SINCLAIRVILLE– In January 2018, the New York Board on Generation Siting and the Environment, granted Cassadaga Wind, LLC, an approval to construct and operate a 126MW wind-powered facility in the towns of Arkwright, Charlotte, Cherry Creek and Stockton in Chautauqua County.
In July, Cassadaga filed a petition with the New York State Public Service Commission seeking a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) which is a ruling required by private companies, wishing to provide essential public services before they can begin construction. The siting board limited the scope of the commissions determination to issue the CPCN, and is now requesting that the Public Service Commission examine the economic feasibility and ability to finance improvements of the project.
Cassadaga Wind is looking for an expedited review of the CPCN, as it needs to be issued by Nov. 1, so that tree clearing can begin, according to the guidelines set forth by the Department of Environmental Conservation. Monday night a public statement hearing was held at the Sinclairville Volunteer Fire Hall, to gather if facility construction is in the public interest. The public was invited to provide comments on whether Cassadaga Wind is ready and able to exercise its rights to move forward in accordance with PSL (public service law) section 68.
The part of Section 68 which pertained to the importance of this meeting states: “In making such a determination, the commission shall consider the economic feasibility of the corporation, the corporation’s ability to finance improvements of a gas plant or electric plant, render safe, adequate and reliable service, and provide just and reasonable rates, and whether issuance of a certificate is in the public interest.”
The Concerned Citizens of the Cassadaga Wind Project members and other residents came out in droves to speak their opinions in regards to the issuing of the CPCN.
“Cassadaga Wind claims a 126MW nameplate capacity, this is using tens of thousands of acres of land,” started Tina Graziano. “The real wind efficiency rate in western New York is 24 percent. Twenty-four percent of 126MW is 30.18MW, which is the actual rating.”
She then went on to site the currently moth balled NRG electric power plant in Dunkirk, which only takes up 98 acres. She claims it is a more viable option, as it is capable of producing 450MW with potential to produce more.
Mark Twitchell spoke at length about the economic impact on the county as a whole.
“Losses in property value range from $22 million to $45 million per year based on total assessed value of taxable properties in Cherry Creek and Charlotte reduced by a low of 15 percent and a high of 30 percent,” Twitchell stated. He continued to use the two towns to calculate the other loss values based on the University of North Carolina’s 80 percent metric results.
Other losses he found included $1.2 million to $17.3 million in tourism losses, loss of agriculture due to bat moralities ranged from $1.2 million to $18.4 million and economic opportunity value in loss of taxes from assets, due to the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreements came out to $1 million. His overall numbers therefore ranged in amounts from a negative $23 million on the low end, to a negative $79.8 million on the high end, once the garnered community benefit from the facility is factored in at $2.5 million.
Robert Rettig, who is having a turbine placed on his property, was the only one from the audience who spoke in favor of the project.
“I know that there’s a lot of people that look at things differently, but I look at this and I represent a lot of people that have signed, that they support this project,” Rettig began. “Yes, I’m getting a windmill that is going to financially help me, but overall these windmills will help financially our school districts, our whole township.”
He went on to talk of how the area populations are dwindling due to job loss and not wind turbines.
Many heartfelt concerns spilled out of the collected individuals, but the forum here was not to discuss those issues, this forum was only to discuss whether Cassadaga Wind could build and maintain the project itself or that they can sell their certificate to someone who can.
Article 10 was a major focus of the evening as this is one of the first cases in New York to fall under this new ruling. Before, when an outside company came in, they had to apply for numerous state and local permits. Now the state board
1. Defines a major electric generating facility as facilities of 25 megawatts or more;
2. Requires environmental and public health impact analyses, studies regarding environmental justice and public safety, and consideration of local laws;
3. Directs applicants to provide funding for both the pre-application and application phases. It allows funding to be used to help intervenors (affected municipalities and other parties) hire experts to participate in the review of the application and for legal fees (but not for judicial challenges);
4. Requires a utility security plan reviewed by Homeland Security and, for New York City (NYC) plants, NYC’s emergency management office;
5. Provides for appointment of ad hoc public members of the Siting Board from the municipality where the facility is proposed to be sited.
6. Requires a public information coordinator within the Department of Public Service to assist and advise interested parties and members of the public in participating in the siting process.
As long as a electrical generating business can meet these qualifications, they can build.
Jay Goodman, department of public service staff attorney, Jim Muscato, Innogy Renewables representing attorney and Chip Readling, representative from Innogy Renewables soon filtered in and Muscato offered that in his opinion, these decisions should be within the purview of the siting board as it is part of the compliance condition of article 10 of the certificate for the facility.
Dakin Lecakes, an administrative judge for the New York State Public Service Commission, stated it isn’t a question of whether or not Cassadaga Wind will be able to afford the endeavor, but whether or not Cassadaga Wind will be able to afford to operate and maintain the structures during their lifespan.
“The twist on the finances aren’t just about whether you can put the windmills up, but whether you can put the windmills up and continue to maintain them and make sure that they operate safely.” Lecakes said, citing Mark Twitchell’s nuanced argument later in the meeting.
“I’m not certain if it’s within the commission’s purview whether it’s a multi-billion dollar company or something less to decide whether or not that company can make the required investment into maintenance of a facility, but the point here I don’t believe that that’s in the commissions purview to make those judgments, but instead look at the record, yes this is an organization that has the financial backing,” Muscato added. “That’s the commitment that will be extended throughout the project. So one it’s not only financially viable but two the contract structure is that there’s a real feasibility in continuing the operation of the project.”
For more information on this case, visit www.dps.ny.gov and search for case number 18-E-0399. Public comments are being taken from now until Oct. 8, either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, the homepage of the case or a 24-hour toll-free opinion line at 1-800-335-2120.
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