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Public should get answers on wind farm

Secrecy swirling around the sudden disruption in construction of Herkimer County’s first wind farm should outrage residents in Fairfield and Norway, and they should be demanding clear answers from town leaders.

Iberdrola Renewables halted turbine construction earlier Nov. 12 to perform more tests after it discovered concrete used in the some of the foundations was weak and did not meet company standards. Work resumed Nov. 19 after some tests were completed and, Iberdrola says, foundations now meet or exceed its standards. Further results are pending.

But little is known about what happened, how it was corrected and whether it could happen again.

• Iberdrola spokesman Paul Copleman would only respond to O-D inquiries by e-mail. He declined to release the names of the project’s contractors or discuss whether all current contractors would remain on the project.

• The project is small by standards set that require state oversight. The state Public Service Commission regulates wind energy projects of 80 megawatts. The Hardscrabble project falls just six megawatts shy of that. That puts regulation in the hands of local officials, PSC spokesman Jim Denn says.

• Town supervisors won’t talk. Neither Fairfield town Supervisor Richard Souza nor Norway town Supervisor Judy Gokey returned phone calls. Meanwhile, Stephanie Vetter, an environmental engineer assigned to the project, would not comment on the recent problems. She directed questions to town officials.

This is unacceptable. The Hardscrabble Wind Farm is slated to place 37 turbines in Fairfield and Norway. If the project fell within the parameters of state law, the state would have the authority to step in and conduct an investigation. But since oversight of smaller projects rests with the locality, the onus is on local officials to provide answers.

If Norway and Fairfield leaders know details of the incident and how it has been corrected to assure the public safety, they need to be upfront with that information. If they aren’t aware of what happened, they need to demand a full accounting from Iberdrola and then share that information with town residents.

We often complain about lack of autonomy and overregulation by big government, but when localities are given that responsibility and officials fail to carry out their duties or stay mum, the public is shortchanged. Don’t let that happen here. Ask questions and demand answers.