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Appellate court upholds dismissal of Galloo Island wind farm challenge

An appellate court has unanimously upheld a state Supreme Court judge’s dismissal of the town of Henderson’s legal challenge to a proposed wind farm on Galloo Island in the town of Hounsfield.

In a decision entered Tuesday, the state Appellate Division, Fourth Department, affirmed Judge Joseph D. McGuire’s August 2010 ruling that, among other things, determined that the Henderson Town Council lacked standing to bring an Article 78 action against the Hounsfield Planning Board in which Henderson sought to have the board’s site plan approval for Upstate NY Power Corp.’s planned wind turbine project annulled.

Henderson’s initial court filing contained a host of reasons why the town would be affected negatively by the project, including aesthetically. Later, the main issue was whittled down to the route the project’s transmission line would take and how the proposed line was treated under the state Environmental Quality Review Act process. Henderson contended that the state Department of Environmental Conservation improperly “segmented” the transmission line from the turbines in its review, as the review should have considered the cumulative effect of the line and the turbines.

Judge McGuire disagreed, ruling that DEC took the requisite “hard look” while reviewing the project’s potential environmental impact. The judge wrote that segmentation of projects under SEQR “is not always improper” and that the Galloo Island project is one such case. He wrote that the turbine sitings would require a higher level of review, likely including an environmental impact statement, while the transmission line would require a less stringent review because it would be viewed as not having a significant effect on the environment. He said DEC’s review of the line was “appropriate.”

In dismissing Henderson’s petition, Judge McGuire ruled that Hounsfield’s SEQR findings and site plan approvals for the project were legal and “were not arbitrary and capricious or an abuse of its discretion.” He made a similar ruling regarding DEC’s final environmental impact statement and its other findings in dismissing the proceeding.

Henderson had appealed the ruling in September 2010. Since then, the New York Power Authority has announced it will not award any power purchase agreements through its Great Lakes Offshore Wind project because of exorbitant cost. Upstate NY Power Corp. was one of five companies that bid on the project. A company official said in October on a conference call with the state Public Service Commission that it was shopping its electricity to alternative buyers, a move which, if successful, could result in an underwater transmission line being built from Galloo Island to Scriba in Oswego County, negating the need for an overland route that would make landfall in Henderson.