Members of Advocates for Stark have begun Article 78 proceedings with the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Onondaga against the Town of Warren Town Board, Town of Stark Town Board, Jordanville Wind, LLC, Inc., and Community Energy, Inc. The Warren Town Board is the lead agency under New York State’s Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) for a project proposed by Community Energy, a subsidiary of the Spanish multinational corporation Iberdrola, which would result in 68 wind turbines spread over 6,000 acres in the towns of Warren and Stark.
The SEQR process provides a way for state and local agencies to look closely at the possible environmental impacts of a proposed action. As lead agency, the Town of Warren Town Board was responsible for ensuring that a thorough and complete environmental review was conducted regarding the Jordanville Wind Power Project. The Article 78 lawsuit ‘ created by the New York legislature in 1937 ‘ challenges action, or inaction, by agencies and officers of state and local government and sometimes, as in this case, private corporations.
The Article 78 was filed on Friday, July 20 by Grant & Lyons LLP on behalf of 13 petitioners ‘ Sue Brander, Louise Doubleday, Edward and Dorayne Peplinski, Elena Perekrestov, Carrie Greenland Reichenbach, Stephen Reichenbach, Hamilton D. South II, Karen South, Diane Marie Thomas, Nicole M. Zaikoff, Yuri Zaikoff, and Leon Zgirski.
Chief among the causes of action as outlined in their Article 78 is that the petitioners believe the Warren Town Board issued findings on the Jordanville Wind Power Project without taking the required “hard look,”
and that the SEQR process here improperly deferred development of full investigation of the project impacts and plans to mitigate them.
“There are a number of unknown impacts that have not been adequately identified and mitigated by the Warren Town Board. They have taken the approach that many of these open issues can be studied later or mitigated after a problem actually occurs, which is contrary to how the process should work,” said Sue Brander, Advocates for Stark spokesperson. She cited impact on birds and bats, TV reception, water resources, noise, and real estate values in the area, none of which, according to Advocates for Stark, have been fully investigated.
“During a State Environmental Quality Review, all significant environmental impacts are to be identified, studied, and thought through before the project is approved, not after,” explained Brander. “We have concerns about pollution or diversion of drinking water and water supplies for livestock. Despite requests for a well survey for over a year, this developer has yet to conduct a survey of area wells.”
“We are very concerned about noise impacts,” Brander continued. “We believe the developer’s noise analysis is seriously flawed. There has been no credible study of impacts to real estate values, despite the fact that at least one homeowner lost several offers when the potential buyers learned of the turbines.”
According to cultural landscape preservation experts, the Jordanville Wind Power Project will have major adverse visual effects on Otsego Lake, the Glimmerglass Historic District, and other neighboring historic areas and scenic resources, including the Route 20 Scenic Byway.
Therefore, the concerns of Advocates for Stark are shared by both Advocates for Springfield and Otsego 2000, two community-based environmental organizations that have taken an active interest in the proceedings since plans for the wind farm were first introduced two years ago.
According to Henry S.F. Cooper, Jr., president of Otsego 2000, his group supports the Article 78 and “is very concerned that the extraordinary scale of the project is much too large for the entire region. With 68 turbines each almost 400 feet tall striding for seven miles along the rim separating the Mohawk Valley from the Otsego Lake Watershed, this will be by far the largest development in the entire region, an industrial intrusion on a major scale in a land sacred for its spiritual, historic, and natural significance, nationally and internationally.
“The impact will be felt not only in Stark and Warren but in many adjoining communities, all of whom have a stake in the outcome. This is a transformational project that should be very carefully considered and evaluated before going forward,” Cooper added.
Advocates for Springfield is supporting the petition as well. According to Harry Levine, president, “Project impacts will be most severe in the host communities of Stark and Warren, yet the consequences of this project are much broader in scope. As neighbors, we believe that the lead agency has failed to take a hard look at the regional impacts of the project. Night lighting, real estate values, visual disruptions affecting the Route 20 Scenic Byway and the Glimmerglass Historic District, and the eligible Waggoner Patent Historic District are foremost in our minds.”
The Article 78 also contends that the determinations and approvals for the project failed to comply with the Freedom of Information Law, the Open Meetings Law, Public Officers Law and even the town’s own wind energy laws.
“The project was the subject of a series of illegal steps to prevent the public from its constitutional right to petition government ‘ the result here is that the town boards committed a gross violation of due process,” the document reads.
In the final cause of action, the Article 78 states that Councilman Tom Puskarenko, a member of the Town of Stark Town Board, entered into a contract to lease his land for the project yet continued to participate in meeting deliberations and sit with the board when the project was on the agenda, which constitutes a conflict of interest.
23 July 2007
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