(Editor’s note: because of an editing error, an early, incorrect version of this story was printed and published online. This is the most complete and correct version.)
Accusations of bias toward the state Department of Environmental Conservation have brought sharp criticism, but local stakeholders supported DEC’s decision to continue participating in the Article 10 process for Apex Clean Energy’s Galloo Island Wind project.
In a letter to the Public Service Commission, Jefferson County Planning Board member Clifford P. Schneider said the department should not participate in the Article 10 process 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 (wind) industry,” said Mr. Schneider, a former wildlife biologist for the department. “(They are) too much involved with promoting wind energy.”
DEC staff, however, said in a statement that they 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.
Scott A. Gray, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators, said that he questions what DEC’s intentions are for the Galloo Island wind project.
Mr. Gray said he believes DEC’s main focus is to carry out Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s alternative-energy initiatives. He also said that he questions whether the department will consider land preservation in their decisions.
“What is the real mission of the DEC?” he said.
The lack of local rule throughout the process also concerns Mr. Gray, who said these accusations demonstrate the “fallacy” of the process.
“It’s two people against five others,” he said. “If you have any cynicism towards the government, this does nothing but enhance it.”
Both Hounsfield Town Supervisor Timothy W. Scee and Sackets Harbor Village Mayor Vincent J. Battista III, however, still support DEC’s participation in the Article 10 process.
Mr. Battista said the accusations have not altered his opinion of DEC because of past successful collaborations with the village. He also said that he believes the department’s opinions are free of any bias.
“I believe that the DEC is committed to do its legal best to do its obligation as a department,” he said. “We have always respected their opinion, as they have respected ours.”
Mr. Scee said the town of Hounsfield will continue to participate in the Article 10 process regardless of the accusations.
“The DEC is going to be an important part of the Article 10 process,” he said, “and we will rely on their determinations.”
Last month, administrative law judges from the Galloo Island Wind project Article 10 Sitting Board, including judge Michael S. Caruso from DEC, awarded both the town of Hounsfield and the village of Sackets Harbor intervenor funding.
Stebbins Engineering Vice President Robert E. Aliasso Jr., who is also a Henderson local and Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency board member, made no comment at this time.
JCIDA CEO Donald C. Alexander said the agency will wait for validation of Mr. Schneider’s claims before making decisions on a potential payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for the project.
“To me, it’s not worthy of consideration,” he said.
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