Take hard look at topic of wind power development
New York state communities are being torn apart by wind power projects, both proposed and constructed. The rift left behind could last for generations to come and extends well beyond municipal boundaries. It’s clear that we have to approach wind power in a very different way if we don’t want to divide communities statewide.
Like the Hippocratic oath, “first, do no harm,” we should approach wind power development with the careful consideration that we would any large-scale industrial development.
First, let’s step away from the mudslinging, the rhetoric that is both pro and con wind power, and look at the facts:
* Large, industrial-scale wind power developments are Type I Actions under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).
* Type I Actions are the kinds
of projects that are likely to have significant environmental impacts.
* These impacts can be far-reaching – affecting communities beyond the project area and a project’s host community. For wind power, they can include adverse impacts to agricultural lands, forests, birds and bats, water resources, transportation systems, cultural and historic resources, noise, sensitive scenic resources, local economies and real estate values.
* All significant impacts must be thoroughly examined and mitigated in an Environmental Impact Statement.
Now let’s look at the current situation of the Jordanville Wind Power Project (Jordanville Wind, LLC) proposed to be sited in the Towns of Warren and Stark by its parent and associate corporation Community Energy, Inc. and Iberdrola Renewable Energies USA, Ltd. A small number of citizens in the towns of Warren and Stark spoke up during the review process and raised serious questions about the environmental impacts of the project. The town boards pressed ahead and approved the project.
The citizens, with the help of Otsego 2000, Advocates for Stark and Advocates for Springfield initiated an Article 78 lawsuit. An Article 78 lawsuit seeks to challenge a local municipal decision made in error or illegally. This past December, the petitioners won, proving that the town of Warren, as the lead agency for the project, had failed to adequately explore environmental impacts or mitigate them, and that both town boards had violated the Open Meetings Law. Lawsuits are a last resort to enforce the law; no one took the lawsuit lightly.
Most disturbing about the Jordanville project is that people who supported the proposed development because of its environmental benefits seem to have turned their backs on the environment at the same time.
While proponents recognized wind power pluses, they ignored its impacts on historic resources, bats and birds, and water resources, and its noise. So it’s OK to violate SEQRA in the name of wind power? If we start going down that slippery slope, we may just undermine some of the most important legislation we have to protect the public interest. This doesn’t mean that wind power cannot be developed in New York state, but we must do a better job to address all impacts and let the process be as open as possible. If this means altering projects so they are a better fit—by moving turbine locations or reducing the overall size of a project—then so be it.
Statewide siting guidelines would help establish where wind power projects should go so they are the best fit for Upstate New York. These guidelines could become part of the new Article X legislation, a statewide law currently being redrafted for all energy projects. Siting guidelines would help protect a wide range of community and regional resources that are typically affected by wind power projects. It would also guarantee that those relying on Home Rule and ignoring the effects of projects outside the local town boundaries would have to look beyond their own municipal boundaries to their neighbors. It might also mean there would be less potential for the conflicts of interest that seem to plague these projects, a not uncommon situation in many small communities.
Article X could be structured to allow municipalities to adopt their own local wind power legislation that is more protective of resources, so siting guidelines could be used as a sound starting point.
If we simply go for the low-hanging fruit and think wind power will save our communities and bring newfound wealth, we’re missing the mark in Upstate New York. Sure a few property owners will have extra income, and host communities may broker a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement, but then what? Are we selling out too soon for too little?
The lure of easy money for economically depressed communities isn’t enough.
On the heels of Gov. Spitzer’s State of Upstate address, we must all realize that the revitalization of upstate New York will take much more than a one-note wind power strategy. More likely, leaders statewide will have to look to a multi-dimensional approach to solve Upstate’s economic quagmire.
In fact, the kinds of huge wind power projects that are being proposed throughout Upstate New York will harm some economic development opportunities. Tourism in rural New York—a multi-million dollar economic engine— is dependent to a large extent on its scenic value and its outstanding cultural sites and area attractions. Those who don’t see tourism as part of an
Upstate economic strategy are just as wrong as those who see it as the only strategy.
A balance must be met to ensure that Upstate has a range of economic development strategies that fit our needs. Now is the time to extend the olive branch and work together toward a solution we can all live with.
Martha H. Frey is executive director of Otsego 2000, Inc. in Cooperstown.
Jordanville farm opponents are blowing a lot of hot air
The attacks and attitudes on the Jordanville Wind Farm are completely out of touch with reality.
Fact #1: Global warming is now an established fact.
Fact #2: Wind energy requires no mining, no drilling to deep core, no transportation of fuel and does not generate radioactive waste.
Fact #3: Wind energy generates no carbon dioxide, nitrate or particulate matter, and releases no extra heat in the generation process.
Fact #4: Due to the structure of the New York Power Grid, all of the wind energy generated replaces a like amount from fossil fuel.
Fact #5: The Jordanville Wind Farm encompasses some of the very best wind resources (energy) in central New York.
Fact #6: Accusations that today’s wind turbines are noisy are completely inaccurate.
Dozens and dozens of people
who have visited wind turbine sites have given testimony to the very low levels of sound emitted. A wind turbine operating 350 meters away is less noisy than a car going 40 mph 100 meters away.
Fact #7: Visual representations of windmills by wind energy opponents are completely distorted and clearly demonstrate that they don’t know what a wind turbine blade looks like or don’t want to know what a turbine blade looks like.
Fact #8: Lake Otsego is not a private lake whose function is a playground for the beneficiaries of inherited wealth, but rather the property of New York state and its legal residents.
The purchase and control of large amounts of property in and around Cooperstown and Lake Otsego has created a virtual gated community devoted to the interests of the privileged few.
A direct quote from Henry Cooper in the June 29, 2007, Freeman’s Journal, “the challenge presented by the wind farm is as serious as any of those facing the lake in the past including the Marcy South power line proposed along Otsego’s west side, and the mega boat launch (a launch site proposed to the general public by the state in Hyde Bay), we did very well on both of them, we hope to do the same now.” Just how many fisherman and local boaters would agree?
Fact # 9: Each and every opponent of this wind farm were given a chance to testify at local hearings over the last two years. In truth, the opponents spoke far longer than those of us in favor, well past their allotted time. Dozens of people will gladly attest to that.
Rather than the “pittance” that Cooper wrote of in one of his many quotes, the Jordanville Wind Farm would actually generate the following income to our area over a 15-year period.
Figures based on estimates in the Jan. 5, 2008, Observer Dispatch:
* 18 long-term, full-time jobs equating to annual salaries totaling more than $830,000.
* Approximately $10 million in wage and salary compensation to local workers during construction
* Another $10 million spent in the county on facilities, materials, equipment, dining and lodging.
* More than $1 million in annual tax benefits to be split among the county, towns, and school district.
* Nearly $450,000 in annual payments to local landowners involved in the project.
* The displacement of more than 232,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 1,180 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 320 tons of nitrogen oxide each year while producing enough electricity to power more than 50,000 homes.
Add the multiplier effect of all of this new money coming into an area and the Jordanville Wind Farm, without a doubt, is a win-win situation.
Bruce Banks lives in Jordanville.
9 February 2008
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