YORKSHIRE – Nearly 200 people attended a public hearing on the proposed Alle-Catt Wind Farm Tuesday night at Pioneer Central School auditorium.
After a 1 ½ hour question-and-answer session with representatives from Alle-Catt developer Invenergy, the Public Service Commission hearing started through a list of 40 people who had asked to speak – including many who had signed up for an earlier hearing at the Arcade Fire Hall.
Invenergy has filed an application with the Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment for a 340 megawatt, 117 wind turbine project stretching over six towns, three counties and more than 30,000 acres. The cost is expected to approach $500 million.
Administrative Law Judges Dakin LeCakes of the Public Service Commission and Michael Caruso from the state Department of Environmental Conservation heard comments and will ultimately make a recommendation to the Siting Board.
That decision is 11 months away, one year from when the PSC accepted the Invenergy application as complete, LeCakes told those attending the hearing.
Comments may also be sent via the Department of Public Service website at www.dps.ny.gov, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail to: Secretary Burgess ay the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, 3 Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223-1350.
Much of the Q&A with Eric Miller of Invenergy and Valessa Souter-Kline, Alle-Catt project development manager, was contentious.
The Invenergy representatives touted the opportunity for towns, schools and counties to share in $7 million a year in host community and payment in lieu of taxes (P.I.L.O.T.) and landowner leases. There are 150 leaseholders who will share in $2.4 million a year in payments over 20 to 40 years. About $2.9 million a year will go to local governments and schools if the plan is approved.
Miller said there will be 400 construction workers at peak construction earning an estimated $24 million during construction. About a dozen full-tme employees will operate and maintain the Alle Catt Wind Farm.
The Cattaraugus County towns of Farmersville, Freedom and Machias would all see turbines or infrastructure under Invenergy’s plan, plus Centerville and Rushford in Allegany County and Arcade in Wyoming County.
Many of the concerns expressed focused on sound, shadow flicker and property values.
Miller did not address a question asking about lawsuits Invenergy faces at other sites, other than to say there have been lawsuits. Another speaker said later that the company is facing 60 nuisance lawsuits at its Orangeville wind farm in Wyoming County.
Invenergy’s application sets a limit of shadow flicker – from the sun shining through wind turbine blades – at 30 hours a month for most homes. Some speakers said their homes would see more flicker than that. Miller said that putting up blinds or planting trees could lessen the flicker effect.
One woman, Denise Willard of Freedom, said the plan does not address eagles in the Freedom area which would have to maneuver between 11 turbines that are 600 feet from ground to blade tip. She said the 600 foot turbines would change the rural nature of the area.
A Farmersville resident, Mike Park, who worked construction for 37 years, said the turbines will be too noisy and will cause problems for those who cannot abide shadow flicker.
George Duncan, who was appointed to the Farmersville Town Board last month, was one of the few people to speak who were not against the wind farm. “I think you really ought to consider the benefits,” he said.
Dennis DeLucca, a member of the Erie County Board of Health, said he would not have bought property and built a retirement home in Rushford if he had known two 600-foot windmills would be 1,200 feet from his home. He was pressured to sign a lease, but refused.
He said Invenergy should offer to pay the difference between the current value of their property and what they can sell it for after the wind turbines are built. A property value guarantee would force Invenergy to “put their money where their mouth is,” he added.
Stephanie Milks, president of Freedom United, spoke at the earlier hearing in Arcade.
“I’m here to request protection for my family and Alle-Catt residents from shadow flicker, property value decline, night time noise, turbine malfunction, fires, water well disruption and more,” Milks said.
She asked the judges to consider that “only 2 percent of the population within the five host towns are participating in the project and would receive direct benefit while the remaining 98 percent of the population faces adverse impacts.”
The Tuesday session at Pioneer ended at 11:15 p.m. after starting at 6 o’clock.