BARNES CORNERS – The format of a public meeting called by Avangrid Renewables on the Deer River Wind Farm project is being disputed by the local anti-wind group, the Tug Hill Alliance for Rural Preservation, as a “divide and conquer” approach to public engagement.
The Oct. 2 open house to be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Pinckney Town Hall, 307 State Route 177, Barnes Corners, is intended, as described in ads for the event, to give a status update on the project, the Article 10 process, studies and “potential” project updates in “informational stations set up to give residents the opportunity to ask questions and learn more details” about the project.
Rebecca Sheldon, THARP’s co-organizer said in a message on the project’s page on the state Department of Public Service site that this type of meeting only gives the “impression” of fostering dialogue with the community because individual conversations between community members and company representatives can result in different answers and information being shared and decreased transparency.
THARP and its members stated that a forum, or question and answer session, wherein everyone in attendance at the meeting is getting the same information and the person providing the information is doing so publicly and so can be held accountable lends to more accurate information being shared.
Ultimately, however, according to the State Siting Board’s Director of Communications James Denn, there are no rules as to what format public meetings held by wind companies must take, despite the fact that the Siting Board meetings, like the public forum held last month, are very formal and process driven.
“This open house format has evolved from feedback we’ve received at other public events and meetings around the country,” said Avangrid’s Communications Director Paul Copleman. “Whether that’s from people who are uncomfortable asking questions in front of an audience, people who don’t want to sit through the entire presentation to get one question answered, people who have time constraints or people who want to have a more in-depth conversation on a specific concern.”
On Sept. 20, groups involved with the Article 10 process including THARP, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Department of Public Service filed “issue statements” listing their concerns with the wind project in its current form.
Many of the issues listed were similar to those that the Article 10 judges recommended as conditions that must be met in order for the neighboring Number Three Wind Farm, owned by Invenergy, to be given the Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need required for the project to enter the construction phase and become operational.
Questions surrounding the project’s impact on at-risk bird and bat species, wetlands impact and actions being taken to decrease that impact and, importantly, setting sound standards at levels in line with World Health Organization standards that are generally lower than most wind companies in the U.S. have chosen as a safe standard.
A number of issues surrounded a new collection line route submitted by Avangrid since the hearing that would shift infrastructure by more than 500 feet and change lines from underground to overhead in many areas.
Such a significant change could “constitute a revision,” according to the Public Service issue document, and so should require updates to a number of documents already filed on the original design.
Exhibits, maps and studies on the project will be made available to the public at the meeting, however, the Public Service Office asked that a number of maps and reference pieces be re-configured to reflect the new line route to make those exhibits and maps more accurate in their issues statement.
For more information on the meeting call Avangrid’s local office at 315-874-4231. To make a comment on the project or read project documents, go to http://documents.dps.ny.gov/public/MatterManagement/CaseMaster.aspx?MatterCaseNo=16-F-0267-.