During an interview on Tuesday, state Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, said that the responsibility for the failure of her bill that attempted to block wind development near Fort Drum rested partially on local Republican state senators.
Ms. Jenne said she discussed the bill with Sens. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, and if either had introduced the bill concurrently it would have had a better chance in the Assembly.
“Neither of the senators introduced the bill we had had dialogue about,” Ms. Jenne said. “At the end of the day, when it’s already a controversial bill and you don’t have a Senate sponsor,” the bill is unlikely to succeed.
The legislation was introduced by Ms. Jenne, D-Theresa, last year because of reports that wind turbines create dark spots on Fort Drum’s radar network, potentially jeopardizing radar systems. These dark spots are already created by wind farms in existence in Lewis County, including Maple Ridge.
The bill would put a temporary ban on subsidies for wind projects within 10 miles of the Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield and within 15 miles of the Montague Doppler Weather Radar KTYY in Lewis County. Ms. Jenne noted there are about 10 new wind farms that have been proposed or are under construction around Fort Drum.
The bill passed the Assembly Energy Committee 11-4 in late March, but then died in the full Assembly. Ms. Jenne said that bill died in the Assembly after it was laid aside by Republicans, although Democrats have a majority in the Assembly.
Both Sens. Ritchie and Griffo disagreed with Ms. Jenne’s characterization of what happened.
Sen. Ritchie said she would still support Ms. Jenne’s bill if and when it passed the Assembly, but not before.
“The issue of wind farm interference at Fort Drum remains a priority of mine,” Sen. Ritchie wrote in a statement emailed to the Times. “In the event A09053 (Ms. Jenne’s Assembly bill) passes the Assembly I will sponsor the bill in the Senate. In the end, this is not about pride of authorship but about acting on legislation that can pass both houses and be signed into law.”
Sen. Ritchie’s office also provided memos of opposition to Ms. Jenne’s bill submitted by environmental organizations, like the Sierra Club, New York League of Conservation Voters and Food and Water Watch.
Sen. Griffo said that he had talked to Ms. Jenne directly on Friday morning about some of her concerns after they went public.
“I don’t know that any bill that fails the Assembly is the fault of the Senate,” he said.
Sen. Griffo said he appreciated the need to protect military installations, but that any bill to limit wind development should balance economic impacts and state environmental goals as well, and be comprehensive across New York.
“We’re looking to see what kind of balance can be struck with economic opportunity,” Sen. Griffo said. “Instead of a hodgepodge of legislation, the question is what can we do statewide.”
There are military assets in other areas, like Western New York, that could be impacted by turbines, Sen. Griffo said. He said it would be best to get legislation that can deal with all of those factors.
“We don’t want to jeopardize anything,” he said. “There’s a lot of factors, it can be complicated and challenging.”
Sen. Ritchie had also introduced two different bills into the State Senate aimed at protecting Fort Drum from turbines.
“The first, allows the Department of Defense to add a non-voting, ad hoc member to the New York State electric generating siting board to ensure the military’s voice is heard during discussions,” she wrote in her statement. “The second bill allows for those who own land near military installations to be compensated for keeping their land the way it is, forgoing certain development.”
Ms. Jenne said she worked with the senators to address some of their concerns, including changing the area covered by the legislation. In a follow-up email statement, she also called Sen. Ritchie’s bills inadequate.
“One bill takes the same approach of buying development rights that Ft. Drum has been using and has not been able to protect the installation in the way it needs to be protected,” she wrote. “The other piece of legislation just reinforces the bureaucratic process that soaks up too much time and resources by the most deployed division in the Army.”
According to Ms. Jenne, she is standing alone against the onslaught of wind projects threatening Fort Drum. She said she would continue to look for Senate sponsors next session – including among fellow Democrats, if the Republicans’ razor-thin margin of control in the Senate is flipped after November.
“This is going to be a difficult issue because the wind lobby has a lot of muscle,” she said. “I’m willing to stand up by myself and do what’s right … but it’s difficult when the other house won’t even introduce the bill.”