November 14, 2018
New York

Judges: Galloo Island study neglected bald eagles

By Brandon Wood | The Palladium-Times |

ALBANY – After findings surfaced that an application for a Galloo Island wind farm failed to include the discovery of a bald eagle’s nest, two state agencies have withdrawn from certain agreements and judges postponed the evidentiary hearing schedule on the project.

The revelations and a judgment about the findings led to the state departments of Public Service (DPS) and Environmental Conservation (DEC) to withdraw their signatures on executed stipulations, agreements between parties that can pertain to studies that must be included in applications.

Both departments said in letters dated Nov. 2 that they are withdrawing from the stipulations, leaving open the option for both to challenge parts of state Article 10 review applications for the Galloo Island project. According to the DPS, parties executing a pre-application stipulation can’t raise objections at future evidentiary hearings, but neither department is prohibited after withdrawing.

The departments said they have withdrawn due to Galloo Island Wind LLC and parent company Apex Clean Energy’s decision to exclude the presence of bald eagles in its findings.

“DPS believes that if the presence of eagles on the island was known, the scope of studies and the methodology of those studies would have been modified to include such knowledge,” wrote Andrea Cerbin, an assistant general counsel for DPS.

Kara Paulsen of the DEC’s general counsel team agreed with that assessment, noting “had the applicant disclosed the bald eagle nest prior to the date that the stipulations were executed, DEC Staff would have requested various studies to be included in the application.”

In an Oct. 26 ruling, presiding judges James A. Costello and Ashley Moreno also directed the applicants to amend its application and consent to an extension of a statutory timeframe for the Siting Board to render a decision on the Article 10 proceedings.

Attorneys representing Galloo Island, LLC submitted a letter last week consenting to the time extension and noted a modified application would include fewer proposed turbines.

“The applicant will also be including additional project updates to reflect the current turbine selection and resulting reduction in the total number of turbines proposed for the facility,” said Attorney James A. Muscaso II.

The twists and turns in this case began when several citizens requested the case be dismissed entirely after Apex failed to disclose information about a bald eagle siting.

Individual Clifford P. Schneider received information about the possible existence of a bald eagle’s nest and forwarded the information to the DEC.

In a Sept. 5 response, representatives of the wind farm noted that the island caretaker brought a potential eagle nest to the attention of the applicant. While consultants admitted there was a nest observed that contained no birds, eggs or chicks.

It also contended that no turbines were within a quarter-mile of the nest, the recommended distance per the 2016 NYSDEC’s Bald Eagle Conservation Plan.

Schneider, Henderson Town Supervisor John Culkin and Claudia Maurer requested that the judges dismiss the application altogether, but judges ruled against the group.

The trio have since requested an interlocutory review of the ruling citing violation of Article 10, and still hope the application is denied.

“Compared to revocation of a certificate/application for false statements and material omissions, the ‘Do-Over’ remedy ordered for (Apex), sends a message that applicants need only be forthcoming after they are caught red-handed because there are no serious consequences to submitting a fraudulent Article 10 application,” they said in a letter dated Oct. 31.

On Friday, legal representatives for Galloo Island challenged the interlocutory review, saying the request “fails to specify any extraordinary circumstances” that merit such a review.

Galloo Island sits roughly six miles offshore in Lake Ontario, between the United States and Canada, near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. The island is part of the town of Hounsfield and if developers from Galloo Island Wind LLC have their way, will be the site of up to 32 574-foot turbines, capable of generating 110 MW of power.

The proposal hopes to make the city of Oswego the terminus of the Galloo Island transmission lines, connecting to the greater New York state power grid from similar points as the Nine Mile Point and James A. FitzPatrick nuclear power plants.

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