The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has issued two permits to AES Armenia Mountain Wind LLC for the construction of 124 wind turbines in Bradford and Tioga counties.
“This is a landmark occasion for the future of clean, renewable energy in rural northcentral Pennsylvania,” said DEP Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell. “When complete, this will be the largest wind energy facility in Pennsylvania, producing about 150 megawatts of electricity, or enough to service 47,000 homes.”
AES, based in Arlington, Va., plans to build 52 turbines in Armenia Township in western Bradford County and 73 more in Richmond, Sullivan and Ward townships in eastern Tioga County.
The plan has drawn protest from some area residents, notably in Tioga County, who believe the towers will become eyesores, cause noise pollution and a potentially unpleasant “flickering” lighting effect caused by the whirling turbine blades.
The matter is still under consideration by the Tioga County Planning Commission, said Erick Coolidge, chairman of the Tioga County commissioners.
“The Planning Commission is deliberating the value of the impact the turbines would have on residents and where they locate,” he said. “We are hopeful they will create a design, a plan that would not have an unfavorable impact on residents in the area of those turbines.
“If DEP has granted these permits, that suggests these applicants have met the criteria required to make a decision,” Coolidge said. “This permit pretty much opens the door. Absolutely.”
DEP’s Water Obstruction and Encroachment permit will require AES to comply with state regulations for 39 stream and wetland crossings that will impact 250 feet of waterways and three-fourths of an acre of wetlands, according to state figures.
But figures and claims can be misleading, opponents said.
“It’s a joke,” said Judy Piccolella of Tioga Preservation Group, which has fought wind farm development in the region for about two years. “It’s a moneymaker. It’s corruption. They tell you it’s as quiet as a refrigerator, it’s green, but they don’t tell you the truth.
“The environmental protection agency of Pennsylvania is corrupt,” she said. “It’s all rubber-stamped. Whenever you want to put in a wind farm in Pennsylvania, the state agencies turn a blind eye and rubber stamps them.
“They are not protecting the environment at all,” Piccolella said.
Wind farms have drawn lawsuits from residents in parts of western Pennsylvania, she said.
“These wind developers are going across many states doing deceptive presentations,” Piccolella said.
Several wind farm sites have been proposed in Lycoming County. Bradford has seen little opposition – if any – to development there.
“At this point, the public outreach for the project has been fairly positive,” Bradford County Planner Ray Stolinas said. “There hasn’t been any negative input in Bradford County at all.
“AES has provided us with pretty much all the information they needed to fill our land development requirements for the county subdivision land development ordinance,” he said. “They do have a conditional preliminary approval that has been extended to October.
“They got the proper approvals,” Stolinas said. “They brought in all the appropriate information. They have shown where they are going to avoid wetlands and flood plains. They will provide more mapping when they settle on specific sites.”
A DEP Stormwater Construction Activity permit will regulate earth-moving activities for the turbine pads and 33 miles of road construction on 500 acres. The permit requirements will ensure that sediment runoff caused by precipitation does not impact creeks, streams or residential properties.
By George Osgood
29 July 2008
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