WNY health departments want state to insist on stringent environmental review of turbine projects

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 September 2018 at 8:11 pm

File photo by Tom Rivers: This photo from Oct. 14, 2015 shows some of the 400-foot-high turbines in Sheldon, Wyoming County. Apex Clean Energy is proposing projects that would have taller turbines in Barre, and also the towns of Yates and Somerset.

The Western New York Public Health Alliance, which includes the public health departments in Orleans and seven other counties, is asking the state to make sure industrial wind turbines get a stringent environmental review that addresses local concerns.

The state, since it enacted the Article 10 process for siting large-scale wind energy project, has waived a thorough environmental review at the local level. By deeming the projects Type II actions a more detailed environmental review can be waived at the local level, The Western New York Public Health Alliance wrote in a letter to the Public Service Commission.

“Under the Article 10 legislation, our local boards of health home rule ability to take steps to safeguard the health and wellness of our residents and protect the environment within our counties has been put at risk,” according to a June 12 letter from the WNY Public Health Alliance.

The Alliance sent the letter to the Honorable Kathleen H. Burgess, secretary to the commissioner of the Public Service Commission. The Alliance today sent a press release to the media, drawing attention to the group’s stance on the issue.

“What is the State’s position and plan to ensure that our residents’ health is protected and the impacts on our local environment have been reviewed and vetted through the standard state assessments for projects of this magnitude?” the letter asks.

The Boards of Health for Niagara and Orleans have earlier sent a similar letter to the Public Service Commission, asking that environmental concerns over the projects be a high priority.

“Our membership believes that any project of this nature and magnitude only be considered following a complete and transparent process including all the standard environmental and health impact studies and local input,” the Alliance states in its letter. “The WNYPHA, lacking both the resource and expertise in this very broad matter, believe it is both reasonable and prudent to require a full SEQRA environmental review prior to any further consideration or action by the Article 10 Siting Board.”

The state has formed a seven-member Siting Board that includes two representatives from a local community where a project is proposed, as well as the chairman of the Department of Public Service, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, commissioner of the Department of Health, chairman of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and the commissioner of Economic Development.

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