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letters to the editor

Commenters on DPS site continue to be heavily opposed to Lighthouse Wind

Posted 5 January 2017 at 6:42 pm

Editor:

The table below shows the results of an analysis of public comments made to the DPS website in relation to the Lighthouse Wind Project as proposed for the Towns of Yates and Somerset by APEX Energy.  A total of 768 comments submitted were assessed by quarter with comments tabulated and organized by support (in-favor) and opposition (opposed) to the project. (Click here to see DPS site on Lighthouse Wind.)

All comments made to the DPS site regarding the Lighthouse Wind Project were included in the assessment and as stated, cover the time period from Q1-2015 through Q4-2016.  All comments were read fully in order to ascertain position regarding the wind project.  The positions were tabulated as in-favor or opposed to the project.

The results are as follows:

DPS Comments
Date For Against % For % Against
Q1-2015 0 43 0% 100%
Q2-2015 0 76 0% 100%
Q3-2015 35 157 18% 82%
Q4-2015 56 137 29% 71%
Q1-2016 31 162 16% 84%
Q2-2016 3 29 9% 91%
Q3-2016 21 67 24% 76%
Q4-2016 5 59 8% 92%
Total 152 731 17% 83%

The overall results for the time period January 2015 to December 2015 are as follows:

Comments In-Favor of Lighthouse Wind Project = 151

Comments Opposed to Lighthouse Wind Project = 732

% of Comments In-Favor of Lighthouse Wind Project = 17%

% of Comments Opposed to Lighthouse Wind Project = 83%

The results of DPS comment analysis show a clear, ongoing and massive opposition to this project.  Interestingly, these results show a greater level of opposition than have all previous surveys performed by:

The Town of Somerset

Save Ontario Shores (SOS)

The Town of Yates

The Buffalo News

The Batavia Daily News

Buffalo Business First Magazine

These surveys only averaged a 70% Opposed/30% In Favor breakdown of survey results.

In an effort to assist all in monitoring and trending these results, an analysis will be performed at the end of each quarter to show these same statistics.  The quarterly analysis will continue until this issue is resolved.

To close, DPS comments and multiple surveys show the truth.  The will of the people is clear.  This project must not move forward.  Article 10 must not be allowed to suppress the Home Rule will of the people.

Thank You.

John B. Riggi

Councilman, Town of Yates

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Governor, state legislators should work to reform indigent defense system

Posted 4 January 2017 at 6:15 pm

Editor:

Recently, Governor Cuomo vetoed a bill passed unanimously by both houses of the legislature that was endorsed by many organizations from both sides of the aisle. The purpose of the bill was to provide a comprehensive overhaul of the system of providing indigent legal services to those unable to afford counsel in New York State.

Counties in New York have long toiled to balance local concerns and a state mandate system that is unique to New York in relation to the rest of the country. For years, local needs have in many cases suffered as the system of mandated programs has been expanded by state government in order to fund or fill the gaps of unbalanced state budgets.

Virtually all property taxes collected at the county level are collected for the purpose of funding these state created programs and funding shortfalls. No other state depends as heavily on the property tax system as the State of New York to fund state programs and mandates. This is the root cause of the high property tax rates under which citizens of our state struggle or, as is too often the case, simply move away.

The question of New York State taking responsibility for its’ own obligations (in this case guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution) has again been raised and answered by the Hurrell-Harring et al. v. State of New York et al. case. The settlement of the case required the state to fund reforms to the indigent defense systems of the five named counties.

In the veto message dealing with Senate Bill Number 8114 entitled “An Act to amend county law and the executive and state finance law, in relation to indigent defense services,” the governor raises objections about the state taking financial responsibility for indigent legal work that counties are already being mandated to pay by the state and that are outside of criminal defense work for legal representation.

The idea that these non-criminal defense costs, like family court and other constitutionally required expenses, are generally born by state governments across the country and not counties appears to be lost in the state analysis. This is one of the many shifts of state responsibility that have taken place in New York over decades that have resulted in the current, systemic, and oversized property tax burden.

The settlement of the Hurrell-Harring lawsuit, to which the state is a signatory, created a structural imperative to provide legal services at a level consistent with the terms of the settlement to all areas of the state. That imperative has a price. To take a position that the state cannot increase the taxes of every taxpayer in the state to pay for such an imperative ignores the fact that those same taxpayers will pay whether it is funded by income taxes levied by the state or property tax payers at the county level.

Income taxpayers and property taxpayers are virtually one in the same. To the extent that the two tax bases vary, it is the property tax base that draws from a smaller pool and the income tax base that draws from a larger pool. Statewide obligations should be borne by the state.

The Governor’s veto message makes an excellent point that reform of the current system is necessary and should require prudent oversight. However, we disagree that the legislation was merely a ploy for financial redistribution of existing local expenses.

Unfortunately, we find again and again that there is a willingness on the part of New York State to ignore the idea that we as counties share with the state a commonality, the same people. There is a willingness to ignore the state role in the property tax problem. In this case, the legislature chose to recognize those facts and the governor did not. The legislature’s approach was to provide a solution that represents a comprehensive fix of the entire system. Isn’t that exactly the type of reform that we should be seeking?

There is no reason that the interest of the people of New York cannot be served by both reforming the indigent defense system and providing real and sustainable property tax relief at the same time. Coming to an agreement that accomplishes both should be a top priority for our state and county elected officials for 2017.

Sincerely,

Charles H. Nesbitt, Jr.

President, New York State Association of County Administrators and Managers

(Nesbitt is also chief administrative officer for Orleans County.)

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Property rights doesn’t mean landowners can do whatever they please with land

Posted 2 January 2017 at 9:37 am

Editor:

In his recent brief letter to the editor dealing with wind turbines and private property rights, a Barre resident appears to speak up for both. He indicates that property owners should be able to do with their land what they wish in order to benefit themselves.

Within reason, that is certainly true. It is when their choices begin to have serious negative impacts on others that limits may be in order. The author suggested the potential for increasing the tax base that might result from wind turbines in Barre.

Property values and tax bases can also suffer declines as a result of a variety of choices made by those who live around us. A realtor in Naples described to me a situation in which a purchase offer on a cabin in Cohocton was withdrawn after Cohocton’s wind mining operation became public information. What might have sold for $90,000 ended up going for just under $70,000.

Communities have a right to decide what they want and what they do not want. I guess that is what code enforcement is about. My neighbor has a permit to mine dirt. The proposed stone quarry in Shelby is a prime example of the potential community interest in allowing/not allowing landowners to do whatever they want with their land. Restrictions on burning brush might be another. Zoning is certainly related to our freedom to do whatever we please with our properties.

For that matter, unless those parts of Barre envisioned for wind turbines are zoned “industrial”, it is hard for me to understand how they can clear wooded areas in order to make room for industrial wind turbines.  Perhaps that is why some prefer to call collections of industrial turbines “wind farms”. To me it would seem most accurate to describe them as mining operations.

Congressman Chris Collins has evidently introduced a bill that would ban 600-foot high wind turbines within forty miles of a military installation. How does that square with the notion that the folks who live within forty miles of the Niagara Falls Base can do anything they want with their land?

In the real world, we are under some obligation to consider how our actions affect others.

Sincerely yours,

Gary Kent

Albion

Sportsmen’s leaders support rifle bill, see other threats to wildlife in Orleans

Posted 30 December 2016 at 12:52 pm

Editor:

In response to a posting on Dec. 15, regarding what the Orleans County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs should or shouldn’t do, some information about the Federation needs to be presented.

Currently, there are 12 member clubs with each club having a delegate and an alternate to represent their members, making a total of over 1,600 organized sportsmen being represented. The representatives are a volunteer force who use their own time to address concerns brought forward by members of their clubs or issues brought by DEC regulations or changes to our conservation laws.

The Federation is active in the Finger Lakes Conservation Council representing the 11 counties in DEC Region 8 and has a long history of participation in the New York State Conservation Council. Over the years, the Federation has worked to advance and protect conservation, our environment and wildlife, both game and non-game species. All meetings are open to the public.

Like most New York State sportsmen and law-abiding legal gun owners, there are parts of the S.A.F.E. Act we disagree with and we continue to press for changes that are needed.  While working to protect the rights of New York citizens, the Federation supports following the law and responsible gun ownership.

The rifle bill is not related to any S.A.F.E. Act defiance. It’s being sought for reasons already presented to the Orleans County Legislature in an informational folder with facts to support the use of rifles in Orleans County. It all started by polling member clubs to see who is in favor of rifle hunting and who is against it. The majority of the clubs were in favor of it so a committee was formed to pursue it further.

For 10 months the committee talked with other Orleans County residents, had those in favor of the rifle bill sign a petition and consulted an expert, Mike VanDerme, who has extensive knowledge of Orleans County. His and other studies show a rifle is safer than a shotgun.

Habitat loss is the single biggest threat to wildlife worldwide. All buildings, shopping centers, houses, etc. built results in less habitat, but we’re still building them. Farming is big business in Orleans County that puts a high value on tillable land and with the large equipment used today, hedgerows and small wooded areas that provided good habitat, now don’t fit in a modern farmer’s operation.

Farm land is private property and farmers have a right to use their land to their advantage to earn a living. The rights of private property owners must be protected. The Federation supports habitat enhancement through stream buffers, migration projects and the work of the Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District.

The Orleans County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs works to be involved in environmental issues that threaten our area. Regarding the proposed Frontier Stone Quarry in Shelby, one or more representatives testified against it at the public hearing, attended various meetings and the Federation wrote a letter against it during the comment period. Regarding the proposed Lighthouse Wind project in the Town of Yates, again, Federation representatives attended meetings, gathered information, submitted a statement in opposition to the project with the NYS Dept. of Public Service and followed it with a letter.

There are methods in place to have your voice heard, but it takes effort, commitment, joining forces with like-minded sportsmen, joining one of the sportsmen’s clubs or forming your own.

Our meetings are open to the public and all are invited.  Next meeting is Saturday, January 21, 2017, at 9 am.  The NYSDEC will be there to give a report and answer questions.

The Orleans County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs was started in 1937 and has the following Preamble:  “We, the members of the Orleans County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, Inc., have set forth specific objectives for our activities which include: The propagation and protection of beneficial wildlife; To encourage the education in conservation matters; To cooperate with all organizations which have similar purposes; To maintain and purify the waters within the County of Orleans and To encourage the wise use of our natural resources. In so conducting ourselves, Orleans County will become a more attractive county in which to live and to work.”

Chris Rice, President

Mike Donahue, Vice President

Mike Elam, Treasurer

Orleans County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, Inc.

Landowners with leases for turbines shouldn’t face ire of neighbors

Posted 29 December 2016 at 9:03 pm

Editor:

To all of the windmill opponents, if you don’t like windmills or want to see them, I can respect that. Although some of the reasons for being against them are totally irrational.

Apex Energy hasn’t forced or coerced anyone into signing a lease agreement. People need to respect their neighbor’s decision to participate if they want to.

A landowner who pays their taxes should be able to utilize their land as they see fit.

People need to look at the tax base and realize the benefit to everyone.

Kirk Mathes

Barre

State Sen. Ortt rejects ‘sanctuary campuses’

Posted 29 December 2016 at 2:32 pm

Editor:

I have serious concerns about a dangerous and dire message that is being circulated publically to college students – our future leaders of tomorrow. In the months following this year’s presidential election, a movement to establish “sanctuary campuses” has erupted among several private and public institutions. And, as a member of the state Senate Committee on Higher Education, I will do everything in my power to keep that from happening.

I recently voiced my frustration in a letter to the SUNY Board of Trustees urging them to reject such a reckless policy and consider the potentially devastating long-term ramifications for our universities and students.

The movement supports undocumented students. It calls for campuses to continue components of President Obama’s unilateral 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) ahead of – and in spite of – the new President and Congress in 2017.

Bottom line – sanctuary campuses are a blatant disregard of federal law, and send the wrong message to students that violating the law is acceptable. University staff would be able to refuse to assist federal authorities in deporting illegal immigrants. Having a free pass in committing a flagrant violation of our laws at the expense of law-abiding New Yorkers is an outrage and downright offensive to our hard-working families.

Adopting sanctuary campuses would have disastrous outcomes. Billions of dollars in federal education aid could be at risk. That federal aid is what an overwhelming majority of hard-working college students rely on to afford their education. Moreover, many of these students are already struggling to pay their way due to the rising cost of college tuition. The move would only further burden students and families, causing many to reconsider if a college education is worth it.

Instead of becoming entangled in unnecessary partisan posturing, the SUNY system should take a hard stance on opposing sanctuary campuses. We need to shift our focus on expanding financial and career opportunities for our students and helping them to achieve the American dream.

Robert Ortt

(Ortt’s 62nd Senate District encompasses all of Niagara County, all of Orleans County, and the towns of Sweden and Ogden in Monroe County.)

Hunting in Orleans at a crossroads for long-term sustainability

Posted 23 December 2016 at 9:06 am

Editor:

While wrapping up another Whitetail Hunting Season in Orleans County, I had occasion recently to chew on some controversial issues associated with private property hunting in our fair county.

Why was I lingering on my stand these last days? My buddies and I had a very successful season, highlighted by camaraderie in the lodge, challenge in the field and the gratitude we felt in our surroundings. I lingered because I enjoy hunter habitat and experience as well as eating stew and antler shopping. This reflective time is invaluable to me, invariably leading to pondering the instinct of hunting enjoyment, time in nature and habitat, habitat, habit. You get it if you’ve been there.

Wildlife Management class in college and any subsequent discussion of the future of hunting involves primarily the enhancement and preservation of habitat and dynamics (i.e. travel corridors) in constantly changing cover types. Change in private property management has left Orleans hunters in a crunch for hunting rights and quality hunting experience opportunity. Either pay taxes, lease, post up and police your piece or travel to state land and take your chances who’s trespassing on your land back home. Long way from knocking on someone’s door (be careful anymore) asking for permission and having 90% of the people you ask say hey, or even a resounding OK.

My opinion (everybody has one) is there is more to be lost than gained in allowing center fire rifle hunting for Whitetails at this time. My concern isn’t with safety so much. (Thank God we haven’t had a shooting fatality while hunting county wide in a long time).

Mike VanDurme’s expertise in ballistics and firearm safety speaks for itself. (Published author on subject.) He incidentally represents the last and most proactive thing D.E.C has ever accomplished in Orleans County by busting the Albion landfill operator with the aid of a birdhouse camera in a hedgerow. How ironic!

Dedicated hunters who form clubs have earned their stripes through safe, ethical hunting and positive interaction with private woodlot owners, and corporate farmers alike. Anything that an ordinance approves applies to all hunters. It seems at this time more emphasis should be on fence mending, habitat improvement and rekindling the residual commonality that hunters, private property owners and corporate farmers share.

If this ordinance is approved at this time, we must be mindful of the responsibility and vigilance that another freedom entails. The D.E.C. hotline (although an effective tool) is dependent on heads up public scrutiny and is burdened by the bureaucratic nature of the agency itself. Are we as ethical sportsmen prepared to be “fun cops” for out of area or out of poaching option road hunters that have no vested interest in our county? More responsibility must then fall on overburdened D.E.C.

The future of this sport in our county is in defining the resource (or nuisance) as it exists and moving forward cooperatively with local, state and federal agencies. An eagle nest in a hedgerow represents not so coincidentally another perfect dynamic for our county to make a statement about what our “freedom” priorities should be in coveting this National symbol of the very same.

Anyone in Orleans in it to make our county more independently ours? Orleans County is at a crossroads in resource management sustainability. From our fish, forests, and farms – even to the keeping of your young hunters. How we effect the stewardship of our habit is of utmost priority now. (See N.Y. Sportsman November Issue, The 11th Commandment)

Still in it for the Hunt,

Kevin Kent

Albion

Towering turbines would encroach on life in Orleans

Posted 21 December 2016 at 8:43 am

Editor:

I read, with great interest, the Hub Article posted December 20, 2016 titled: “Orleans Expected to Press Congressional Action to Ban Turbines within 40 Miles of NF Air Base.”

It is extremely important to clear up some misinformation being communicated on the part of APEX.

1. APEX has indicated their desire to place 70 turbines in Yates and Somerset that will be at the height of 600 feet. Actually, APEX has clearly stated that they expect to use the tallest turbines in existence at the time of the Application to the New York Department of Public Service Siting Board.  Currently, the tallest turbines in existence are manufactured by General Electric and are 700 feet in height.  These turbines, in fact, could be even taller than 700 feet, if at the time of application, larger turbines come into existence.

So let’s all be clear.

APEX is planning on erecting 70 Industrial Wind Turbines in the Towns of Yates and Somerset.  Each of these 70 Industrial Wind Turbines will be at a minimum height of 700 feet.

700 feet is roughly equivalent to the height of a 70 story building.  Will the project encroach on the people, wildlife, environment and quality of life in Orleans County?  YOU BET IT WILL!!

2. Speaking of encroachment, the article also reported on APEX’s work on ensuring that any issue regarding their project and encroachment on the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS). Very interesting indeed.  APEX again quotes the following:

“Apex Clean Energy said the turbines would be more than 25 miles from the Air Reserve Station. Their proximity is a “non-issue,” the company said.

“Apex Clean Energy takes the safety and readiness of our military very seriously, and we work closely with the Department of Defense and its services to ensure our wind energy facilities do not adversely impact military missions,” Cat Strumlauf, Public Affairs Associate for Apex Clean Energy, said on Nov. 29 after Collins issued his news release.

Apex has been consulting with the Department of Defense and Niagara Falls Air Force Reserve Station regularly “to ensure that any concerns regarding the base’s operations are resolved before the project is built,” Strumlauf said.

My concern is that APEX, in quote after quote to the media, continues to indicate that they are working with NFARS base personnel and the Department of Defense to ensure resolution of concerns surrounding Industrial Wind Turbine encroachment on the base due to the Lighthouse Wind Project.  What APEX is not saying is that neither NFARS base personnel nor Department of Defense have any input on the decision to close NFARS.

Only the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) has the decision.

BRAC’s independence is critical to the realignment and closure process, as it ensures BRAC’s complete objectivity when assessing questions on the future of any military base.

APEX needs to come clean on this misdirection, as they are required by the Code of Conduct, and clearly state that they have no impact on the decision to close NFARS.

It is safe to assume that the very specter of APEX’s Lighthouse Wind Project does not strengthen probabilities for ongoing operations at NFARS via the BRAC assessment process.  This should be enough for all Western New Yorkers to join US Representative Collins, Legislatures of Erie, Niagara and Orleans Counties as well as the Western New York State Legislators’ delegation to oppose the APEX’s Lighthouse Wind Project.

John B. Riggi

Councilman, Town of Yates

Sportsmen should push to preserve wildlife habitat, oppose rifles to hunt deer

Posted 15 December 2016 at 6:45 pm

Editor:

My brother (Gary Kent) attended the Orleans County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs meeting on November 15. He was disheartened at the apparent indifference to loss of wildlife habitat in Orleans County by a group that should be all over it. We are losing it faster than we are creating it as the fate of hedgerows indicates.

The meeting was attended by County Legislator John DeFillipps, whose attention to his legislator duties, according to my brother, is refreshing. Those in attendance, however, seemed determined that allowing rifle hinting of deer in Orleans County was advisable.

Forty years of hunting deer in Orleans County convinces me that it is unnecessary and unwise. Many of my deer-hunting friends see it as not much more than an act of defiance against Cuomo and a statement of frustration with the S.A.F.E. Act.

There is no need for rifle hunting here. I doubt most serious ballistics experts would say that it is just as safe as shotgun hunting. Hunters who are determined to hunt with a rifle can hunt coyotes, fox and whistle pigs and go the short distance to Genesee County and hunt deer there if they need to. Allowing rifles to be used to take deer will encourage more outsiders, less likely to have an interest in our wildlife resources, to flock to Orleans County. Besides, there are more than enough options for taking deer now.

Another than that baffles my brother and people like me was none of the sportspersons at the meeting took him up on his offer to supply them with the turkey oak acorns I gathered earlier this Fall. There seems to be a disconnect between interest in hunting and maintaining the conditions and habitat required to make it a viable activity. For example, if wildlife has fewer and fewer hedgerows, less cover and less food, there will be less of it to enjoy seeing and hunting.

All this was combined with an apparent attitude on the part of many that resistance to the wind farms is futile. I agree with my brother that bringing those things in here will further destroy woodland habitat. Once that happens, it is well on the way to being over. There will be no turning back. Gary told me that he felt like attending the meeting may have been a waste of time. If organizations created to advocate for outdoorspeople don’t get stuff like this, who can we count on to get it? Woodland habitat for turkey, deer, birds of prey, cavity nesters like wood ducks and pileated woodpeckers, and other songbirds will be a casualty of falling for wind farms.

But what do I know? I’m just a stiff who cares about a good thing.

Yours in the woods,

Kevin Kent

Albion

Wind turbines generate unpredictable power – often at far less than capacity

Posted 14 December 2016 at 10:54 pm

Editor:

We have heard a great deal about the “200 mW Lighthouse Wind” facility proposed for Niagara and Orleans counties. I have several issues with this unrealistic statement of power to be provided.

First, the installed 1,749 megawatts (mW) of wind capacity currently installed in New York State generated an average of 455 mW in 2015, or 26 percent of installed capacity. (US Dept of Energy)

For the Lighthouse Wind project, an installed capacity of 200 mW will therefore yield an average of 52 mW. Confirming this number is Lighthouse Wind’s own statement that “up to 53,000 households” will be served.  Using data from the US Energy Information Administration for average household electrical consumption per month in New York State, average output of 46 mW from Lighthouse Wind may be calculated. This significant reduction from installed capacity is largely due to wind speeds which average below the speed necessary to generate a turbine’s full rated capacity.

In fact, if the wind speed is one-half of the turbine’s speed at rated capacity (typically 22 to 25 MPH), the output is one-eighth of the rated capacity. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

Second, the average output of 46 to 52 mW expected from the Lighthouse Wind project is gross output; we need to deduct from that output the power consumed by the wind turbines for yaw control, blade pitch control, blade de-icing, power consumed to start the blades spinning (at about 7 MPH wind speed), computers, nacelle heating and dehumidification, oil pumps, etc.

How much should this deduction be? The wind industry won’t divulge these numbers. “Trade secrets”, we are told. Governor Cuomo is asking us to endure tremendous devastation to our area for the sake of a measly 50 mW or so of power.

Third, the “Capacity Credit” – the percent of rated capacity which can be relied on without causing disruption to the electrical grid – is historically in the neighborhood of 10 percent to 15 percent of installed capacity, largely due to the variability of wind. (Midcontinent Independent System Operator)

In other words, we can depend on 20 to 30 mW of output reliably from the 200 mW Lighthouse Wind project, again minus that secret internal power consumption. This means that 170 to 180 mW or more of fossil-fuel capacity must be sitting idling, with all its necessary employees, ready to be placed into action when the wind dies down.

You can’t just decide to start up a fossil fuel plant from a cold condition when needed, so it sits idling at less than peak efficiency, cycling up and down as the variable electrical output from wind turbines changes, pumping out CO2 at a rate much higher than it would if it were allowed to run at a fixed or nearly fixed rate.

AWEA’s statistics on the amount of CO2 emissions reduced by wind turbines do not take into account the increased CO2 emissions resulting from inefficient use of fossil fuel power generation caused by reliance on wind power.  On Christmas Eve of 2004 in Germany, the system operators had to scramble to keep the grid from crashing when power generated from wind dropped from 6,000 mW to 2,000 mW in ten hours, at one point dropping by 16mW per minute. Soon after this experience, the operator announced plans to add 26 new coal-fired electric generating stations to ensure grid stability, calculating a capacity credit of only 8 percent from wind.  (German grid operator E.ON-Netz)

Germany’s experience shows that wind power will never replace generation facilities using fossil fuels, only supplement them when the wind is available.

Steve Royce

Appleton