Questions, not answers, at Howard wind hearing: Steuben County IDA hears mostly from speakers opposed to project
It was a true public hearing in Howard Wednesday night.
The Steuben County Industrial Development Agency conducted the hearing – during which no questions were answered – at the Howard Fire Hall for the purpose of obtaining public comment on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for a wind project in the town. Though many of the speakers posed questions for the record, none were answered, as is the purpose of the meeting, cited SCIDA Executive Director James Sherron. About 70 people attended the session.
“It’s not going to be a discussion,” he said in his opening remarks. “We’re not here for a question-and-answer period.”
He then turned over the session to Rick VenVertloh of LaBella Associates, which was contracted to conduct the environmental impact study. VenVertloh outlined the State Environmental Quality Review process, noting a public hearing on the draft is not required, but the SCIDA decided to have one anyway. He said the comment period also was extended – from 30 to 60 days.
VenVertloh then explained how the hearing would work, explaining each person would have five minutes to speak.
Many questions were the same as have been asked at previous meetings, though a few people brought up new issues. Steve Birch wanted to know how trimming and maintenance would be managed around the towers and wires.
“Who’s going to maintain the wires?” he said. “What about stump regrowth? How’s that going to be managed?”
He also wondered why some of the lines would be overhead, while others would be underground.
The five-minute limit brought about no issues for the first 14 speakers, until James Lindsay approached the microphone. The Howard resident may not have heard the instructions, as he seemed surprised when VenVertloh explained he had just five minutes to speak.
“I’m going to be a while,” Lindsay said.
“You have five minutes,” VenVertloh said.
That didn’t sit well with Lindsay.
“Five minutes? Buddy, you’re going to mess up the rest of my life, so I’ll apologize if I take longer than five minutes,” he replied. “You’ve got a 220-page report.”
VenVertloh let Lindsay proceed with his issues about a wind project. The resident said he was concerned about how the water supply may be affected, as well as what he called inaccuracies and “˜bureaucratic speak’ in the report. Lindsay continued with his comments, and when VenVertloh attempted to stop him when the five-minute time period was up he became angry and didn’t want to stop.
Hartsville resident Steve Dombert, opposed to the process his town had used in regard to a wind farm proposal there, then suggested VenVertloh allow Lindsay to continue since no other people had stepped forward to speak in light of the two hours and 10 minutes of time left for the hearing. Others in attendance voiced their desire to let Lindsay continue, though Karen Palmer suggested others may be afraid to speak up because of Lindsay’s tone.
“Who would dare?” she said.
VenVertloh did then allow Lindsay to continue speaking.
“This project, in my humble opinion, will destroy this community as it opens it up to industrial development, if the town board so chooses,” Lindsay said.
He questioned how the project would be monitored, saying Howard Wind – an LLC set up by EverPower – should not monitor its own project.
“Howard Wind is going to hire some outfit, or create some outfit, to monitor their own project?” Lindsay said. “That’s the fox guarding the hen house.”
He also had a problem with EverPower citing the ability to sell off its green energy credits to other companies that would bring in additional profit. Lindsay said that was counter to how wind projects are being promoted as good for the environment.
“So clean energy will make it so dirty energy can continue,” he said. “So a coal power plant in Cleveland will go to EverPower and say “˜We’re the highest bidder, give us your credits.'”
Lindsay eventually was stopped by VenVertloh, as other people had come in to the meeting later and wished to issue their comments.
Following Lindsay’s comment, Dave Hulett spoke about why he chose to live in Howard – for its rural qualities – and how he was afraid a wind farm would change it. He also said turbines were sure to drive down property values.
“I do not care to look at 40-story industrial complexes out of three of my four windows,” Hulett said, saying turbines would be on neighboring properties on three sides of his property. “Those turbines are going to have a negative affect on my property value.”
Karen Palmer was the lone person to speak up in favor of a wind project in the town, saying she couldn’t imagine the turbines would make any more noise than cars driving along the four-lane highway running through Howard.
“It amazes me how many houses are bought along the four-lane,” she said, then addressing comments made about how the turbines would negatively affect the nature around Howard. “Nature has a way of adapting to change.
“I, for one, think this would be a positive thing for Howard,” Palmer added.
The public comment period will continue until May 5, with the SCIDA accepting written comments until then. Comments may be submitted to Sherron, Steuben County Industrial Development Agency, 7234 Route 54 North, P.O. Box 393, Bath, NY 14810-0393.
The final Environmental Impact Statement will be prepared in late June, with July 12 set as the tentative date for SEQR findings to be reported to the SCIDA and Town of Howard.
By Rob Montana
5 April 2007
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