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Wind battle heating up

Citizens: ‘We’re begging you to help us!’

Members of the Potter County Planning Commission (PCPC) this week began work on an ordinance to control development of industrial wind turbines.

They also heard impassioned pleas for protection from citizens who live near some of the sites where the 410-foothigh structures would be located.

Also speaking briefly was a spokesman for international energy giant AES Corporation, which wants to build upwards of 80 turbines on the ridge tops of northern Potter County.

PCPC Chair Wanda Shirk pointed out that the commission can only recommend regulations on wind turbines. The ultimate authority rests with County Commissioners Ken Wingo, John Torok and Cathy Bowers, who must consent to any amendments to the county’s Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance.

Shirk asked Planning Commission members to study the issue and be prepared to act at the Oct. 9 PCPC meeting.

“We’re begging you to help us!” said Art Kear, who lives in an area near Gold where several of the turbines would be built. “Can you imagine having to live with the noise and the constant presence of these massive machines every hour of the day and night for the rest of your life?”

AES spokesman Bob White contested Kear’s claims that the turbines would be noisy.

Another Ulysses area resident, farmer Ken Lambert, warned of the potential impact the turbines would have on the region’s water resources.

“Because of the high springs along these ridges and other characteristics of the water resources, the deep footers that these turbines would require could cause a lot of damage,” Lambert said.

AES wants to generate electricity through the construction of multi-milliondollar industrial turbines on leased properties in Ulysses and Hector townships.

Save God’s Country is alleging that the turbines will cause damaging health effects, while creating excessive noise and shadows. Members also charge that the wind plant will have a negative impact on wildlife and adversely affect their property values.

No formal applications have been filed by AES, but the company has begun leasing property from northern Potter County farmers. The wind turbines would require approval from state environmental agencies and township supervisors. White said AES expects to begin the application process in 2008.

Save God’s Country submitted a draft ordinance spelling out strict conditions for the location of wind turbines within Potter County’s borders. PCPC is also studying sample ordinances from other counties, as well as input by AES.

Commission members will continue poring through a series of proposed regulations that would affect the location, height and other aspects of the turbines, including setback requirements that the citizens’ group consider critical.

“We have to draw a line in the sand,” Shirk said, acknowledging that AES and Save God’s Country were far apart in their positions. ” . . . The more elaborate or restrictive we make it, the less chance it will fly. I don’t think we want to over-regulate.”

Supporters see the wind turbines as symbols of renewable energy, as well as a source of tax revenue and modest employment. They are joined by a handful of landowners in Ulysses and Hector townships who stand to benefit economically.

Meanwhile, at least two other companies have approached property owners in Potter County’s Hebron Township and in the Dutch Hill area, between Coudersport and Austin, about leasing highaltitude property for wind energy development.

Also, a National Fuel Gas Corp. subsidiary is studying sites in McKean and Cameron counties for possible location of wind turbines.

Endeavor News

15 September 2007