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Prattsburgh Fiaso Unfolds


Prattsburgh tables eminent domain issue

7/18/08, Prattsburgh, N.Y. - A final vote by the Prattsburgh Town Board on whether to move ahead with eminent domain proceedings is on hold for a week.

The town board agreed Tuesday night to a proposal by town Councilman Steve Kula to try to iron out legal difficulties with two local school districts before voting on the eminent domain issue.

The board will invite representatives from the Prattsburgh and Naples central schools, the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency, and the county to discuss their issues in executive session at 7 p.m. June 24 at the town hall.

Earlier this year, the school districts challenged both an agreement between the town and wind farm developer UPC and a 20-year tax break for the developer provided by SCIDA. UPC has since changed its name to First Wind.

The two districts charge the town agreement was used to reduce payments they should receive through SCIDA’s tax incentive. The districts estimate they will lose a total of $1.6 million in funds they would have received under similar SCIDA agreements.

“I just want to be sure we’re playing from the same playing field,” Kula said later. “I want honesty and openness.”

Representatives of several of the agencies met recently with SCIDA board member and county Legislature Chairman Philip Roche, R-Erwin, but no settlement was reached. First Wind was not asked to attend the meeting.

The town board was poised to vote Tuesday night on condemning portions of roadway owned by seven property owners, a step necessary before eminent domain proceedings can begin. The seven have refused to sign easements allowing First Wind to lay underground electrical transmission cables for the proposed 36-turbine windfarm.

Tempers grew heated at the meeting as residents questioned town Attorney John Leyden about the proceedings.

Leyden said 60 out of 70 written concerns submitted during a recent public comment period had no bearing on whether the roadway should be condemned. Leyden said the comments dealt with the value of the wind farm and not condemnation.

The board will make a decision based on oral comments, 18 exhibits and the written comments, he said.

Ruth Matilsky, an opponent of the project, said Leyden’s explanations added to her confusion.

“I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone,” she said.

The questions about the proceedings angered one man, who said the seven property owners should be forced to sign.

After words were exchanged between those for and against the issue, town Supervisor Harold McConnell told the opponents they had no right to tell supporters to shut up.

“You people make me sick,” he said, angrily.

by Mary Perham, Corning Leader

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Judge Nixes Iberdrola Deal


PSC should kill Iberdrola deal, law judge says

The state Public Service Commission should reject the proposed takeover of Energy East Corp. by a big Spanish utility, an administrative law judge said today in a much-awaited recommendation.

Energy East is the parent of both Rochester Gas and Electric and New York State Electric and Gas.

The Department of Public Service law judge, Rafael Epstein, picked apart the proposed $4.5 billion deal between Iberdrola SA and Energy East, writing that the commission should disapprove the transaction “on the ground that it does not satisfy the ‘public-interest’ requirement of Public Service Law.”

But if the commission does approve the sale of Energy East, there are pre-conditions that should be met, he wrote.

They include forcing Iberdrola to sell its wind power plants in New York; to agree to $646 million in public-benefit adjustments; and to abide by safeguards and rate proceedings as proposed by the PSC staff.

Iberdrola officials had earlier said they would walk away from the deal, which has been approved by other affected states and the federal government, if New York demanded they sell their wind power farms.

Epstein's recommendation sets the stage for the parties in the case to respond - they have until July 1 to do so -- and then a vote by the PSC.

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Farmland to Forest - Part 2

The Pioneer Farmer

This is part two of a four-part story by Bill Banaszewski about the land surrounding the Finger Lakes and the wildlife and people who inhabited it. While many details are based on research in Livingston, Ontario, Yates and Tompkins counties, the story is representative of the entire hilly landscape of the region.

The year was 1779, and the Seneca Nation’s political dominance in the central Finger Lakes was about to end. Two years after the Seneca joined the American Revolution on the side of England, American General John Sullivan brought 5,000 soldiers to the Finger Lakes with orders from George Washington to destroy the crops and settlements of the Iroquois Confederacy. Ironically, Sullivan used fire, a tool of the Seneca, to lay waste to food supplies and villages all across the region. The traditional way of life of the Seneca Nation was over.

The first immigrants to America and the settlers who came to the Finger Lakes then had a markedly different view about natural resources than the Seneca. In his book, The American Indian as a Hunter, John Whitthoft explains that land, trees and wildlife were not subject to individual control and ownership. To the Seneca, these natural resources were allies and part of a shared domain controlled by the supernatural. In contrast, early white settlers sought property rights to natural resources in order to exploit and transform them.

Pioneer farmers harvested deer, small mammals, birds and fish as sources of food and clothing, and for barter. However, they relentlessly hunted wolves, cougar, bear, fox, snakes, hawks and owls; these animals were considered enemies because they preyed on livestock. Bounties were established on nearly all predators, and $10 bounties for large predators, like panthers and wolves, were common.

In the History of Yates County, a farmer from the town of Jerusalem recalled, “In 1800, wolves were so numerous that on many occasions I listened to their discordant chorus – wolves were making the night hideous with frightful howls. One night when my dog was absent, a wolf seized a sheep and disemboweled it within a few feet of the house door.”

As similar stories became abundant, pioneer farmers were prompted to take action in a big way. “In 1811, wolves were driven off by a great hunt in which a line of men posted at 5 rods distance from each other extending from Penn Yan a distance of 18 miles reaching into Steuben drove the vagabonds before them to the south.”

Scattered records left by early settlers indicated that bear were also numerous and troublesome: “The pigsty, no matter how strongly protected, was no challenge to hungry bruins who developed a taste bordering on mania for tender pork.”

Hunting bears became so intense that one hunter shot five bears in one day. Bounties were profitable, but bears were also an important source of food, clothing and cooking grease. A Mrs. Crane of Yates County recalled that no less than 50 bears were killed in one year around the lower part of Keuka Lake. By 1830 bear had been hunted to the point that a bear sighting was news.

As predators were eliminated, deer numbers increased. Hunters of the day used various practices to slay deer. Blinds were built near salt licks. When the deer approached the licks, night hunters would shine lights in their eyes and the bewildered deer, frozen in place, were easily shot. Fawns were captured and kept as pets. When they matured, hunters put bells around the deer necks, and they would come and go freely. In the woods they mingled with other deer and were a great help to hunters – the sound of the bells indicated where more deer might be found.

Each year, farmers typically harvested two or three deer for food, but when the railroads were constructed in the 1830s, market hunting took over and became big business. Deer, passenger pigeons and other wildlife were sent by train to restaurants in New York City. One famous hunter, Bona DeRock of the Genesee area, “reckoned he shot 2,000 (total) deer and 102 in one season.”

By 1850, the hillsides surrounding the Finger Lakes were markedly different than they were when the Iroquois Confederacy was founded in 1142. Thousands of acres had been stripped clear of trees, and the hillsides were alive with small farms. A combination of factors, including loss of habitat, bounties, unregulated hunting and market hunting, resulted in dramatic declines in wildlife populations. Little thought was given to these declines. By 1860, joining deer in virtual extinction were wolf, cougar, bear, bobcat, beaver, snowshoe hare and turkey. Fox, owls and hawks were scarce.

This dramatic transformation was not the last one the Finger Lakes would experience. It would soon be time for another change agent, natural succession, to take control in the region.

Farmland to Forest is adapted from a multimedia presentation coproduced by Bill Banaszewski and his friend and colleague, the late John Meuser, while they were professors at Finger Lakes Community College. Watch for Part III: “Abandonment” in the Fall Issue of Life in the Finger Lakes.

Click here to read Part I.

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Most Get It


A new stewardship campaign paints evangelicals a lighter shade of green


Are evangelicals buying into global warming alarmism? Since February 2006, media reports throughout the country have claimed as much, often citing the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI), a document calling for federal caps on greenhouse-gas emissions and boasting the support of such influential Christian leaders as Rick Warren and Bill Hybels.

But recent research from The Barna Group indicates that evangelicals are among the most reticent people to board the climate change bandwagon. Only 33 percent of evangelicals in America consider global warming a major problem, compared to 62 percent of non-Christian religious people and 69 percent of atheists and agnostics.

Now, voices from the two-thirds majority of evangelical global warming skeptics have launched an initiative aimed at matching the decibel level of ECI backers. The "We Get It" campaign purports to better represent evangelicals regarding environmental stewardship. Chief among its declarations is an economic analysis suggesting that proposed solutions to climate change would do more to harm the world's poor than the potential impacts of rising global temperatures.

Click here to read the entire article by Mark Bergin in this week's issue of WORLD Magazine.

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Renewables Need Backup

E.ON warns over backup for renewables

In an article this past week in UK's The Guardian Mark Milner briefly reports that one of the major problems "renewable energy" (read "wind-generated energy") has is its need for constant backup:


One of Britain's leading energy providers warned yesterday that Britain will need substantial fossil fuel generation to back up the renewable energy it needs to meet European Union targets. The UK has to meet a target of 15% of energy from renewables by 2020.*

E.ON said that it could take 50 gigawatts of renewable electricity generation to meet the EU target. But it would require up to 90% of this amount as backup from coal and gas plants to ensure supply when intermittent renewable supplies were not available. That would push Britain's installed power base from the existing 76 gigawatts to 120 gigawatts.

Paul Golby, E.ON UK's chief executive, declined to be drawn on how much the expansion would cost, beyond saying it would be "significant". Industry sources estimate the bill for additional generation could be well in excess of £50bn.

E.ON's calculations are part of what the company calls its energy manifesto - designed to draw attention to what Golby described as Britain's "trilemma" - balancing the priorities of carbon, costs and energy security.

"We are calling for a new balanced and honest debate about the UK's energy needs, one that truly assesses the consequences in terms of carbon, cost and security of our energy choices."

E.ON is investing or has plans to invest in a series of new generation projects including wind, marine, gas and coal and has indicated interest in new nuclear stations. Golby said he wanted to to confront single-issue campaigners.

*It's interesting to compare the more modest European goal of attaining 15% renewable energy by 2020 with New York State's overweaning goal of 25% by 2013. Both goals are stretches with negative downsides. However, NYS already has 16% renewable in the form of hydro and another 28% in non-carbon emitting nuclear power. Why do we need fickle, expensive wind power, other than to clutter the natural beauty of our lovely state and enrich the coffers of Iberdrola and its ilk at the expense of NY tax- and rate-payers?

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New Nina Pierpont Book

Details:

  • Available August 2008.
  • Approx. $10 + shipping. Discounted bulk orders.
  • The complete and authoritative report on Wind Turbine Syndrome to date.
  • Includes peer-review reports by American medical school faculty and other American scientists (including acousticians).
  • Intended for clinicians and people living in the shadow of wind turbines.
  • Based on the evidence presented, it calls for a minimum of 2 km setbacks of industrial turbines from people's homes.

Visit www.windturbinesyndrome.com for purchasing information.

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Letter to the Governor

Governor David A. Paterson
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

RE: State Energy Policy and Iberdrola Takeover of Energy East

Dear Governor Patterson:

You have inherited policies from two previous administrations, and your agencies are still tenaciously clinging to these policies and promoting them. Times have changed, however, and it is imperative that you reformulate at least one of those policies – the state energy policy.

As a Democrat in a heavily Republican district, I can tell you that trouble is brewing here around the most contentious issue to appear in upstate New York since the Abolition Movement. Wind turbine construction is seen as a huge threat to our economy and our way of life in upstate New York. Citizens are becoming aware of the scam that Iberdrola and other wind developers are perpetrating on us, and in this post-Enron era, the public has little patience for corporations that lie, cheat, and steal. This undoubtedly will become an election issue next fall, and political hopefuls are recognizing the importance of being on the right side of this issue. Politicians who encourage Iberdrola’s takeover of Energy East, who support Article X, who champion wind development as the solution to our energy crisis, will find themselves criticized, ridiculed, and heavily challenged come fall.

Please provide leadership to our party, and give these incumbents and challengers the support of a thoroughly enlightened, objective, and science-based energy policy. Clean house at NYSERDA, where too many officials have close ties to the industries they are supposed to be overseeing. Redirect DEC, OPRHP, and Ag & Markets to return to their mission of protecting the resources under their charge, rather than exploiting them for corporate profit. It is becoming painfully clear that the Pataki administration led us way off track in this regard. We are looking to Democrats to set things right. If they don’t, they stand little chance of beating back Republicans in the next gubernatorial race.

The party that shows the public that it is not in the pocket of foreign corporations, but instead is courageously standing up to their posturing and threats, will ultimately be the one that triumphs here. Please support the Public Service Commission in its efforts to save us from being exploited by a foreign corporation. Please give clear instructions to your agencies that they must safeguard the welfare of all the people of New York State, and not just a tiny fraction of wealthy businesses. Your leadership is key.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

Sincerely,

Andrea Rebeck, AIA Columbia University ‘78
4652 Oak Orchard Road, Albion, NY 14411-9509
Telephone: 585-590-1199

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Prattsburgh Testimony

EMINENT DOMAIN:
Do they have what it takes to take what you have? Ask the people in Prattsburgh, NY


On May 21, 2008 nearly 150 people attended a public hearing in Prattsburgh on a proposal for the town to seize the roadway owned by seven residents. The properties are needed for a 100-mile underground electrical cable system for the 36-turbine wind farm being developed by UPC (now “First”) Wind.

Don't believe it? Click here to read more. Or click here to watch a video of residents faced with having their land taken in order to accommodate an industrial wind farm. Or click on each name of those giving testimony to link to video of that testimony.

FROM THE TESTIMONY OF RESIDENT RON IOCONO
When you had the eminent domain hearing April 21st, [I received] a certified letter that was postmarked on the 17th, a Thursday. By the time I received this letter on Monday the 21st I would have had to have driven 350 miles in six hours to attend the hearing. Right now what's taking place in this town affects people all across the United States. Eminent domain is a very serious issue
- nobody's property is safe.

FROM THE TESTIMONY OF EDWARD CERRA
If you think a project of this magnitude is accepted by the residents of Prattsburgh, then why wasn't this put up for a general vote by the residents? The reason is because you all know it never would have passed. A man's land and his home are second only to his family. I hope you realize the Pandora's box you are opening over this eminent domain. The magnitude of the power you are authorizing is beyond expression. Whether you are for the turbines or not, authorizing eminent domain will affect every member of this community.

What's next for eminent domain issues? Gas companies are pounding on our doors as we speak for easement rights. If I say no, they're going to come running to this board and request eminent domain. You do it for one, then the precedent is set for all other corporate giants to hand this board a bauble and get their way.

FROM THE TESTIMONY OF CARL RAYMOND
Was it proper to threaten property owners with eminent domain before the April 22 meeting? Because two of my neighbors were threatened, and eventually did sign easements. One of my neighbors did not cave in, but she was also threatened with eminent domain before it was even discussed in a public hearing. It's a question of ethics, and what's right and what's wrong. And for foreign owned companies to come into this community and tell people they're going to take their land, U.S. property, because of eminent domain, is not right.

FROM THE TESTIMONY OF STEPHANIE LIPP
Prattsburgh is indeed economically and socially depressed. It has been for many years. It's clear that's one of the main reasons members of the board have signed host agreements with industrial wind turbine corporations that promise to bring such growth and positive changes.

If the wind farms are allowed to come here based on eminent domain, it will truly be a miscarriage of justice. The streets of this village will be paved with gold if what [developer] First Wind is promising is true. You have only to look at other communities where they have built, and then left, to know that will not be the case.

I urge everyone who believes this power is clean or green to do your own research. You really don't have to dig very far to see the truth. It's important for all of you to know that many who oppose industrial wind turbines are very committed to the earth and trying to reduce our personal carbon footprints, reducing our consumption, using solar, or photo voltaics, which doesn't hurt your neighbors.

Continued below:

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Prattsburgh Testimony, 2

FROM THE TESTIMONY OF JUDITH HALL

This is not about turbines or no turbines this is about fundamental rights of all property owners. .....The night you passed the resolution [for eminent domain] the entire presentation by UPC was about eight properties along Fisher Road. When the resolution was read, it encompassed the whole project area.

FROM THE TESTIMONY OF CARL WAHLSTROM
There are just three Prattsburgh residents [who will benefit from the wind farm]
- Mr. Taylor, the Jensons, and the Smiths. Ms. Jenson made a statement at a public hearing and she mentioned she had lived around wind turbines and it wasn't bad, that you get used to them. After the hearing my wife and I approached her and asked how close she had lived to the turbines. She replied, “Around twenty miles away.”

FROM THE TESTIMONY OF NANCY WAHLSTROM
Taking land from individuals to push through this project is disgraceful.... we know that only three people with wind turbines actually live in Prattsburgh. We know all 170 adjacent landowners whose property will be devalued will result in harm to the entire tax base of this town...


We need confirmation that any insurance that is provided through UPC project is aware of the setbacks of this project and that they are within what has been determined to be a hardhat area for Vestas turbines, 1300 feet, and does not meet GE manufacturers specifications for safety.

FROM THE TESTIMONY OF BROOKE PREVEAR
Last month I was informed of the town boards intent to use eminent domain in order to complete UPC's wind farm project. I attended the April 21st town board meeting. The main focus of this meeting was on eight parcels of land in which eminent domain would be used in order complete UPC's project. It was stated that the owners of these properties had been sent certified letters informing them of the vote to be held that evening. The eight properties discussed are positioned on Rosie Hill, Block School, Fisher and Cook School Roads. Those are four roads.

Just prior to voting, the resolution was read. Rather than listing the eight properties discussed during the meeting, the resolution gave approval for eminent domain to be used on any property positioned along those four roads as well as four additional roads that were not mentioned once during the meeting. I find this exclusion of information very deceiving. My property happens to be located on one of those roads. I am directly affected by the town boards vote to use eminent domain but I've received no notification regarding this matter. No certified letter inviting me to attend a meeting in which a vote was held to condemn my land. It concerns me that the town board would or could pass a resolution of such magnitude without contacting all the landowners who would be directly affected by it. It also concerns me that a resolution of this magnitude is being passed in favor of UPC, a private corporation, not a public utility. In fact at the April 21st meeting, UPC was asked, and refused to reveal their wind data. How can we consider this project a benefit to the community when UPC won't disclose their supporting data?

FROM THE TESTIMONY OF STEVE TRUDE
What's really surprising about eminent domain is what it's doing to your community - it's ripping you apart. What it's also doing, which is not listed in any of the studies is people's health or welfare, or any health effects from emotional stress due to an eminent domain situation.... What we're doing here is setting a precedent for the rest of the state. All these wind farms, which you know are coming in all over the state now, are going to use anything possible to get the job done.... Is any amount of money worth it?

FROM THE TESTIMONY OF ALAN ISSELHARD
The beneficiaries of Prattsburgh's eminent domain actions are not the general public, as required by eminent domain laws, the fundamental justification for exercising property condemnation and acquisition has not been met. ...This eminent domain action will benefit only the wind developer and not the community at large.

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