By Marcus Wolf | Watertown Daily Times | October 29, 2017 | www.watertowndailytimes.com
Jefferson County Legislature Chairman Scott A. Gray is willing to talk about partial tax abatement for the Deer River Wind Farm because of a precedent set by an agreement for a previous project.
While Mr. Gray said he would like full taxation for the full assessment from developer Avangrid Renewables in a potential payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for its Lewis County project’s transmission line, which will run through the town of Rodman, he said he would bring a proposal to the Legislature that would mirror the PILOT agreement for the Copenhagen Wind Farm.
“The precedent was set by the Copenhagen Wind project,” Mr. Gray said.
EDF Renewable Energy is having its Copenhagen Wind Farm built in the town of Denmark with a transmission line that will run through the towns of Rutland and Champion, and the developer is expected to sign off on a PILOT agreement involving the two towns, Jefferson and Lewis counties and a few taxing jurisdictions in Lewis County in the near future.
The PILOT for EDF Renewable Energy requires the developer to pay Rutland, Champion and Jefferson County full taxation on 70 percent of an assessed value of the construction costs for the transmission line, but the Copenhagen School District, which is partially in Jefferson County, will waive transmission payments for 15 years.
Other parties involved in the PILOT, which was facilitated by the Lewis County Industrial Development Agency, include Lewis County, the town of Denmark and the Copenhagen and the Lowville Academy and Central School districts.
Despite his desire for full taxation at full assessed value, Mr. Gray said the Legislature has entertained that “We’d extend the same courtesy to (Avangrid).”
The PILOT agreement for EDF Renewable Energy predated the county’s tax policy for renewable energy projects, Mr. Gray said, a policy that requires alternative energy developers to make payments equal to full taxation for projects that are 25 megawatts or greater, even if a PILOT is in place. The county agreed to the arrangement for the Copenhagen Wind Farm developer after it was approved by the affected towns in Jefferson County.
“We were not involved in the negotiations,” Mr. Gray said.
Champion Town Supervisor Bruce R. Ferguson said Champion officials signed off on the agreement about three years ago because the town was still receiving full taxation despite the drop in assessed value for transmission construction costs and because the developer followed its zoning regulations.
“In the end, we have been able to have it be compatible and still maintain the quality of life in our town,” Mr. Ferguson said.
Avangrid and the affected taxing jurisdictions have already began discussing a potential PILOT agreement for the developer’s project, which includes 39 turbines in the towns of Pinckney, Harrisburg and Montague.
Eric J. Virkler, executive director of the Lewis County IDA, which is once again facilitating the agreement, said discussions began a few months ago and involved the developer, Lewis and Jefferson counties, the towns of Pinckney, Harrisburg, Montague and Rodman and the Copenhagen and Lowville school districts.
The director said he believes the affected taxing jurisdictions in Lewis County are looking for several potential benefits the project could provide them, including long-term employment, short-term jobs and economic activity during construction and renewable energy. The Lewis County IDA intends to include a stipulation that encourages the developer to hire locally, although it wouldn’t be required.
“I think Avangrid is attempting to do that with their project,” Mr. Virkler said.
The developer and its subsidiary involved in the project, Atlantic Wind LLC, have already considered the potential benefits it looks to bring to the table for its predominantly Lewis County project, according to a developer spokesman.
Paul N. Copleman, communications manager, said in an email that Avangrid anticipated the project would result in six new permanent jobs throughout the project’s life span, 125 temporary jobs during construction, spending $3 million locally during construction, paying about $23 million in more than 30 years to the affected taxing jurisdictions and $15 million in more than 30 years to local landowners in lease and easement agreements.
“Based on our experience for projects of this size, we anticipate that this wind farm would deliver approximately $38 million locally into the community over 30 years, which could provide substantial long-term economic benefits for the community and the schools,” Mr. Copleman said in the email. “We have begun discussions with the participating taxing jurisdictions … about how a revenue agreement might work to best deliver local benefits.”
Rodman Town Supervisor Gary R. Stinson said he opposed creating a PILOT agreement.
“I think (renewable energy projects) receive enough federal and state aid,” he said. “They should be able to generate enough income to pay for their fair share of the taxes without subsidizing the local taxpayers.”
Avangrid has also entered its proposed project into the state Article 10 law review process, which applies to energy projects that are 25 megawatts or more, but has not yet submitted a formal application.
“We anticipate filing an application next year, so to prepare for that application, we are continuing environmental field studies under the direction of various state agencies, and hope to finish those studies this year,” Mr. Copleman said in the email.
URL to article: https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2017/10/29/county-willing-to-entertain-partial-tax-abatement-for-deer-river-wind-farm/