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Senator seeks strict wind farm guidelines

BATH | A proposed 18-month moratorium on all wind farm development in the state has received mixed reviews locally.

State Sen. James Alesi, R-Perinton, said he expects to introduce legislation aimed at halting the construction of wind farms across the state until uniform standards can be set.

Alesi, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Economic Development and Small Businesses, said he will introduce the bill in the Senate within the next few weeks.

“This is not an argument about whether wind farms are good or bad,” Alesi said. “This is about setting up a uniform approach.”

Alesi said different towns and developers now use a variety of standards to allow wind farm development.

And cash-strapped towns may set up wind farms with little regard for the effect the projects will have on their neighbors, he said.

“It’s like if a town builds a major landfill on say, the western edge of a town,” he said. “The town can make a lot of money, but the other town is saying “˜What about us?'”

Alesi said there are also concerns the wind farms would have a negative impact on Finger Lakes tourism.

“That’s the second largest industry in the state, farming being No. 1,” he said. “This all goes beyond what any town or village might want for itself.”

Local state leaders said they will study the bill when it is introduced, but question how broad the uniform standards will need to be to include the entire state.

“This isn’t a “˜one-size-fits-all’ type of deal,” said state Sen. George Winner, R-Winner. “I will certainly read it, I’ll talk to (Alesi) about it, but I do have some questions.”

Art Giacalone, attorney for wind farm opponents in the town of Howard, said the legislation is worth studying, but questioned whether the state should impose standards on local governments.

“I am just not sure that’s the answer,” Giacalone said.

Other wind farm opponents, such as James Hall, of Cohocton Wind Watch, say Alesi’s proposal would be the beginning of an indefinite halt to any development in the state.

Hall recently sent a letter to Gov. Eliot Spitzer saying evidence during the past several years proves severe public safety risks.

“Wind turbine (developers) have abandoned all pretense of responsible development,” Hall said.

Al Wordingham, a member of the Advocates for Prattsburgh, said the group met with Alesi last week to discuss their issues with the projects.

“My own personal feeling is we could have uniform standards for health and safety issues that would take care of it,” Wordingham said.

Alesi said the bill will be introduced after state leaders work out their budget gridlock.

Assemblyman James Bacalles, R-Corning, said he will study the proposal but added the state associations of towns and counties should be directly involved in setting any standards.

“Not everybody is happy when the state gets involved (in local issues),” Bacalles said. “And to tell you the truth, they’re usually right.”

By Mary Perham


1 April 2007