County legislators are ‘outraged’ with state process for siting Yates, Somerset turbines

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 October 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Some of the turbines that peak at about 400 feet high are pictured in Sheldon, Wyoming County. The turbines proposed for Yates and Somerset would reach 570 feet high.

ALBION – Orleans County legislators may be taking a wait-and-see approach with a proposed wind energy project in Yates and Somerset, but the county officials aren’t holding back their opinions on the loss of local control in deciding the fate of the project.

“Every New Yorker should be outraged with Albany stepping on local governments,” said Legislator Don Allport, R-Gaines.

The state has previously allowed the local governments to have the final say with wind turbines, landfills and other projects.

But the state has created a Siting Committee for large-scale wind turbine projects, including the proposed “Lighthouse Wind” from Apex Clean Energy in Yates and Somerset.

The seven-member Siting Committee is to include two members from the local project area. The committee will be chaired by the state Department of Public Service and includes the leaders of four other state departments: Department of Environmental Conservation, NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority), Empire State Development and the Department of Health.

State officials have five of the seven votes.

“People should be outraged that Albany can sit there and dictate what goes into a town or village,” Allport said at Wednesday’s County Legislature meeting. “Every citizen in New York, regardless of where they live, should be outraged.”

The Town of Albion likely wouldn’t have been able to stop Waste Management from building an 80-acre landfill in the late 1990s if the state had changed “home rule” and didn’t give the localities the final say in the process, Allport said.

The Legislature expects to pass a formal resolution condemning the state’s shift in the Article X process, giving the final vote to the Siting Committee. Legislature Chairman David Callard said the county will try to get all 10 towns and four villages in the county to pass similar resolutions.

“The Orleans County Legislature will take on the fight,” Callard said. “We’re going to take on the fight because really it’s a matter of principle and it affects the towns and villages.”

Callard and the Legislature have declined to weigh in on the Apex project specifically. Callard wants to see the results of a town-wide survey on the wind project before the Legislature votes whether to support or oppose it.

The Niagara County Legislature passed a formal resolution against the project after a survey by the Town of Somerset showed strong opposition to the project.

Yates officials are working with a member from Save Ontario Shores, a citizens group opposed to the wind turbines, and Apex Wind Energy on the survey. SOS did its own survey earlier this month and found 77.9 percent of the 421 respondents opposed the project.