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Local wind opponents encourage stricter regulations in Orleans

LAFARGEVILLE – Opponents of Atlantic Wind LLC’s Horse Creek Wind Farm asked the Orleans Town Board to adopt stricter environmental and health regulations for its wind law.

Orleans Town Board members invited the public to comment on their proposed wind law amendments Thursday at the board’s monthly meeting. Clayton and Orleans residents wary of wind energy development encouraged the board to require more analyses and elaborate on its noise limits.

“You have to know the way to hold these people accountable,” said Charles E. Ebbing, a retired acoustic engineer from LaFargeville.

Both Jack L. Woodward, Wellesley Island, and Cindy L. Grant, Clayton, asked the board to require developers to conduct and supply detailed geological surveys to assess their project’s potential impacts on the town’s water supply.

Ms. Grant said the board should demand developers to conduct geological surveys that address the town’s karst topography because construction through drilling and blasting could negatively impact residential wells. She also encouraged the board to introduce regulations that require developers to test for radon during water-quality analyses before and after construction.

“If (the developer) wants to do business in our town, they should pay to do a proper study to ensure that citizens are protected,” she said. “We don’t want a project that could affect our farmers or our wells.”

Mr. Woodard said geological surveys would determine whether the town’s soil can support wind turbines without letting them collapse and contaminate local aquifers. Mr. Woodard also said the board should require developers to submit infrastructure plans to assess potential geological impacts during the construction phase.

“The state doesn’t have the only say with what goes on with wind,” he said.

Mr. Ebbing encouraged the board to include noise regulations that address different levels of sound caused by wind turbines.

While other wind laws typically address high and low frequencies, Mr. Ebbing said the board should address “low-low” frequencies caused by the modulation of ambient pressure from turbine rotors because that pressure can cause physical sickness for certain people.

“(Developers) will say ‘If you can’t hear it, it can’t hurt you,’” he said.

The board adopted no amendments and will continue to review its law and accept public comments.

Town Supervisor Kevin R. Rarick said board members have discussed potential amendments to its wind law for about six months during the town’s moratorium on wind energy facility applications, which it established in April. Councilman Thomas A. Johnston said the moratorium expired Dec. 13 and the Planning Board approved Atlantic Wind’s application to build a meteorological tower in the town Dec. 20.

Board members considered incorporating amendments that would require developers to remove wind turbines after six months of remaining idle, establish a fund that would account for no less than 120 percent of the decommissioning cost, provide a removal plan for structures and materials no less than 36 inches below grade, conduct a property analysis for all properties within one mile of a turbine and test for specific substances such as nitrate, iron and methane when conducting ground water analyses.

“The Town Board wants to look out for all of the townspeople,” said Councilwoman Mary A. Ford.

Town councilmen also unanimously agreed to support a congressional bill that would prohibit federal tax relief for wind energy facilities developed near military air bases.

The board passed a resolution supporting both the House of Representatives and Senate versions of the Protection of Military Airfields from Wind Turbine Encroachment Act to prevent wind energy facilities from potentially interfering with operations at Fort Drum. The house version of the bill prohibits tax relief for wind energy facilities within 40 miles of an air base and the Senate version prohibits tax relief for facilities within 30 miles.

Mr. Rarick said he would send the resolution to the town’s elected officials in Congress, the Jefferson County Legislature and all municipal governments.

“I support Fort Drum to the fullest for what they’ve done for our community,” said Deputy Supervisor Peter S. Wilson.