Bath, N.Y. – Any action on locally proposed wind farms is still in the future, according to Steuben County Industrial Development Agency Executive Director Jamie Johnson.
Johnson’s agency is exploring wind farm development and the impact of the state’s renewed Article X energy generation siting law.
“Part of what they had to do was to develop regulations to begin with,” Johnson said. “It will take at least a year for that to happen. And the state won’t accept any applications until then.”
The law was signed on Aug. 4 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and calls for a state commission to review any project generating more than 25 megawatts of electricity.
The commission includes the heads of the state energy-related boards, and commissioners from the state departments of Environmental Conservation, Health and Economic Development. Two members from the community also will sit in on the reviews of projects affecting their home area.
The law was enthusiastically endorsed by the energy industry, which hopes for a more streamlined process in siting projects. Opponents charged the law takes away towns’ right to home rule and argue the commission may be swayed by industrial lobbyists.
So far, the local focus has been on wind energy, but the siting law includes all energy projects, including nuclear, geothermal, coal and natural gas, Johnson said.
However, for those involved for years in bitter disputes over proposed wind-turbine projects, the issue has thrown more fuel on the fire.
Supporters of wind farms have long held the multi-billion businesses are a source of renewable energy, and provide needed revenues and services in their towns. They maintain legal delays forced by opponents have cost the towns millions of dollars in revenue – money they fear will go into state coffers.
But the siting commission has no say in what revenues and services counties, towns, and schools receive, Johnson said.
“What it does is take the environmental review out of the hands of industrial groups, such as (SCIDA),” Johnson said. “That’s all it does.”
According to nationwide reports, the wind-energy industry is looking at new technologies, in order to make turbines – now highly inefficient – more productive, and answer critics complaints the 400-foot tall machines endanger humans and the environment.
Those changes may mean companies have to start over again for the commission’s environmental reviews, Johnson said.
As far as revenues, Steuben’s laws mandate any energy development firm enter tax incentive agreements through SCIDA, or face full taxation by the county. That means the towns will receive the lion’s share of multi-million payments, with the schools and county dividing the remainder.
“On the town level, what they negotiate with a company (for extra services) is up to them,” Johnson said.
The county is now the site of two wind farms, in Cohocton and Howard. In Prattsburgh, both sides in the dispute between wind developer Ecogen and the town claim a favorable ruling by the state Supreme Court earlier this year. The town of Troupsburg is reportedly studying a wind project there.
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