Somerset gets lion’s share of money to review Apex preliminary scoping statement

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 January 2016 at 12:00 am

Judges say Lighthouse Wind PSS not deficient

Photos by Tom Rivers – Three administrative law judges met at the Barker Fire Hall today to decide some issues with the proposed Lighthouse Wind project. The judges include, from left: David R. Van Ort and Sean Mullany of the Department of Public Service, and Richard A. Sherman from the Department of Environmental Conservation.

BARKER Three judges decided today that Apex Clean Energy wasn’t deficient in its preliminary scoping statement filed Nov. 23 and subject to hundreds of comments.

Somerset, Yates and Save Ontario Shores leaders have been among the critics of the PSS from Apex, saying the company didn’t provide specifics on the size of wind turbines, the exact locations and the turbine manufacturer.

The judges said the PSS wasn’t intended to have “precise” information, but instead to begin the public engagement process. The sizes, locations and other issues can be addressed if the application moves forward, the judges said.

Dan Spitzer, an attorney for the Town of Yates, said the town and residents are hampered in offering a meaningful critique and assessment of the PSS with so many unanswered questions.

Apex wants to build up to 71 wind turbines in Somerset and Yates that could be up to 620 feet high.

Yates and Somerset are among the parties that asked the PSS start over with Apex being forced to provide more details. But the judges denied that request today during a meeting in the Barker Fire Hall. The judges include David R. Van Ort and Sean Mullany of the Department of Public Service, and Richard A. Sherman from the Department of Environmental Conservation.

James Muscato, attorney for Apex Clean Energy, said the company is working to provide “robust” answers to questions about the project.

The trio of judges also made a decision on how to divvy up $70,350 in intervenor funds. That is money provided by Apex for municipalities and citizens groups to review the PSS. State law requires the company to provide $350 in funds for every proposed megawatt. Apex is proposing a 201-megawatt project.

The judges asked attorneys for Somerset, Yates and Save Ontario Shores to explain their estimates for expenses. The three entities identified about $140,000 in expenses, however there was only $70,350 from Apex for the review.

The judges met behind closed doors for about 20 minutes to determine how to split up the funds.

“There is just not enough money to go around, so obviously we’re going to have to make adjustments,” said David Van Ort, one of the judges.

Somerset will get the most: $40,350, followed by $20,500 for Yates, and $9,500 for Save Ontario Shores.

Van Ort told the three groups to work together to get the “biggest bang for the buck.” He also said attorneys could reduce some of their costs for postage and printing by using electronic mail.

Somerset officials identified up to $95,550 for reviewing the initial Preliminary Scoping Statement. That includes the expense of attorneys, engineers, an ornithologist to study the impact on wildlife, an expert on raptor migration to study the impact on wildlife, a real estate valuation advisor to study the potential impact on real estate values, and an audiologist to study the potential adverse health effects caused by the proposed project.

Attorneys and representatives for Yates, Somerset and Save Ontario Shores meet in the Barker Fire Hall after today’s meeting. Dan Spitzer, an attorney for Yates, is in center facing camera.

Yates identified $26,381.25 in costs for legal and engineering services, and Save Ontario Shores sought $19,430 to focus on acoustics, electrical issues, viable alternatives, water resources, biodiversity, and wildlife impacts. SOS has hired environmental attorney Gary Abraham.

Even though the judges approved the intervenor funding today, Van Ort said the two towns and SOS will need to submit bills with an explanation of the services provided. Each disbursement will be subject to review and approval by the judges.

Apex has until Feb. 11 to respond to “several hundred” comments on the PSS. After those responses, Apex officials said they look forward to more formal conversations about the project with the community and state agencies, said Taylor Quarles, development manager for Lighthouse Wind.

Jim Muscato, an attorney for Apex, told the judges and about 100 people at today’s meeting that the company is working to address the comments on the PSS.

“We want to provide full and robust and meaningful responses,” he said.