An attorney representing Freedom and Farmersville residents concerned over the proposed Alle-Catt Wind Farm called the Invenergy application to the state “slipshod.”
The New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment released a 21-page deficiency letter Thursday in response to Invenergy’s application for a 340 megawatt wind farm filed Dec. 18.
Invenergy is proposing to build 117 wind turbines up to 600 feet tall in Cattaraugus, Allegany and Wyoming counties in the towns of Freedom, Farmersville, Centerville, Rushford and Arcade. It would power up to 134,000 homes.
Gary Abraham is an environmental attorney from Great Valley who is helping to represent residents in Freedom and Farmersville who are concerned over the impacts of the industrial turbines on their health and property values.
Abraham said the Siting Board staff’s deficiency letter “indicated to me the application was pretty slipshod. They’ve got a lot of work to do to bring it into compliance. For them to have submitted an application that was so deficient was surprising.”
Responding for a request for comment, Valessa Souter-Kline, project manager for Alle-Catt Wind Farm, said, “Invenergy received the notice issued by the Siting Board and is responding as our next step in the Article 10 application process.”
After initial analysis of the deficiency letter, Abraham said Friday there were 35 significant issues he found for which the Siting Board staff sought additional information.
Some of the deficiencies listed by the Siting Board that Abraham cited include:
• Maps were not in sufficiently high resolution as required by regulations.
• Noise, traffic and visual impacts on seasonal residences were not evaluated.
• Manufacturer/vendor required or recommended setbacks were not provided.
• No demonstration was provided that the wind resource supports the asserted capacity factor.
• Construction noise impacts were not addressed for “the most-potentially impacted and representative noise receptors.”
• Infrasound was not estimated.
• Ambient sound levels were not properly evaluated.
• Alternative layouts to avoid the worst impacts were not considered.
• “Direct-drive turbines are typically quieter than the ones with gearboxes or additional mechanical components” but the application failed to consider direct-drive turbines as an alternative.
• How habitats for wildlife species of conservation concern would be protected is not evaluated. These species include amphibians and reptiles likely at the facility site, including the following species: Jefferson salamander, longtail salamander, common snapping turtle, wood turtle and all migratory bat species.
• The law requires an evaluation of the expected environmental impacts of the facility on avian and bat species, not an evaluation limited solely to species listed as threatened or endangered, which the application is limited to.
• The proposed project would cross state-protected streams, including trout streams, but the impacts of doing so was not described.
Abraham and some of the experts hired to review the Alle-Catt application pointed out what they considered shortcomings in the application during the 30-day comment period.
There is a 12-month clock that starts once the application is deemed complete that the Siting Board has to act on it, Abraham said.
“They are not going to get a decision before next February or March,” he said. “There’s no question the Siting Board is going to take a full 12 months to review the application.”
Of the 117 proposed wind turbines in the 20,000-acre footprint across five towns, 34 would be in Freedom, which would receive $450,000 a year in host community and P.I.L.O.T fees, and 23 would be in Farmersville which would get $360,000 a year. Also, 29 turbines in Centerville would bring the town $440,000 a year, 10 in Rushford would net the town $140,000, and nine in Arcade would mean $220,000 for the town.
In addition, Yorkshire School District would get $330,000 a year in P.I.L.O.T. payments; Franklinville, $100,000; Cuba-Rushford, $150,000; Fillmore, $130,000, and Letchworth, $10,000.
One thing Abraham will be looking for when Invenergy resubmits its application to the Siting Board will be the answer to the question: “What is the net reduction in greenhouse gas you project?”
On another Invenergy wind project, the Canestio project in Steuben County, which is smaller than Alle-Catt, the company figured the offset would be 0.05 percent.
“The impacts are significant,” Abraham said of the wind turbines. “No one can avoid them.” They can only try to mitigate the impacts.
Abraham pointed out that the Siting Board has said several times in the past few months they will not grant waivers of local laws. They want to make sure the local laws are protective.”
Abraham added: “This is just the beginning.”
IN THE MEANTIME, Abraham said he and Ginger Schroder, a Farmersville resident who is also an attorney, are working with residents and members of Farmersville United and Freedom United to make sure local laws are as protective of residents health as possible.
Abrahams and Schroder have filed a lawsuit on behalf of Freedom United to force the Freedom Town Board to rescind its local wind law as requested by the Cattaraugus County Planning Board.
The Planning Board incorrectly approved the 2018 Freedom wind law, after the town board submitted an incomplete Environmental Assessment Form. The matter will be heard in state Supreme Court in Little Valley next Thursday.
The Farmersville Town Board meets Monday night to discuss its next step in amending its wind law to conform to the 600-foot turbines Invenergy is proposing. The town’s 2009 local law limited wind turbine height to 450 feet.
The Cattaraugus County Planning Board cited the 600 feet height and the county’s Comprehensive Plan that values the county’s rural character as reasons for rejecting the Farmersville wind law.
Cattaraugus County lawmakers went on record last year as urging the county Industrial Development Agency not to offer tax breaks to large wind farms.
Invenergy officials admit that without payment in lieu of taxes (P.I.L.O.T.) agreements, the $455 million wind project will not happen. Even with subsidies the turbines could not produce enough power to pay full property taxes and make a profit for a developer.
They point to the P.I.L.O.T. payments and host community fees for towns, counties and school district, as well as lease payments to landowners as reasons to support the project.
It would employ about 200 operators and construction workers during construction. There would be 11-13 permanent employees to maintain the infrastructure.
Schroder agreed with Abraham’s assessment of the application by Invenergy. “If this is the kind of attention they pay m the application, exactly how do they intend to deal with the town laws?”
“If it doesn’t comply with the bare requirements for Article 10, there is something wrong,” Schroder said. “I’m disheartened, but it’s what I expected.”
She had hoped Invenergy would be willing to consider alternate turbines that are direct drive, rather than gear-driven and are less noisy.
Setbacks from the turbines remain a big concern to residents. Farmersville United and Freedom United members are asking the town boards to consider 3,000-foot setbacks from the turbines.
They also don’t want the town to increase turbine height to 600 feet.
Setbacks to property lines in the local laws can be as little as 1.1 to 1.5 times the height of the turbine in some proposed town laws.