LOWVILLE – A pair of state administrative law judges have awarded $30,000 in intervenor funding to the three towns involved with the Deer River Wind Farm project and an additional $5,000 to a “concerned citizen” also looking to participate in the review process.
Judges James A. Costello from the Department of Public Service and Lisa Wilkinson from the Department of Environmental Conservation during an Article 10 pre-application hearing Wednesday approved payouts of $16,000 to the town of Pinckney, $10,500 to the town of Harrisburg, $3,500 to the town of Montague and $5,000 to Concerned Citizens of the Deer River Wind Energy Project, recently formed by town of Pinckney couple Heath L. and Doreen Ash.
Judge Costello said one of the goals was to “allocate on an equitable basis” the $35,000 in intervenor funds Atlantic Wind was required to pay upon filing a preliminary scoping statement on the project in May. The funding is to be used by local municipalities and residents to help participate in the scoping process and potentially seek agreements – called stipulations – with the developer about specifics on impact studies.
Atlantic Wind is proposing to install 39 turbines in the three towns, with 29 of them tentatively planned for Pinckney.
Since the towns had jointly sought the entire $35,000 and the citizens group also requested $35,000, there was no way to meet the full requests, Judge Costello said. “We can’t make everyone happy,” he said.
During questioning from the judges, Concerned Citizens attorney Mark C. Davis said Mr. Ash last month retained his Buffalo law firm, Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman. “He is a resident of the town of Pinckney and is interested that it be sited properly,” Mr. Davis said.
Mr. Ash, after the hearing, said his intent is to ensure that if turbines are erected within a mile or so of his residence, issues like noise, visual impact, affect on property values and Fort Drum and turbine siting have been fully addressed. As the towns have been generally in favor of the project, he said he had hoped for more intervenor funding to bring a more critical viewpoint to the review.
Mr. Ash said he’s talked with some neighbors about the Concerned Citizens group but asked anyone interested to contact him at 315-955-9258.
Attorneys from Atlantic Wind and the town of Pinckney raised some objections to the citizens group getting intervenor funding, noting the towns had been coordinating review efforts for about a year and had no prior contact by Mr. Ash or his attorneys.
Mr. Davis argued the Article 10 process “encourages broad participation” and the funding would help Mr. Ash be part of the process.
After awarding the funding, Judge Wilkinson suggested Mr. Ash and his group seek to coordinate efforts with the towns to avoid redundancy.
The towns plan to use the money to fund legal review of the project by their respective attorneys – James A. Burrows with assistance from Ian W. Gilbert for Pinckney and Mark G. Gebo for Harrisburg and Montague – and pool resources for a joint review of potential project impacts by Kris D. Dimmick from BCA Architects and Engineers, Watertown. Mr. Dimmick last year assisted the town of Denmark with a review of the Copenhagen Wind project and has been retained to help review the Number Three Wind Farm project in the towns of Harrisburg and Lowville.
Article 10 project reviews are ultimately conducted by a siting board of five Albany officials. However, for each project, two ad hoc members are to be added through nomination by local municipalities and appointment by the Senate’s president pro tem and Assembly speaker, respectively. While no Assembly candidate has yet been selected, the Senate representative will be former Lewis County Legislator Richard C. Lucas from Barnes Corners.
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