Important steps and major decisions that could affect the proposed Alle-Catt Wind Farm are coming this month.
Invenergy, the Chicago-based Alle-Catt developer, is proposing to build 117 600-foot industrial turbines in four towns in northern Cattaraugus and Allegany counties plus Arcade in Wyoming County.
Next week, the Farmersville Town Board will hold its first meeting since the Cattaraugus County Planning Board rejected its wind law amendments. The board meets at 7 p.m. Feb. 18 in the Town Hall.
Also next week, arguments in the lawsuit by Freedom United against the Freedom Town Board over its approval last year of a similar wind law will be heard in state Supreme Court in Little Valley.
Supreme Court Judge Terrence Parker of Allegany County was assigned to hear the case after Judge Jeremiah J. Moriarty recused himself due to a conflict involving the attorney representing the Freedom Town Board.
Invenergy filed its application for the $600 million wind farm with the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment on Dec. 17.
Environmental attorney Gary Abraham of Great Valley filed a seven-page letter of deficiencies in Invenergy’s Alle-Catt application. The deficiencies cited include:
• Failure to cite any alternatives to Alle-Catt including any of the five other wind projects Invenergy is developing or why solar power isn’t being considered in the 20,000-acre wind farm footprint.
• Failure by Invenergy to “obtain necessary land use rights,” and including in the Article 10 application “land use rights necessary for the proposal (are) held by landowners who have already refused to grant permission to use their land.” Abraham cites five instances where easement leases have not been signed including some landowners who are members of Farmersville United, a group opposed to the setbacks and noise levels of the turbines.
• The application shows buried collection lines crossing Farmersville State Forest connecting turbines #100, #101, #102 and #104, but, according to Abraham, “There is no indication that the State of New York would allow the use of State Forest for the collection line, or would allow the siting of turbines #100 and #101 in proximity to the State Forest proposed.”
Abraham added: “We remain concerned that the applicant proposes to use lands owned by persons who will not grant permission to do so.”
In another review of the Article 10 application by Invenergy, Karen Schneller-McDonald of Hickory Creek Consulting LLC, Red Hook said she found the Alle-Catt project materials “challenging to examine” due to incomplete information and “scattered pieces of related information, and indicates an incomplete analysis of project impacts.”
Schneller-McDonald’s review lists 30 concerns relating to wildlife, wetlands and water. Wildlife and bird species lists are incomplete and misleading, she said.
“The statement that the project will not cross any trout streams conflicts with the listings of 174 stream crossings,” the review states.
The review also states information on wetlands and streams is fragmented through the files. “In light of the significance of wetlands for water quality, water supply, flood mitigation, and habitat, all of this information needs to be consolidated so that the impacts to wetlands, individually and collectively, throughout the project area can be evaluated.”
Schneller-McDonald concludes: “This collective project infrastructure (117 wind turbines and pads, access roads, buried electrical connect lines, collection substation, maintenance building) affects the entire project area, in terms of wetlands and stream crossings, vegetation removal, grading, maintenance and equipment storage. The cumulative impacts from all these activities has not been addressed.”
Comments regarding seismic risk from Dr. Robert Jacobi of geoscience Consulting, Getzville, said Invenergy’s study “does not include any effort to estimate seismic risk.”
Invenergy’s application states the “nearest earthquake to occur in relation to the facility site, with a magnitude of 4.0 was in 1991 in Oswego County” 180 miles away. Jacobi notes there is no mention of earthquake activity in the Attica region of Wyoming County, which is much closer. In 1929, Attica registered a 4.9 to 5.2 magnitude earthquake, “making it (5.2 magnitude) the second strongest earthquake in New York State.”
ALSO, ATTORNEY GINGER Schroder of Farmersville, who is also representing Farmersville residents, has presented a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the state Attorney General’s Office over the Wind Developer’s Code of Conduct.
The FOIL request seeks any correspondence between the Attorney General’s Office and Invenergy or Alle-Catt Wind Farm since 2015.
Schroder has been pressing the Attorney General’s Office to expand its disclosure list of officials in the four towns with potential conflicts because they or family members stood to benefit from wind leases with Invenergy.
Until November, the list of municipal officials with interests in the project contained only one name: Farmersville Town Councilman Richard Westfall. Now there are 10, including at least one official in each town except Arcade.
Supervisor Robert Karcher said Westfall, who participated in discussions regarding the town’s draft law, would not vote on the new wind law.
Farmersville Councilman Richard Zink was added to the list in November when Alle-Catt’s website added nine names to the Attorney General’s disclosure list. Karcher said since Zink’s parents owned property in another town, he wouldn’t be disqualified from voting on the Farmersville wind law.
If even one of the two Farmersville councilmen didn’t vote, a “supermajority” of the board – four votes – would be hard to get to pass the wind law over the county Planning Board’s objections.
Schroder is also pushing the Attorney General’s office to include the Farmersville supervisor on the disclosure list. Karcher’s father-in-law, Dean Holmes has a wind lease with Invenergy. Karcher’s wife, Jennifer Holmes, a town justice, and his sister, Bridget Holmes, are both on the disclosure list despite not being voting officials.
The county Planning Board objected to the 600-foot height (up from 450 feet in the current law) and said the wind farm was not in keeping with Cattaraugus County’s Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2016, which promoted the county’s rural character.
Presumably, the Planning Board would have the same objections to Freedom’s local law, which also has a 600-foot height limit – if the Freedom Town Board is required in State Supreme Court to re-submit its Environmental Assessment Form on the wind law.
Invenergy, meanwhile has been promoting the economic benefits of the project.
Farmersville’s 23 turbines would bring the town $360,000 in host community fees and payment in lieu of taxes (P.I.L.O.T.) payments and Freedom would get $450,000 for 34 turbines. Pioneer Central School District would get $330,000 in annual P.I.L.O.T payments and Franklinville Central School would get $100,000. Counties, municipalities and school districts would get total annual payments of $3.2 million and landowners would get $2.7 million.
Over the 20-year life of the turbines, counties, municipalities and school districts would share share $78 million, while landowners would receive $64 million.