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Locals can have input on turbines, but state committee gets final say

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 April 2015 at 12:00 am

Company eyes Yates, Somerset for 60 to 68 turbines

Photos by Tom Rivers – Cathi Orr, a Somerset resident who opposes “Lighthouse Wind,” speaks during a public meeting Wednesday at the Barker Fire Hall. About 150 people attended the 4:30 p.m. session. There was another one at 6:30.

BARKER – A State Siting Committee may have the final vote on whether Apex Clean Energy can build 60 to 68 wind turbines in the towns of Yates and Somerset, but local residents will have plenty of opportunities to weigh in and influence the project, including having two members on the seven-member Siting Committee.

That’s what about 150 people were told on Wednesday during a presentation at Barker Fire Hall from the state Department of Public Service.

“This process is long and involved and there are many opportunities to effect this process,” said Andrea Cerbin, attorney for the Department of Public Service.

Andrew Davis outlines the Article X process for a crowd of 150 people Wednesday at the Barker Fire Hall.

Cerbin and Andrew Davis, a utilities specialist with DPS, discussed the Article 10 process for permitting and siting wind turbine projects in New York State that exceed 25 megawatts.

The companies proposing the projects need to work with the state and local governments on scoping documents that identify potential issues in 41 categories, including health and safety issues, state and local law compliance, wildlife and numerous other issues.

“The applicant has its work cut out for them,” Davis said while presenting the Article 10 process. “It’s a robust set of requirements that must be addressed in the application.”

Andrew Davis goes over the Article X process with a slide-show presentation at the fire hall.

Apex also needs to evaluate “any reasonable and available alternative locations,” Davis said.

Companies need to pay the state up to $350 per megawatt in the scoping phase to help cover the state and local government’s expenses in reviewing the proposals.

Apex Clean Energy of Virginia wants to build a wind energy project with 200 megawatts close to the Lake Ontario shoreline in the two towns. The company would need to provide up $70,000 to the governments in the scoping phase of the application.

If Apex clears those hurdles, it then has to provide up to $1,000 per megawatt in the application phase or up to $200,000. Those documents and studies would be subject hearings from an administrative law judge.

Residents distributed signs opposing the plan for 60 to 68 wind turbines in the two rural towns.

Right now, Apex is at the preliminary scoping statement phase of the project. The state requires a public involvement plan as part of the process. Apex held its third public meeting about the project on Wednesday.

Besides the two local representatives on the Siting Committee, the seven-member group is 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.

The Apex project differs from many other wind turbine farms in that it is spread over two counties. It’s turbines are also taller than most other ones currently in operation. The Apex turbines would peak at up to 570 feet at the top of the blade. That’s about 150 feet higher than many of the turbines in Wyoming County.

Wes Bradley, a Yates town councilman, said each town – Yates and Somerset – should have a representative on the Siting Committee.

“My township needs representation and the other township needs representation,” Bradley said.

Wes Bradley, a Yates town councilman, said both Yates and Somerset should have a voice on the State Siting Committee.

Cerbin, the DPS attorney, agreed that “is a good concern,” but she said the State Senate and State Assembly leaders, as well as Gov. Cuomo will have the final say. The local communities can submit names of potential committee members.

During the meeting at Barker Fire Hall, several residents said they didn’t like the process with so much power given to the State Siting Committee and they didn’t understand why the state would entertain the project with the Somerset power plant and nearby hydropower in Lewiston.

“Why do we need these wind turbines?” one resident asked.

Davis said Apex has submitted a proposal and now the Public Service Commission needs insist the rules are followed and a host of potential impacts considered during the review process.

Some residents said the local community should have the majority of the votes on the Siting Committee, not 2 out of 7.

“We are a minority,” a resident told Davis, who responded, “That’s the math.”

John Riggi is president of Save Ontario Shores, which opposes the wind energy project in the two towns.

Many residents have banded together to form Save Ontario Shores, an opposition group to the turbine project. John Riggi, the group’s president, said the community should have the power to reject the turbines.

But Davis said the Siting Committee will make that decision, with local input.

“The municipality can not prevent the Siting Board from giving a certificate,” Davis said.

Residents are welcome to submit written comments throughout the process to the secretary of the Siting Committee: secretary@dps.ny.gov, by mail at Honorable Kathleen Burgess, NYS Siting Board, 3 Empire State Plaza, Albany NY 12223-1350, or by phone (800) 355-2120. The case number is 14-F-0485.