A citizens group is renewing efforts to strike down the Wind Energy Facility Law adopted last November by the Town of Centerville in Allegany County.
But that doesn’t bother the energy company that hopes to place a 67-turbine wind farm along the town’s windy ridges.
A judge in April dismissed the Centerville Concerned Citizens lawsuit on procedural errors, and the group has turned to the appeals court for a ruling on its claim that the town failed to conduct an environmental review before passing the measure. Town officials and their advisers insist the law will cause no environmental problems.
“The lawsuit will have no effect whatsoever,” said Bob Maxwell of Noble Environmental Power, the company that hopes to locate the wind farm in Centerville. The company also has begun constructing a similar-sized facility in the Wyoming County community of Bliss, and is also eyeing the Cattaraugus County towns of Freedom, which is considering a similar law, and Farmersville, where a law was enacted in the spring.
The company is majority-owned by J.P. Morgan Partners and gained ground in the wind energy sector in April, winning a 10-year contract from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to supply 511 megawatts of consumer power under the Renewable Portfolio Standard Program.
The contract will supply about 500,000 homes. Noble will receive production incentives in exchange for renewable energy credits produced by five of its new wind farms, including three in Clinton County, one in Franklin County and the Bliss Windpark. Noble also has announced it is reviewing its strategic alternatives with financial advice from Goldman, Sachs & Co. Noble was founded in 2004 in response to a public policy initiative designed to foster increased use of renewable energy sources.
The citizens’ lawsuit suggests the law was passed to accommodate Noble’s wind farm project after it was presented informally to town officials, along with an offer to pay the town’s necessary legal fees. They say they are not against wind energy facilities but warn that residents’ and landowners’ concerns were ignored by Centerville’s Council members at a time when adverse issues – such as negative effects on property values, scenic views, hunting and hazards to migrating birds and bats – are beginning to come under more scrutiny around the country.
Residents charge that officials have ignored objections by locals in response to the law’s “inadequate siting setbacks” and noise impacts, including low-frequency sound and noises heard more than a mile away from turbines, which can reach heights of almost 500 feet.
The law’s author, attorney Dan Spitzer of the Buffalo law firm of Hodgson Russ, said the group is repeating the issues raised during town hearings but notes the permit application has not been submitted by Noble Environmental Power.
“We need to stop wasting town money just because a minority doesn’t even want to consider wind towers. We should consider an application if and when we get one,” Spitzer said.
Centerville Concerned Citizens quietly posted informational signs on lawns and roads last month deploring the Town Board’s actions.
By Kathy Kellogg
23 June 2007
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