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Prattsburgh extends wind farm moratorium

The moratorium on wind farm construction in the Town of Prattsburgh will continue for another six months.

The town board approved the extension at this week’s meeting by a 3-1 vote.

Prattsburgh Town Supervisor Al Wordingham said the extension will allow the town’s comprehensive plan to be completed.

There was little public opposition during the public hearing on the moratorium extension, first enacted in March 2010.

Resident Leonard McConnell asked if continuing the moratorium would lead to a lawsuit by wind developer Ecogen.

“I don’t know,” Wordingham said. “It hasn’t so far.”

Wordingham, along with fellow board members Anneke Radin-Snaith and Chuck Shick, voted for the extension. Stacey Bottoni voted against it, while Steve Kula was absent.

The future of wind development in the town remains up in the air.

Earlier this year, after a long legal battle with Ecogen, Prattsburgh town board members approved a road use agreement.

The agreement effectively allowed the developer to go ahead with its plans to put up 16 turbines in the town, with a state Supreme Court justice giving Ecogen a limited amount of time to prove it had vested interest.

However, since then the state Legislature has reenacted Article X, which sets up a seven-member panel to decide where small 25-megawatt wind farms may be built.

Article X does not affect existing projects, such as Ecogen’s, but does allow developers to resubmit applications and go through the permit process.

The wind industry in Steuben County, once thought to be booming, has hit a number of roadblocks.

Of the six wind farms proposed in the county 10 years ago, one is operating in the Town of Cohocton and another in the Town of Howard is under construction.

Supporters say the turbines are a source of renewable energy and bring needed revenues to the town.
But opponents said the turbines threaten the health and welfare of people and the environment. That tension between both sides has been a factor in delaying projects, with legal wrangles in several communities.

In the towns of Caton and Hartsville, wind developers bowed out as local opposition mounted and competition for state subsidies escalated. In Prattsburgh, a second developer, First Wind, pulled out two years ago, citing the poor national economy.

There are questions about wind-generated energy on the national front, too.

The Huffington Post recently reported additional output from existing and new turbines has increased by very little during the past three years.

On Aug. 12, the news agency reported the wind industry’s lackluster performance is due to local opposition, serious questions about turbine noise, declining support for governmental subsidies, and the drop in natural gas prices.