LOWVILLE – A stalemate on a number of issues after the early wrap-up of this week’s “evidentiary hearing” for Invenergy’s Number 3 Wind Farm resulted in a closed-door “settlement conference” to try to search for middle ground.
The hearing, one of the final stages of the state’s Article 10 energy project vetting process, was scheduled to be held all this week at the Lewis County Courthouse. However, it wrapped up by Wednesday.
Hundreds of pages of written testimony and evidence were submitted over the past six weeks by experts on environmental, health and socioeconomic impacts the wind farm may have.
At the hearing, for the first time, lawyers representing the various organizations and departments involved in the process were able to cross-examine some of those experts in person in front of the judges overseeing the process, presiding examiners Maureen F. Leary, Michelle Phillips and Molly T. McBride.
A list of issues that participants wanted addressed was approved before the hearing. One of the most controversial was turbine noise.
Miguel Morena-Caballero, an acoustics specialist testifying on behalf of the Department of Public Service, said the measurements obtained by wind company experts was not the most reliable because measurements were taken at 1½ meters above the ground instead of at 4 meters.
Noise, he said, is absorbed that close to the ground, so for measurements to be relevant they should be taken higher.
Based on his own findings, he recommended eight to 10 turbines be moved to decrease the sound impact of the turbines, according to Rebecca Sheldon of the Tug Hill Alliance for Rural Preservation, a group of residents advocating against the wind farm.
Her impression, because of statements made by Invenergy’s representatives on the last day of the proceeding, was that the wind company is not willing will to move or remove wind turbines.
“Number Three Wind is only interested in discussing certificate conditions, not turbine locations,” Mrs. Sheldon said.
But Number Three Wind’s project manager Marguerite Wells said they laid out their site map from before eight turbines were removed from the plan and asked those present to pick the sites they wanted.
The eight dropped turbine locations were designated as “alternate” sites, although Ms. Wells acknowledged most of them are problematic: four faced objections from Fort Drum due to radar conflicts; another has wetlands issues and yet another would have “flicker” impact, she said.
“The work around for the four sites Fort Drum didn’t approve is to put in four smaller towers, but we already put in four smaller towers. We don’t want four more,” Ms. Wells said.
She said the siting board would have to decide what sites would work best.
To Mrs. Sheldon’s group, the “alternate” sites aren’t real alternatives because of known obstacles and shouldn’t have been included on the most recent maps.
After the hearing wrapped for the day on Tuesday, Ms. Wells led a tour of 15 proposed sites to give the judges a better understanding of the turbine locations.
“I think they realized a lot is at stake here,” Mrs. Sheldon said, after witnessing the judges’ reactions to a home already faced on three sides by turbines in the Maple Ridge wind farm.
Other contentious topics raised by the Public Service and Environmental Conservation departments related to the wind farm’s ecological impact, including the habitat of ground birds and bats and wetlands concerns.
With many unresolved issued between the various parties by the end of the hearing, a closed meeting known as a “settlement conference” was held on Thursday morning in Albany.
The Public Service Department and Siting Board spokesman did not respond to requests for information about the meeting’s outcome or what happens next.Download original document: “
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