WELLSBORO – The Tioga Preservation Group has filed an appeal in Tioga County Court to try to block plans to construct a wind farm with more than 120 turbines on Armenia Mountain starting in the spring.
The appeal was filed by the group Jan. 17, asking that the judge “nullify” the preliminary conditional approval granted to AES Armenia Mountain Wind LLC, by the Tioga County Planning Commission Dec. 12, group member Frank Piccolella said.
Piccolella, a Lycoming County resident who formed the group with several other landowners in Tioga County, said his property adjoins the Tioga County line near Liberty and though he would not be directly affected by the wind farm, the Laurel Ridge project proposed by Catamount Energy project that is still tied up at the state court level, “would be right across the street from me,” he said.
So far, the court has not set a date for the case to be heard, he added.
“The preliminary conditional approval granted by the Planning Commission does not give them the right to start construction,” he said. “They still have to get several permits.”
The only permits that AES has obtained, he said, are those involving telecommunications and lighting for the Federal Aviation Administration and they have agreed to decommissioning the turbines and removing them at the end of their usable life, Piccolella said.
“The way our attorney explained it is AES has to follow the subdivision ordinance to the letter and Jim Weaver (Tioga County Planner) doesn’t have the authority to say they can only partly follow it,” he said.
According to the subdivision ordinance, he said, any commercial or industrial use construction that abuts private property has to be screened from view, he said “but they can’t screen a 400 foot tower from view,“ he said, “but the subdivision must still be followed to the letter.”
Gov. Ed Rendell has mandated that a percentage of energy generated in Pennsylvania must come from renewable energy sources by the next decade, but “that doesn’t mean we have to do it in Tioga County. He just said you have to come up with a percentage of energy from renewable sources state wide,” Piccolella said.
“On the federal level they did away with that mandate a couple months ago because it is not attainable, I am wondering if they will do the same on the state level,” he said.
“You’d have to put them on every hilltop in Pennsylvania to attain that,” he added.
Though AES cannot start construction at the site with the preliminary conditional approval, it can survey the site, and according to a neighbor whose property adjoins the project site, “they are up there doing that, and they can continue working on getting their permits.”
AES project engineer Bob White declined to comment on ongoing litigation.
Tioga County Planner Jim Weaver could not be reached for comment Friday.
By Cheryl R. Clarke
26 January 2008
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