It was standing room only at Tuesday’s Niagara County Legislature meeting, as residents from both ends of Eastern Niagara County gathered in legislative chambers to speak out about two issues facing their communities.
In Somerset, a handful gathered to support the legislature’s resolution passed Tuesday opposing commercial wind turbines.
Apex Clean Energy Lighthouse Wind of Charlottesville, Va. is currently in the first stage, a pre-application stage, of the Article 10 law – a rigorous state permitting system for major electric generating facilities. They have been working since October to get a state permit to begin construction.
Under Article 10, an electric generating facility with 25-megawatt capacity or more, including renewable energy projects, is permitted by state law and not by local municipalities due to the 2011 revision of the law.
Lighthouse Wind said it is expected to generate 200 megawatts of clean, homegrown energy which will produce enough safe, pollution-free energy to power up to 53,000 homes.
The company has submitted a “Public Involvement Plan” with the state Public Service Commission for the wind turbines.
County officials went on record supporting the “overwhelming majority of taxpayers in the Town of Somerset to oppose this project,” referencing the results of a survey announced on June 17 with an “overwhelming” response of more than 67 percent of taxpayers “decisively communicating 60 to 70 massive, industrial wind turbines reaching heights of almost 600 feet should not be placed all throughout their community.”
They also opposed the Article 10 law, which removed the authority of local municipalities to “carry the voices of their constituents and to make their own decisions regarding potential energy generation projects and instead places the ultimate authority for forcing and imposing these projects upon them, with unelected appointed officials of the state.”
Somerset Supervisor Dan Engert spoke about the survey, stated 56 percent of the town returned the survey. After hearing from the public, he and the town board on July 8 voted to oppose the project and asked the county to do the same.
Legislator John Syracuse, R-Newfane, asked his fellow legislators to support the opposition against Article 10.
He also asked them to support the resolution based on the time Engert and the town board took to “evaluate the temperature, the flavor, of his taxpayers.”
“Residents have spoken out and they do not want this project,” Syracuse said.
John Riggi, president of Save Ontario Shores, spoke about his group and how they are working to educate all who will listen about the destruction wind turbines cause worldwide, including wildlife destruction and environmental destruction.
“The issues are real,” he said.
He said the wind turbines are being proposed to be 60 stories tall, double the size of the Stature of Liberty and will be the tallest structures in the state, outside of New York City.
Ben Atwater, a dairy farmer in Somerset, spoke in opposition of the resolution. He said he is looking forward to working with Apex and harvesting wind energy as a good way to bring in income when traditional farming is not paying the bills.
Atwater said there are residents in favor of the project, as shown by the majority of landowners signing leases in Somerset with Apex.
He also believed the survey raised more questions than it did answers, because the survey was given before the facts on the project were known.
Taylor Quarles, development manager, said once Apex files their application the details will be made public, including the location and size, which he said is “yet to be determined.”
The resolution being passed, Quarles said is “not based on fact” but concept, because the facts have yet to be released and the benefit the project may have on the community has not been released.
Quarles said they have opened up an office in Barker, they’re hiring local people, they are a sponsor of the Niagara County Fair and are wishing to work with the community.
As for the idea of having 60 to 70 wind turbines, “we were never planning that many turbines in Somerset.”
Quarles asked that the legislature hold of on adopting the resolution until the application is filed with the state and facts of the project come out, then they can decided if that are for or against the project. He called the resolution “premature.”
He also said applying for Article 10 was “not our choice but required by law” and opposing Article 10 and the project were two separate things.
The resolution passed unanimously.
For Pendelton, a number of people spoke out against National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation and Empire Pipeline who are looking to construct a natural gas compressor station in the town.
The legislators passed a resolution calling upon federal and state agencies that have “approval authority and have oversight over the operation of the natural gas compressor station and associated natural gas transportation pipeline to take immediate and ongoing action to protect our community” from adverse effects to people and property affects by the natural gas compressor station operating in Pendleton.
It asks that the compressor station and/or the Federal agencies fund an independent safety study relative to the project.
The resolution identifies the town board and the Pendleton Action Team who have “identified potentially harmful issues associated with the operation of natural gas compressor stations” and the county’s, town board’s and Pendleton Action Team’s mission is to “preserve the health, safety and welfare of Pendleton citizens and the community at large from any potential harm that may affect people, property and the environment.”
Kim Lemleux said the compressor will be located in the middle of 320 homes and close to Starpoint Schools. She said it goes against the town zoning master plan and she has already heard from people thinking about buying or building homes in the area and are questioning that decision.
“It’s already having a negative impact,” she said.
Lemleux also asked the county to consider a moratorium for one year, until an environmental impact study can be completed to determine “if this is going to have the effect we believe.”
Barb Ciepiela shared her concern of the humming sound the compressor would create 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She also worried about the vibrations causing the release of contaminants that could have an affect on life in Pendleton.
The resolution also passed unanimously.
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