Despite facing accusations of bias from a former employee, the Department of Environmental Conservation will continue to deliberate the Article 10 review of the Galloo Island Wind Project.
Jefferson County Planning Board member Clifford P. Schneider, in a letter to the Public Service Commission opposing the project, claimed the department should not participate in wind-related matters because of its past collaborations and support for developers Iberdrola S.A., Upstate NY Energy and Hudson North Country Wind LLC.
“They shouldn’t be lobbyists for the industry,” said Mr. Schneider, a former wildlife biologist for DEC. “(They are) too much involved with promoting wind energy.”
DEC staff, however, said in a statement that the department will continue to participate in the Article 10 process.
“DEC is a statutory party to the Public Service Commission’s Article 10 process and we actively participate in the review of all wind projects consistent with our mission,” department staff said in a statement. “As with any project, the DEC undertakes a careful scientific review pursuant to our regulatory responsibilities with respect to proposed energy and wind projects.”
No comments were made on their past collaborations and support for the wind developers.
Mr. Schneider also told The Times that DEC has multiple policies that prohibit wind development on Galloo Island, including restrictions set in the deed to the property.
The two polices that prohibited development on the island were the 2002 Lake Ontario Islands Wildlife Management Area Management Plan and the 2014 state Open Space Plan, both of which forbid wind development at the expense of bird populations in the area.
The state acquired land on the island from the Coast Guard. Some of that land, in prior wind proposals, held elements of the developers’ project. In the deed, however, the purpose for the property was to use it solely as a wildlife preserve, and any action taken outside of that use would force DEC to return ownership of the property to the federal government.
“(The DEC) should protect the resources,” Mr. Schneider told The Times on Monday.
DEC staff made no comments on these polices or their deed, but said that habitat and wildlife preservation are considered in the department’s decisions.
“Renewable energy is an important part of the need to address climate change, but it needs to be done in a careful and consistent way that protects fish, wildlife, and the habitats they live in, and we rely on the best available science in making determinations on specific proposed projects,” DEC staff said.
Last month, administrative law judges from the Galloo Island Wind Project Article 10 Siting Board, including judge Michael S. Caruso from DEC, awarded both the town of Hounsfield and the village of Sackets Harbor $5,000 in intervenor funding.
Town Supervisor Timothy W. Scee and Village Mayor Vincent J. Batista had no comment on Mr. Schneider’s letter.
Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency CEO Donald C. Alexander said the agency would have to wait for validation of Mr. Schneider’s claims before making any decisions on a potential payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for the project.
“To me, it’s not worthy of consideration,” he said.
Jefferson County Legislature Chairman Scott A. Gray also had no comment.
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