If Strike One was the state Public Service Commission’s August decision removing 19 turbines from the 68-turbine Jordanville Wind Project, then Strike Two came this week.
Tuesday, Dec. 11, state Supreme Court Judge Donald A. Greenwood, Syracuse, threw out the project’s SEQR Act review, a decision that may require Community Energy/Iberdrola, the Madrid-based multinational, to start the lengthy process all over again.
The third strike could be a company decision to pursue its efforts elsewhere, but Skip Brennan, Iberdrola’s director of New York State projects, did not return calls on the matter.
“How far back is something we will have to evaluate,” Bernard Melewski, the Saratoga lawyer who advised the Town of Warren in implementing the State Environmental Quality Review Act in regards a project that would have stretched from Van Hornesville in the Town of Stark seven miles along the ridge to Jordanville in the Town of Warren.
Both communities are on the southern end of Herkimer County, but the 400-foot-tall turbines would have been visible in the Otsego County Town of Springfield and halfway down Otsego Lake, which is in the Glimmerglass National Historic District, the nation’s largest.
Some said the blinking lights would be visible at night from the docks at Cooperstown.
In effect, Greenwood “vacated” the Town of Warren’s acceptance of the SEQR findings, which would have allowed construction to begin, Melewski said.
“There’s nothing in the decision that, if the company wants to move forward, will prevent the project from happening,” he continued. “The only result of the decision short-term is there will be more expense to the company going through some or all of the process again,” as well as loss of revenue to the towns and individual landowners.
Douglas H. Zamelis, of Manlius and Cooperstown, lawyer for the 15 people challenging the Town of Warren with financial assistance from Cooperstown-based Otsego 2000, was unavailable for comment.
Greenwood’s 15-page decision – it may be read in full at www.thefreemansjournal.com – said the Town of Warren, the “lead agency”:
• Failed to consider “all reasonable options;” for instance, shorter or fewer turbines, a phasing-in process or different locations for the turbines that might have less impact.
• Failed to sufficiently mitigate concerns about views, birds, bats, noise and other environmental impacts on an area – the court quotes the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation – that has “clear and defined national level significance.”
• Delegated obligations to the PSC, the OPRHP and other entities, duties it needed to tackle independently.
• Violated the state Freedom of Information Law at least twice; decisions made contrary to the FOIL are void.
The judge also ruled in favor of the Town of Warren in a few instances.
Greenwood found that Thomas Puskarenko, the Stark town board member who also intended to lease land for turbines, did not make decisions that resulted in a conflict of interest. The judge also found that, while the initial “scoping” of the project was done without public input, the lead agency was not required to seek that input.
The 15 plaintiffs included Sue Brander, Van Hornesville, who was a candidate for Stark town board this fall, and Russian Orthodox Archimandrite (archbishop) George Schaefer.
14 December 2007
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