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SOMERSET: Empire agreement goes down wind  

Empire State Wind Energy has been blown away for another day by the skeptical Somerset Town Board.

Council members Dudley Chafee, April Gow and Randall J. Wayner voted down the Host Community Agreement that was favored by Supervisor Richard J. Meyers and board member Dan Engert.

“If we go with another developer, we’ll get a third of what we get from Empire,” Meyers said Tuesday. The supervisor estimated that the town would get $1.3 million from Empire, as opposed to $400,000 from other developers.

“They’re unproven,” Chafee said. “This agreement was not good for the town. It was not a good proposal. They promise 75 percent of unknown figures, but 75 percent of what?”

Meyers noted that the council voted to reject the Host Community Agreement, not Empire Wind Energy. There could still be an agreement to develop wind turbine energy in the town. “I think we still have a package from Empire,” Meyers said.

The council wants a response from the Oneida-based company which is headed by Keith Pitman, the CEO, and backed by Tom Golisano, the chairman of the board.

However, the council is suspicious, according to Meyers. The dissenting members of the board and lawyer Robert S. Roberson want to know why Empire State Wind Energy is so generous. “Why would a company want to do that?” Meyers quoted Roberson as saying.

“I was shocked,” Meyers said of the Monday night meeting. “I thought we would walk out of room with document. I’m not sure what happened.”

The council’s objections were:

• Empire’s insistence on keeping an Article 78 waiver in the HCA.

• There were no firm start and stop dates in the agreement.

• There were no firm monetary projections.

• Neither Pitman, Golisano nor any representative of Empire Wind Energy showed up for the meeting.

“We asked them to come to meeting with attorneys so we could be all present,” Gow said. “They didn’t.”

The town approved windmills in 2006, and residents are ready to lease their land, according to town officials. “It’s been hanging around too long,” Chafee said. “We wanted to meet with them last night (Monday). That wasn’t a good sign. They are not too responsive. It doesn’t’ look like they are too interested in coming up here. We were hoping they would be there to iron out differences.”

Still, the council would welcome Empire Wind Energy to approach the town again, according to Chafee, a dairy farmer who has been on the town board for 18 years.

“We voted against sending them a counterproposal,” Gow said. “The one they presented us had too many flaws. It’s not our place to pursue them.”

Meyers said the residents can encourage the town to resume negotiations with Empire Wind Energy or wait for some other developer. The board has redirected Empire Wind Energy to submit a proposal to the planning board.

Meyers wanted to know why the town attorney doesn’t know anything about Empire Wind Energy.

According to Chafee, three law firms reported that the Host Community Agreement did not provide protection of the town’s interest. The law firms were from Lockport, Albany and Buffalo.

The alternate developer would likely be AES.

Chafee expects that the wind farms would be closer to the lake. “There’s only room for so many,” he said. “The landowners really control it. They want to know what company is going to build. I hope they don’t get too anxious.”

Pitman is a recognized expert in the electric utility and energy fields and as served as superintendent of two municipally owned electric utilities, according to the Empire Web site. He did not return calls.

Golisano, owner of the Buffalo Sabres, prefers to see clean power production involve and benefit the local people, local communities, and New York’s economy, according to the Web site. “Tom has grown tired of seeing outsiders controlling our economy and taking jobs and money out of our area. Empire State Wind Energy has set out to inspire and revitalize community leaders, businesses, and the public – by keeping power generation development and all of its benefits at home.”

By Bill Wolcott

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

26 March 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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