Sides will line up early this week for more legal action over wind farms in the town of Cohocton.
Arguments over stop orders filed by wind farm opponents, Cohocton Wind Watch, are scheduled to be heard at 10 a.m. Tuesday by State Supreme Court Justice Marianne Furfure. The group is seeking to halt construction of a 53-turbine wind development in the town by UPC/Canandaigua Power Partners, LLC.
On Sept. 24, Furfure denied an earlier challenge by opponents to the town’s local Law No. 2, which set out regulations for setbacks, noise and other zoning issues. Opponents charged the town should have undertaken an environmental study on the impact of the 440-foot high wind turbines before the law was passed.
Furfure ruled industrial wind mills were not “the action under review” and noted the law called for a state environmental quality review for any wind farm developments. Reviews for changes in land use are different than reviews of a specific project, Furfure wrote in her decision.
She noted the local law was more stringent than a previous law. The first law was also upheld by the courts, and an appeal by Cohocton wind opponents was recently denied.
James Hall, spokesman for Cohocton Wind Watch, said the group is considering an appeal of Furfure’s decision and looking forward to their next day in court Tuesday.
Hall said the rulings have ignored the merits of the cases.
“To this date, to my knowledge, not one court has ruled in favor of opposition to these projects,” Hall said. “The merits have not been ruled on, they’ve been ignored.”
Cohocton Wind Watch is still pursuing its anti-trust complaints and recently picked up the backing of congressional candidate Democrat Eric Massa, of Corning.
Hall said the group attended a forum by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in Rochester this week to urge the attorney general to get involved in their complaints.
“We wanted to inform him there is enough information to warrant a full investigation for the sake of public safety and public integrity. This is a scheme to defraud,” Hall said.
The wind project in Cohocton is the first of six potential wind projects in the county to reach near-construction stage.
UPC also plans to set up a wind farm in the Town of Prattsburgh, where rival developer EcoGen has also proposed a wind farm.
Other towns considering wind farms include the towns of Hartsville, Howard and Caton.
The projects generated considerable opposition from local residents, beginning in 2001, when UPC proposed the first project in Prattsburgh.
Opponents say the turbines are inefficient generators of electricity and pose serious threats to humans and the natural habitat.
Supporters argue the projects are a source of renewable energy and provide needed revenues for small towns.
UPC signed an agreement in August with the town of Cohocton to pay $1 million next year and an average of $500,000 annually for the next 20 years.
The European-based UPC has encountered some delays since the agreement was signed. In September, the Steuben County Public Works Department temporarily posted weight restrictions on county roads, preventing UPC from hauling heavy equipment until road studies were completed.
Thursday, the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency delayed final approval of a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for the project. Board members, and local labor leaders, were concerned about allegations UPC was not hiring local workers.
By Mary Perham
30 September 2007
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