Keuka Park, N.Y. – Speakers from Cohocton, Italy and Prattsburgh came to neighboring Jerusalem March 30 to share their experiences from encounters with wind turbine companies in the area. About 70 people, including people from Geneva, Wayne County, Barrington, Benton and Jerusalem, attended the session organized by the group, Jerusalem Preservation Association (JPA).
The JPA identifies itself as “Concerned citizens of Jerusalem united to preserve and protect the health, safety, well-being, natural environment, quality of life, and economic future of our town.”
Two of the speakers, Steve Kula of Prattsburgh, and Brad Jones of Italy, are elected town officials who oppose wind turbine developments in their towns.
The third speaker, Hal Graham from Cohocton, is a property owner who now speaks out against the company that installed a wind turbine on his property. An exchange between Graham and Wayne Hunt, who identified himself as a Cohocton Town Councilman, illustrated the kind of divisiveness that Kula warned the audience about. During a question and answer period at the end of the speaker’s presentations, Hunt stood and invited people to visit Cohocton, and he would arrange a tour of the wind farm. But Graham said the company is notified of these tours, and they adjust the turbines so there is no sound or vibration coming from them. He said as soon as the tours leave, they begin making noise again.
Following their exchange, a woman asked if JPA planned on organizing a session that would include speakers in support of wind farms. Mark Grant, who moderated the meeting, told her probably not, but said there’s no reason another group couldn’t do so.
Kula, a Prattsburgh town councilman, said he originally supported the development of a wind turbine farm there. “I originally thought, if the landowner wants it on their property, they should have the right,” he said.
But after several exchanges with Ecogen, the company planning a development in Prattsburgh, he’s changed his mind. The crystalizing moment for him came when he had to consider the conflict between his belief in landowner rights and the possibility that he, as a town councilman, might be called upon to support the takeover of land through eminent domain proceedings.
Prattsburgh now finds itself in the beginning stages of a legal battle with Ecogen, which he expects to cost the town hundreds of thousands of dollars.
He warned the audience, “If there’s a possibility your town could face this, time should be taken now to research. Don’t ignore the facts presented here today just because you happen to be in favor of wind farms.”
Kula told the group that while Prattsburgh had no zoning laws when the wind turbine companies first came to the area, the town now has a zoning commission. “We’re taking the steps now that we should have taken a decade ago,” he said.
Jones, newly elected as supervisor in the town of Italy, said that on April 28, Italy’s attorney will be seeking dismissal of a lawsuit Ecogen has filed against the town.
Following a detailed presentation in which he disputed most of the claims about clean power, reduction of U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and renewable energy made by wind farm companies, Jones said the Italy Town Board will be re-writing zoning regulations to prohibit wind turbine developments.
“We will not get bankrupted by this lawsuit. We’re not going to back down,” he said.
Jones later said towns should not write local laws regulating turbines. “You’re just opening the door for them,” he explained, adding the best way to avoid the issue is through “strict prohibition of industrialization in all sectors of the town.”
Graham, who lives with his wife on a 300-acre farm that was started by his great grandfather many years ago, said signing a lease with a wind turbine company was “the biggest mistake of my life.”
He said before construction of the turbine on his property, First Wind company officials said he and his wife would notice no more than the hum of a refrigerator. “Every time we asked questions about the noise, we were told not to worry,” he said.
Now, he says, the machine “sounds like a jet engine in your back yard that will never take off.” He said the noise has been measured at over 100 decibels (about the same as a power lawnmower at 3 ft.).
Graham advised other towns, “Keep fighting. Don’t let them come in.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding