CLAYTON – Instead of backing a proposed ban on industrial turbines that could be overturned under state law, most people advised the Clayton Town Council during a public hearing on Wednesday to pass a stronger wind law to prevent the machines.
Several different viewpoints were represented by the roughly 20 people who weighed in on the proposed law, which would repeal the town’s current wind laws by imposing an outright ban on industrial turbines and wind measurement towers. A representative from Iberdrola Renewables, which is readying to begin the Article 10 review process led by the state Public Service Commission for its Horse Creek wind project centered in south Clayton, contended the ban would be unjustified.
The hearing was also held to get feedback on a proposal to amend the town’s zoning law by removing the wind overlay district. Turbines are currently permitted within that district if they comply with regulations. No decision was made by the five-member board, however, which will review public feedback before deciding on a course of action.
During the hearing, several people supported a local wind law recently proposed by John Droz Jr., a physicist from Brantingham Lake who is highly regarded for his expertise on regulating industrial turbines. The law proposed by Mr. Droz, developed in concert with several experts, was widely circulated before the hearing. Though the law is titled “Local Law No. 3,” the board has not yet endorsed it. It is available online at wdt.me/proposed-law.
Though several different viewpoints were represented during the public hearing – including from supporters of wind energy – the prevailing view was that the board would be taking a unwarranted risk by approving an outright ban on industrial turbines. That camp of people argued that the turbine ban could likely be overturned by an Article 10 siting panel, which could view it as too restrictive and arbitrary. And they warned such a ban could likely spur a court battle with Iberdrola.
Clayton town resident Leslie E. Drake, for example, expressed a view that was echoed by several others. “I’m concerned about how what’s proposed will look like through Article 10 … If you’re confident this law isn’t going to be overturned, then the burden is on you,” he told board members.
Town resident Gunther A. Schaller said that the board should update its comprehensive plan from 1998 before deciding how to regulate turbines. He contended the board should approve a six-month moratorium before deciding to approve any new regulations. “It’s a complex issue and I don’t think the town should act soon,” he said.
Some people from other towns along the St. Lawrence River also weighed in. Erica C. Demick, of Hammond, supported the local law proposed by Mr. Droz.
“It would be great if (the ban) would work, but the success of that law is remote,” she said, instead lauding the law crafted by Mr. Droz. “I would ask you to review the law, schedule a public hearing for it and pass it at the earliest opportunity,” she said.
Of the same mind was Michael C. Ringer, an Alexandria Bay resident who owns St. Lawrence Gallery in Clayton. He said that Mr. Droz has been “fighting wind for 40 years. He studies these things and leaves no stone unturned … Every single part of the law is backed by experts and independent sources.”
Banning wind turbines would be a stretch, he added, because they’re being supported “from the White House down to the state government.”
Cape Vincent resident David Lamora, however, lauded the Clayton’s proposal to ban turbines, contending the town could successfully defend its position in court.
“If you adopt a ban you approach it from a whole different point of view, and I give you credit to be able to do that,” he said, contending there is no such thing as a foolproof local law, such as the one proposed by Mr. Droz. “A ban on wind turbines establishes the right to protect your community. I personally thing it’s the right thing and will send a message that you don’t want it here.”
Clayton town resident Kenneth J. Knapp contended the board should consider following in the footsteps of Malone, which in 2006 passed a law that bans wind turbines and also calls for regulating them if the ban is overturned. “If the ban is overturned by a court or the PSC, then it would fall back to a regulation” he said. “There are two layers we can have.”
A few supporters of Iberdrola’s project provided counterpoints to opponents of wind turbines.
Clayton town resident Phillip H. Scott, who has leased property to Iberdrola, said he supports the mission of President Barack Obama and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of “having more solar and wind energy and getting rid of fossil fuels.”
“The people who live in the wind overlay district are not opposed to it. Yes, we have leases with Iberdrola. But I would say we believe in it anyway and the leases are just icing on the cake,” Mr. Scott said.
TURBINE HEIGHT EXAGGERATED?
A presentation of three-dimensional turbine models was made at the start of the hearing by Thomas Brennan, owner of SpringDrive Graphics, Depauville. The presentation depicted what 626-foot turbines would look like in the area.
But Jeffrey Reinkemeyer, director of renewable development for Iberdrola, said those models were a far cry from being realistic.
“Right now, the turbines we’re evaluating for the Horse Creek site are all less than 500-feet tall,” he said, adding that Clayton would be ill-advised to repeal its existing regulations. “It is Iberdrola’s opinion that such a ban is unnecessarily restrictive and unjustified.”
Iberdrola has not yet specified the model of turbines it plans to use.
Town Supervisor David Storandt Jr., however, said that in January one of the developer’s representatives, Jenny L. Briot, told him that 2.5-megawatt or 3.3-megawatt turbines manufactured by Gamesa, a Spanish wind-turbine manufacturer, would be proposed. He said that after reviewing turbine models on Gamesa’s website, he concluded the turbines could have a maximum height of more than 600 feet.
“I haven’t heard any updates since January,” he said Wednesday before the meeting.
Paul N. Copleman, an Iberdrola spokesman, said that it’s unfortunate that town officials have been misinformed about the anticipated height of turbines.
“We look forward to a broad and open discussion about the possibility of a wind farm here, but we are concerned that misleading information might be clouding the discussion about Clayton’s proposed wind law changes,” he said in an email. “Of the more than 52,000 operational wind turbines in the U.S., to our knowledge, there are none that stand more than 600 feet. In our U.S. fleet of more than 3,000 wind turbines, there are no turbine models that are taller than 500 feet. Even at our newest wind farm, now under construction in North Carolina, the wind turbines will stand under 500 feet when a blade is sticking straight up.”
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