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Effect of state regulations on windfarm location not known yet

Bath, NY – There is no way of knowing what effect a revitalized state regulation on wind farms will have on the current plan put up a 16 turbines in Prattsburgh, town supervisor Al Wordingham said.
Wordingham and his advisors are now studying Article X, which passed the state Legislature last week and sets up a seven-member panel to decide where 25-megawatt wind farms may be built.
The Town of Prattsburgh has been embroiled in litigation for years with wind developer Ecogen, which is looking to build a wind farm there, and in the neighboring town of Italy, in Yates County.
Town officials and residents have been at odds since Ecogen proposed the project 10 years ago. Supporters say the turbines are a source of renewable energy and would bring needed revenues to the town. But opponents said the turbines threaten the health and welfare of people and the environment.
The debate reached a climax two years ago, when pro-wind board members were ousted during a general election and Ecogen promptly sued the town.
Earlier this year, state Supreme Court Justice John Ark ruled the developer had 168 days to prove it had vested rights in the project.
Wordingham said he doesn’t know if the new state law will have any bearing on Ark’s ruling.
Article X doesn’t affect existing projects, but does allows developers to resubmit applications and go through the permit process.
Opponents argue the law does away with any municipality’s right to decide whether the 400-foot industrial turbines are a good fit, leaving that judgment up to the state panel.
Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa told the Times Union the law usurps local control on siting projects in communities.
“I’m concerned that local communities will lose their say, despite the fact that they can hire an attorney to state their case,” she told the Albany newspaper. “I am not sure it strikes the proper balance, given how important I feel local autonomy is.”
But Carol E. Murphy, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York applauded the change, saying it would streamline the process and have a dramatic positive impact on the state’s goal of providing affordable and reliable energy, improving our environment, and creating jobs and economic growth through energy policy.
The state panel will include two members from the municipality and home county. The panel also includes representatives from the Public Service Commission, state departments of health, environmental conservation and economics, and state Energy Research and Development Authority.
Applications are expected to take a year to complete, before the panel review.
Wordingham said the biggest question for the town is whether the state will adhere to the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s original guidelines for noise and setbacks from homes.
“If the DEC sticks with that, it’ll shove (turbines) back a couple thousand feet, minimum,” he said. “That’d be fine with us.”