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Towns awarded funds for Mad River Wind Farm review

REDFIELD – State administrative law judges on Monday awarded funding for the towns of Redfield and Worth to hire consultants for the ongoing Article 10 review of the Mad River Wind Farm.

Developer Avangrid Renewables set aside $122,500 in intervenor funding that Erika L. Bergen, an administrative law judge with the state Department of Public Service, said municipalities and local parties could request to retain consultants. The consultants would work with Avangrid to determine which studies it needs to provide to assess the potential effects of its 350-megawatt wind farm during the stipulations phase of the Article 10 process, Ms. Bergen said.

Ms. Bergen and Marie E. Villa, an administrative law judge from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, approved Worth’s request for $19,100 and Redfield’s initial request for $50,000. The judges may allocate additional money in their final written ruling, which Ms. Bergen said she expects to submit in a few weeks. Money the judges haven’t awarded will be used for another round of funding for when Avangrid submits a formal application for its wind farm.

“Hopefully, we’ll come to some sort of agreement” about the studies, she said. “It’ll save time, save money and make the process a lot smoother for everyone.”

The Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust submitted an application for $20,000 in intervenor funding to hire consultants, but the judges made no ruling for it Monday.

The trust’s request included $15,000 to retain Scalfone Law Pllc, Syracuse for legal advice and $5,000 for Brian Fisher, a doctoral candidate from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, to study the wind farm’s possible effects on water quality and forest fragmentation. Redfield hired Scalfone Law for the Article 10 process.

The attorney representing Avangrid, James A. Muscato II of Young/Sommer LLC, questioned whether the trust had any members within the affected towns and whether one law firm should use a significant amount of intervenor funding to represent both the trust and Redfield.

Ms. Bergen asked the trust to provide additional information about its membership and elaborate on Mr. Fisher’s work during the review, adding that studies may not be covered by intervenor funds without good reason. The trust was asked to provide the additional information by Friday for the judges to consider providing it with funds.

Robert R. Quinn, immediate past chairman for the trust, said it hired Scalfone Law to represent its interests in preventing forest fragmentation, surface water contamination and adverse affects on wildlife and fisheries. The nonprofit also requested assistance from SUNY ESF because its members were unfamiliar with wind farms that were built in predominantly wooded areas, Mr. Quinn said.

“We can answer all of her questions. In fact, I have assembled most of the answers,” already, he said.

While judges agreed to fund Redfield’s initial request for $50,000 to retain Scalfone Law, they didn’t back the town’s subsequent request for any leftover intervenor funding.

Ms. Bergen asked why the town requested what would amount to $83,400, including an expected $33,400 in unallocated funds, to hire only Scalfone Law and no other consultants. Ryan L. McCarthy, an attorney with the firm, said its legal team had several lawyers with expertise in other areas, including managing attorney Melody D. Westfall, who has a Master of Science in Environmental Science, Water and Wetland Resources.

Redfield Town Supervisor Tanya M. Yerdon said the Town Council hired the firm in July when its members learned some attorneys had backgrounds in environmental science and engineering, adding that the town didn’t want to spend additional money on hiring other experts.

“Why hire an engineer right now anyway?” Mrs. Yerdon said. “We don’t have enough information to hire an engineer.”

The funding request from Redfield stated that Scalfone Law had already billed the town in excess of $80,000, but Mrs. Yerdon said the town was only billed for $20,000 at the end of the year and received no further invoices. Mr. McCarthy said the $80,000 included past, upcoming and projected expenses throughout the Article 10 review.

Worth plans to use $11,100 of its intervenor funding to retain Conboy, McKay, Bachman and Kendall LLP for legal advice during the stipulations phase and the other $8,000 for engineering firm BCA & Associates to provide guidance during the proceedings.

“We thought given the scope of the project and involvement necessary that it was a reasonable request,” said David B. Geurtsen, an attorney with the law firm.