ossont is the volunteer coordinator of Democracy NY. Ossont has been an activist for over 30 years and has served in several elected and appointed political positions including county legislator, national convention delegate and political county chairperson.
Gardner and Ossont’s group organizes weekend sessions called Democracy Schools in our region. The schools were founded by historian Richard Grossman and attorney Thomas Linzey from the Community Environmental Defense Fund (CELDF). Democracy Schools educate citizens on the evolution of undemocratic structures in our society.
At Democracy Schools, people come together to examine why law and culture empower a relative few – often organized as corporations – to impose their values and investments upon our communities. The Schools study past people’s movements which challenged such government-by-the few. They also explore CELDF’s work over the past few years which has resulted in over 100 Pennsylvania communities passing laws asserting self-governing authority, and sending corporations packing.
The meeting is free and open to the public. There will be time for discussion following the presentations.
For more information: Steuben Greens, http://www.steubengreens.org
Democracy School, http://www.celdf.org
Cohocton Wind Watch, http://batr.net/cohoctonwindwatch/
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