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List of town officials with wind farm interests grows

FARMERSVILLE – Invenergy, the Chicago-based wind energy company and developer of the 380-megawatt Alle-Catt Wind Farm, has revised its list of municipal officials with interests in the project.

The Alle-Catt website still shows only one official, Farmersville Town Board member Richard Westfall, who has signed wind leases.

In its revised report to the New York State Attorney General’s Office, Invenergy lists 10 officials from four towns in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties on a list titled Financial Interests of Municipal Officials and Relatives Known to be in Office October 2018.

Valessa Souter-Kline, Alle-Catt project manager, did not reply to an email seeking comment on the additional individuals on the Financial Interests list.

Ginger Schroder, an attorney for members of Farmersville United, a group of more than 200 residents opposed to the wind farm, thinks there should be more names on the list.

Those new to the list include the Farmersville Town clerk, Bridget Holmes, and Farmersville Councilman Richard Zink; Freedom Supervisor Randy Lester, Freedom Planning Board Chairman DeVere Bliss and Freedom Highway Superintendent Jim Haggerty; County Legislator Joseph Boberg; Centerville Supervisor Marc Bliss and Centerville Councilman Mike Vossburg; and Rushford Councilman Scott Walter.

In Farmersville, Holmes’ father has a lease, and Councilman Zink’s parents have wind leases.

In Freedom, Supervisor Lester’s brother has a wind lease, Planning Chairman Bliss’ sons and grandchildren have wind leases and Highway Superintendent Haggerty owned a right-of-way easement and his parents and brother have wind leases.

Centerville Supervisor Bliss is a co-owner of property with a wind lease, and Centerville Councilman Vosburg is a co-owner of property with his wind lease and his parents have a wind lease.

In Rushford, Councilman Walter’s wife’s parents have a wind lease.

The list also notes that Legislator Boberg’s brother has a wind lease. Boberg voted against a County Legislature resolution urging the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency not to grant tax breaks for the Alle-Catt Wind Farm.

Farmersville Supervisor Robert Karcher said Friday that Westfall does not feel he should vote on the wind law.

Karcher said Zink’s parents have signed leases in the town of Centerville, which has previously been made public. “I don’t see a problem with Richard (Zink) voting. His parents own property in another town.”

On the addition of the town clerk’s name to the list, Karcher said, “Bridget doesn’t vote, so it doesn’t matter.”

The Code of Conduct calls for the information to be on the project’s website, posted in the town hall and advertised in local newspapers.

Schroder said some of the officials on the town boards were directly involved in talks with Invenergy and with the board discussion and vote on local wind energy law changes sought by Invenergy.

Westfall’s lease for wind turbines with Invenergy had previously been publicly disclosed by Karcher. However, Westfall continued to participate during the summer in town board discussions on the wind law, including decreasing proposed setbacks.

Schroder said, “It’s pretty clear that when you go from one disclosure to 10 that there are a lot of hands in the cookie jar. Why is the town (Farmersville) twisting itself into a pretzel to get this passed?”

The new disclosure listings come after three of the towns – Freedom, Rushford and Centerville – have approved revised wind laws and Farmersville is about to approve revisions requested by Invenergy.

For example, the 585-foot industrial turbines and blades Invenergy has proposed for the Alle-Catt Wind Farm required a change in the 450-foot height limit in existing wind laws in Freedom and Farmersville.

Both Freedom and Farmersville submitted incomplete Environmental Assessment Forms (EAF) of their wind turbine laws to the Cattaraugus County Planning Board.

The planning board returned the Farmersville EAF as incomplete and did not act on it. The board initially approved the Freedom wind law, but later rescinded that approval and urged the Freedom Town Board to rescind its law and re-submit a completed EAF to the county planning board

Schroder said she formally complained to the state attorney general’s office earlier this year that there appeared to be a lack of compliance with the Wind Developer’s Code of Conduct.

Under the code, “The Office of the Attorney General seeks to ensure that wind farm development is done in a transparent manner in which both municipal officials and companies are accountable. …”

Meanwhile, Karcher said there would be no vote on the new wind law on Monday night at the town board’s regular monthly meeting.

“We haven’t had any discussion as of yet,” Karcher said. “We’ve got letters mailed in after the public hearing to go over. We want to be able to review them.”