An Allegany County judge has dismissed lawsuits filed against the towns of Farmersville and Freedom by both the developer of Alle-Catt Wind Farm and groups opposed to the proposed $500 million project.
The lawsuits had been filed three years ago by Alle-Catt Wind Energy LLC, the Coalition of Concerned Citizens and Freedom United and Farmersville United.
Late last month, Judge Terrence Parker dismissed the cases – which looked at whether 2019 local wind laws were in effect in Freedom and Farmersville in 2019 – as moot. Parker noted both towns had passed new wind laws, superseding the earlier laws.
Gary Abraham, an environmental attorney from Great Valley who represented the Coalition of Concerned Citizens, said, “While Alle-Catt can claim victories in the two citizen suits, its ultimate victory remains in doubt. That is because the 2020 local laws impose 3,000-foot setbacks from homes for wind turbines, and impose a more restrictive noise standard than the Siting Board allowed in its June 2020 decision to issue a Certificate Order.”
Abraham also said he is puzzled at the pace of Alle-Catt’s efforts to advance its project of 117 wind turbines across five towns – Farmersville and Freedom in Cattaraugus County, Centerville and Rushford in Allegany County, and Arcade in Wyoming County.
Alle-Catt spokesman Sean Perry said, “We applaud the New York Supreme Court for their common sense ruling that affirms Freedom and Farmersville’s wind laws. Alle-Catt has the support of Western New York, and we will continue to work closely with the community to bring economic investment, good-paying jobs and clean, domestically sourced energy to the region.
“Alle-Catt has road use agreements with all of the host project towns. We executed road use agreements with Freedom and Farmersville in 2019 and with Yorkshire in 2021. A small but vocal opposition in Farmersville unsuccessfully petitioned to void the road use agreement, and it was struck down in court. We are continuing to negotiate a road use agreement with Cattaraugus County.
“Alle-Catt is committed to completing rigorous due diligence for this project, and we are in the process of compiling various pre-construction packages that will be submitted later this year and into 2023,” Perry added. “In addition, we are working with the DEC on the Net Conservation Benefit Plans for protected species. We are awaiting comments from the state, and once received and addressed will submit the plans.”
Alle-Catt’s application for a new certificate from the Public Service Commission approving a 10-mile transmission line needed to move electricity from the wind farm to Arcade remains pending, Abraham said.
There is also still the issue of wind turbine height. At the time the PSC approved the project two years ago both Farmersville and Freedom had local laws that limited wind turbines to 450 feet in height. Alle-Catt has proposed turbines that are nearly 600 feet tall, which the PSC approved.
As part of the approval of the project by the Board on Electrical Generation Siting and the Environment, Alle-Catt agreed to a list of more than 100 pre-construction conditions, Abraham said. Generally, those conditions are addressed soon after they are posted by the Siting Board.
“Most of these conditions require the submission of wildlife surveys, land surveys, engineering plans for underground lines, turbine foundations and proof of a municipal road use agreement,” Abraham said. “Each compliance filing must be approved and each is subject to public comment prior to approval. It generally takes more than a year to obtain authorization to commence construction. But Alle-Catt has yet to submit even one compliance filing.”
Alle-Catt has asked for and received a number of extensions to submit compliance filing on two particular issues under the Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need: The Net Conservation Benefit Plan for long-eared bats and bald eagles. Its latest extension request was granted to May 31 by the PSC. The extensions were requested to give Alle-Catt time to purchase habitat to replace that which will be lost if the project is built.
In an earlier submission to the PSC, Abraham noted that Cattaraugus County recommended the towns not consider 600-foot turbines because it was inconsistent with the county’s comprehensive plan.
There are other potential roadblocks to the project, which was first proposed in 2017, not least the fact that the Cattaraugus County Legislature remains opposed.
Last year, Alle-Catt asked a judge to grant a road use agreement; the company said the county’s Public Works Department was too slow in negotiating an agreement, while county officials said the company has not provided data it needs. Six county roads would be used for hauling construction equipment and materials.
The town of Farmersville last year revoked a road use agreement for town roads that had been previously negotiated, saying the $1.4 million offered was insufficient. That decision was overturned in court.
Lastly, the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency has said it will refuse to approve the portion of the Alle-Catt wind farm planned in the county – 21 turbines in Farmersville and 33 in Freedom – if area residents were opposed.
Abraham said the Farmersville and Freedom town boards remain divided, unable to change their 2020 local laws to open the door to Alle-Catt.
“Time is on our side,” said Farmersville Deputy Supervisor Mark Heberling. “We’re still fighting. They still need a PILOT from the IDA and a county road use agreement.”
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