A persistent opponent of the proposed Galloo Island Wind project has told the Public Service Commission that the developer’s avian mortality studies are outdated and need to be redone.
Jefferson County Planning Board member Clifford P. Schneider, a retired wildlife biologist, said in a letter to the PSC that Apex Clean Energy used studies from the first Galloo Island proposal, filed by a different company, to minimize the potential environmental impacts of the project. And he attacked his former agency for altering report results to diminish their importance.
In a letter he submitted to the state Department of Public Service’s website Monday, Mr. Schneider, who retired from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said the developer should not have referenced the DEC state environmental quality review findings for Upstate NY Power Corp.’s version of the Galloo Island Wind project because it was published in 2010 and includes rephrased statements from other studies that misrepresent the potential avian mortality rate.
Mr. Schneider also said the developer did not include any plans to conduct new studies that assess the potential avian and environmental impacts of its project in the preliminary scoping statement other than new noise and visual impact studies. The developer published its statement in June.
“Develop your own set of findings,” Mr. Schneider said. “Don’t make any references to the findings from DEC.”
DEC’s findings used specific statements from the consulting firm Old Bird Inc.’s Avian Risk Assessment for Upstate NY Power’s project from 2009 to assess its potential impact on avian species, particularly for ring-billed gulls and other species nesting on Little Galloo Island, but multiple statements were altered and misrepresented in the SERQ report.
In his letter, Mr. Schneider referenced a quote from Old Bird’s assessment used by DEC that “substantial collision fatalities of ring-billed gulls might occur at the Hounsfield project if gulls continue to make foraging flights across the Island once the project is built,” but DEC removed the word “substantial” in its findings.
“They’re trying to diminish the impacts,” Mr. Schneider said.
DEC also rephrased a statement from radar studies conducted by Stantec Consulting Services, Topsham, Maine, in 2008 to assess the potential collision rate with Upstate NY Power’s proposed turbine blades and rotors, a study Mr. Schneider claimed failed to assess avian mortality rates.
When describing the passage rate of migrating birds and bats over Galloo Island, Stantec Consulting Services said in its assessment that the rate of passage was “at the high end” of passage rates with other locations throughout the Northeast, but DEC wrote that passage rates for Galloo Island species “fall within the range” of passage rates. Mr. Schneider said this deletion can alter readers’ perceptions of the projects’ potential avian mortality rate.
“(DEC) will continue to work in accordance with the state’s Article 10 process with regard to the proposed Galloo Island Wind Farm project and respond to concerns as they are raised in that process,” DEC said in a background statement.
Mr. Schneider said both reports inaccurately represented the potential collision risk because, according to Stantec Consulting Services’ report, the passage rate over Galloo Island was the highest by 15 percent of all passage rates from 30 spring radar studies.
“I looked at the data and said, ‘Holy Cow, they both got it wrong,’” he said.
To provide an updated assessment of potential mortality rates for species on both Galloo Island and Little Galloo Island, Mr. Schneider said, Apex Clean Energy should conduct new studies next year.
Apex Clean Energy intends to incorporate five studies conducted by Old Bird in 2015, the same year Apex Clean Energy purchased the project from Hudson Energy Development, into its final application, including a breeding bird survey, diurnal movement study, avian risk assessment, acoustical bat study and mist-netting bat study, according to its scoping document.
Mr. Schneider claims the studies were contracted by Hudson Energy Development and not Apex Clean Energy because he witnessed the results of those studies at Hudson Energy Development’s open house in fall 2015.
Mr. Schneider also said Apex Clean Energy should have multiyear studies conducted for its project because they would address flight pattern variation over time.
“We are working with the relevant agencies to agree on the appropriate scope of study,” said Cat C. Mosley, public affairs manager for Apex Clean Energy. “We disagree with his characterizations and conclusions but respect his right to comment under Article 10.”
According to its scoping document, Apex Clean Energy intends to construct 32 574-foot-tall turbines for its 110.4-megawatt project.
“We have and continue to consult with our experts and the relevant agencies, including NYDEC and NYDPS, on the appropriate scope of study,” Ms. Mosley said. “We are committed to the safe and responsible development of Galloo Island Wind, accelerating the shift to clean energy sources and minimizing impacts to natural resources, including birds, and mitigating impacts as appropriate, in accordance with regulatory requirements.”
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