A big step in the fate of the proposed Alle-Catt Wind Farm will take place on Wednesday.
The New York State Board of Electric Generation Siting and the Environment will conduct a hearing on the application of Alle-Catt Wind Energy LLC for a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need.
The hearing will be conducted remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic. Interested persons can listen to the proceedings at: http://www.dps.ny.gov/Webcasts.html. The internet stream of the hearing will be in audio only.
Environmental attorney Gary Abraham of Great Valley represents residents of Farmersville and Freedom who are opposed to the proposed 340-megawatt wind farm that would be spread over 30,000 acres in the towns of Farmersville and Freedom in Cattaraugus County; Rushford and Centerville in Allegany County and the town of Arcade in Wyoming County.
Abraham said Friday that the siting board plans to vote on whether to accept the recommendations of the hearing examiners, who found the project was both needed and did not represent a threat to the environment.
The Public Service Commission examiner’s decision includes a recognition that the Town of Freedom’s 2007 wind law is in effect, Abraham said.
The good news is that the Freedom 2007 wind law includes a 450-foot height limit on wind turbines.
Invenergy’s Alle-Catt Wind Farm calls for 600-foot wind turbines.
In addition, the Town of Farmersville’s 2019 local law was approved under terms similar to Freedom’s 2018 local law that was overturned in state Supreme Court. If the 2020 Farmersville wind law is upheld, it too has a 450-foot limit on turbines – from the tip of the extended blade to the ground.
The siting board has said it will not consider evidence – including a local law – that is presented after the close of the hearing examiner’s report in December 2019.
If the 2020 Farmerville wind law is not considered by the siting board and the town’s 2019 wind law is overturned in court, the town’s 2009 wind law would remain in effect. That includes a 450-foot height limit on wind turbines.
The Town of Farmersville formally submitted a motion to the siting board on May 20 reminding the board it had approved a local law in January that included the 450-foot height limit. Other significant changes in the 2020 wind law are greater setbacks and lower noise limits, which many residents have been insisting on for the past two years.
Last November, both the Farmersville and Freedom town boards flipped from pro-wind to anti-wind. Both boards quickly introduced new local laws, held public hearings and approved the more restrictive wind laws opposed by Invenergy and its supporters – mostly individuals with leases and labor unions.
Abraham said to meet the 450-foot limit and other changes in the local law, Invenergy would have to significantly change the proposed project [sic]
Abraham said the siting board ruled in the Bluestone Wind project that any changes to local laws after the evidentiary hearing will not be considered.
“Nothing in Article 10 authorizes that move,” Abraham said. “It is inconsistent.”
Last year, he said, in the Barren Wind case in Steuben County, the siting board applied a town’s local law four months after the close of the evidentiary hearing. It involved a lame duck town board approving a new law that increased the height of the turbines from 500 feet to 650 feet.
“The siting board said, fine,” Abraham said. The board considered the change in height a modification rather than a revision that would have required a hearing. Both decisions by the siting board are under appeal.
What local laws will the siting board recognize to govern the siting of wind turbines in Farmersville and Freedom?
In the case of Freedom, it should be the 2007 local law, and for Farmersville, the most recently enacted legal wind law, the 2020 law should apply. If the siting board does not recognize it, the 2009 law, not the improperly approved one in 2019, should apply, Abraham indicated.
Under Article 10, the application process is a little less arbitrary, Abraham said. “We are playing it by the book.”
Abraham said, soon, new Upstate wind farms won’t be producing more electricity, just displacing old wind farms. The Upstate power grid is not connected with the New York City metropolitan area and Long Island, he said. “They can’t get renewable energy to New York City.”
Most of the power for Upstate counties is already 90% emissions-free, he said. New wind projects are selling power outside New York. For example, power from the Cassadaga wind project is being sold in New England.
“You cannot achieve the state’s energy goals by putting up wind farms to displace old wind farms,” Abraham said.
“The reason these wind farms are being put put is because of public subsidies,” Abraham said. “They don’t pay for fuel and have few employees. The purpose of the law (Article 10 and subsequently Article 23) is to eliminate risk for the developer.”
Abraham said the World Health Organization’s 2018 guidelines for wind turbine noise is 45 decibels.
“It’s clear the WHO standards we recommended can’t be met here,” Abraham said. “It’s a public health standard. People kept up at night (from turbine noise) by sleeplessness is a potential health hazard.”
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