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Ethics Group’s petition denied

A state Supreme Court judge has ruled that the town of Cape Vincent Planning Board “fully complied” with requirements of an environmental review for the 51-turbine St. Lawrence Wind Farm project and has dismissed a legal action opposing its acceptance.

Wind Power Ethics Group filed a petition in October asking that a judge rule that the board violated the state Environmental Quality Review Act and conflict-of-interest laws by approving a final environmental impact statement for the project in September.

The group wanted the approval nullified, claiming, among other things, that the board failed to take the requisite “hard look” at the project’s environmental impact and that board members who could benefit from the project’s construction, or have family who could, should have recused themselves from voting on the matter.

In a decision dismissing the challenge filed Thursday at the Jefferson County clerk’s office, Judge Hugh A. Gilbert wrote that voluminous records, accompanied by “persuasive and factual” legal arguments, “establishes to this Court that the requisite environmental SEQRA review was undertaken and completed.”

The judge noted that the board accepted the review by a 3-0 vote, with two abstentions. He said the abstentions “negate any potential” of conflicts of interest on the board’s part.

He also wrote that the board raised “a significant and fatal issue” regarding the group’s standing to bring the action. He said the group was the only petitioner in the proceeding, with no individual members named or joined in the action.

Judge Gilbert wrote that the group needed to establish that at least one of its members had standing to sue or that the group “is representative of the organizational purpose it asserts and that the case would not require the participation of individual members.”

“Whether Wind Power Ethics Group is an unincorporated or a limited liability company, as it now claims, we must concur with the (Planning Board) that it failed to prove that it had standing to pursue the claims made herein,” he wrote.

Wind Power Ethics Group President John L. Byrne said Friday evening that he had not seen the judge’s decision, but that he was not surprised by it and the group was prepared for it.

“We’re definitely going to appeal,” he said.