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Updates

 

Abandoned property

The company that was going to rejuvenate the economy of New London, Conn.—the site of the Kelo v. City of New London case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that it was legal for a government to use eminent domain to seize property for private economic development—is pulling out of New London and moving on.

Pfizer, Inc. has merged with Wyeth and just announced that it is moving most of its 1,400 employees to nearby Groton. Opponents of eminent domain are pointing to the move as proof that the development project was ill-conceived from the beginning. Scott Bullock, co-counsel for the case with the Institute for Justice, called Pfizer the "very lynchpin of the project" and said, "All of this really just demonstrates the folly of government abusing eminent domain and granting massive corporate welfare to corporations and to developers." Project supporters argue that the economy is to blame for the development halt.

As reported in "The Buzz" in WORLD Magazine's December 5, 2009 issue.

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Wind Turbine Syndrome

Clinical study of health effects of large wind turbines published

Rowe, Mass., Nov. 28, 2009 -- Dr. Nina Pierpont, a pediatrician and population biologist in Malone, New York, has announced the publication of her book-length study: Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Report on a Natural Experiment.

In interviews with 10 families living 1,000-4,900 feet away from recently built industrial-size wind turbines, a "cluster" of symptoms was revealed: from sleep disturbance, which affected almost everyone, to headache to tinnitus, vertigo, nausea, irritability, memory and concentration problems, and panic episodes. Industrial wind turbines have a total height of 300-400 feet or more, with blades of 125-150 feet that sweep 1.5-2 acres of vertical airspace.

The book includes supportive reviews and notices by several noted physicians in related disciplines. Although primarily directed towards medical professionals, it includes an informative and often poetic version for the lay audience.

The individuals affected by Wind Turbine Syndrome noticed that they developed symptoms after the turbines near their homes started turning. Symptoms were relieved when they left the area and resumed on their return. Eight of the ten families eventually moved away from their homes because of the severity of the symptoms.

Although not everyone living near turbines is subject to these symptoms, the data Pierpont presents are a concern, considering the current political drive to construct more and ever larger industrial wind turbines close to people's homes, as well as in the habitats of other equally or more sensitive animals.

Pierpont's sample size was large enough to show that individuals with pre-existing migraines, motion sensitivity, or inner ear damage are particularly vulnerable. People with anxiety or other mental health problems are not particularly susceptible, she says, contradicting the common claim of industry developers that "it's all in their head".

"This report is a public health wake-up call that our elected officials and administrators need to take very seriously", said Eric Rosenbloom, president of National Wind Watch, a clearinghouse for information about the adverse effects of industrial wind energy development.

Pierpont and other health and noise experts agree that at a minimum, large wind turbines should be 2 kilometers (1-1/4 miles) from any residence.

According to Pierpont, low-frequency noise or vibration from the wind turbines acts on the balance organs of the inner ear to make the body think it is moving. And this misperception of motion affects other brain functions, including physical reflexes, spatial processing and memory, and physiological fear responses (such as pounding heart and nausea).

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We Have the Right

Ecogen Wind LLC's lawsuit claims the town of Italy, Yates County, delayed a decision on its industrial wind development proposal since 2002 and now can't deny its application (Nov. 5 story). In reality, Ecogen caused this long, drawn-out, expensive process by refusing to accept the town's original decision to remain non-industrial. A 2006 zoning law prohibiting industrial turbines, two town-wide surveys and several public hearings on this issue demonstrated that Italy wants to preserve its major strengths — natural beauty and a peaceful rural character. It was Ecogen's lawsuit threats and unrelenting pressure on the Town Board that led to a reluctantly made zoning law revision, application review and final denial.

Evidence submitted by citizens overwhelmingly showed that the short setbacks and high noise levels required to fit Ecogen's massive facility among our homes could damage Italy residents' welfare, property values, health and safety. Cohocton's experience with industrial wind turbines has been a nightmare and a learning experience. Recent elections in Italy and Prattsburgh clearly showed the people's choice to remain turbine-free.

We should have the right to say "no."

—Joan Simmons, Italy, Yates County

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Wind Opponents Win Hartsville

The results of the Hartsville race are in, and Zena Andrus has been elected Hartsville's new town supervisor. An independent candidate, Mrs. Andrus won with 112 votes over Republican Alice Bosch's 104. "I would like to thank all of the residents that took time out of their busy lives to come to the town hall and vote for me," said Mrs. Andrus. "It was a long wait from the time we voted until the results were finally tabulated but the new machines will make voting more accurate in the future. Alice Bosch was a worthy opponent and ran a clean campaign."

One factor that added to the Andrus victory was the fact that just before the election, the three way supervisor race became a two way race, between Zena Andrus and Alice Bosch. That was due to Mike Muhleisan dropping out of the supervisor's contest, and lent his support to the Zena Andrus campaign. "He was a great adversary and I appreciate his stepping down to support me in my quest for the role of Supervisor," Mrs. Andrus said after the election was finally finished.

Other Hartsville Town Board winners include Jim Perry (120 votes), Tom Dobell (115 votes). Perry and Dobell defeated Nick Petito and Ron Amidon, both Petito and Amidon recieved 103 votes.

The biggest issue in the Hartsville race is wind energy. Because of the defeat of the pro-wind candidates, it is now uncertain whether or not there will in fact be a wind project for the Town of Hartsville. If there is no wind project in Hartsville, there will be no wind project in Hornellsville.

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Post-Election Lawsuits

Which way did windmill voting tilt?

Steve Orr, Staff writer, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

As we’ve been reporting, a wind-power development company called Ecogen Wind has filed suit against the town of Prattsburgh, Steuben County seeking a judicial order allowing it to proceed with construction of a wind farm there without town board approval. This comes in the heels of a similar court action by Ecogen in early November against the neighboring town of Italy, Yates County, asking a judge to set aside a town board vote killing the project.

Ecogen, based in suburban Buffalo and backed by a firm with offices in San Francisco and Houston, wants to build a 33-turbine wind farm in the hills of the two towns, which lie not far from the southern end of Canandaigua Lake.

At least part of the motivation behind these bare-knuckles lawsuits is the fact that voters in Italy and Prattsburgh elected anti-wind farm slates in voting earlier this month. Ecogen clearly fears the new boards will try to deep-six their project, on which they say they have spent $13 million so far.

The question I have is whether the voting in the two neighboring towns is part of a groundswell of opposition to industrial-scale wind farms in New York’s rural towns. There are several dozen wind farm proposals resting with town boards across the state, including some in the Rochester region - and most of the host towns had local elections on November 3. Someone I spoke with recently suggested a number of those elections did tilt against windmills.

This is where I’d like to enlist you visitors to help. If you know who won and who lost in town elections where wind farms were a major issue, post a comment here or shoot me an e-mail. Between your information and what I’m able to gather, I’ll post a running tally as we move along.

By the way, here are the legal petitions filed by Ecogen against the towns of Italy and Prattsburgh. They’re slow going if you don’t like legalese, but they might be worth reading – for the rural town-versus-wind farm conflict could prove significant in New York’s renewable energy future.

Response:
In Italy the town voted to replace 3 of the town board members including the supervisor. Italy has been more reasonable than Prattsburgh as far as the current town board and their work on turbines. Prattsburgh who suffered through ridiculous 3-2 votes in favor of wind for the past several years has turned the tide and has now 4-1 in favor of Town Board Members that are not going to be greenwashed by Ecogen/Pattern Energy. The basis to both of these lawsuits is that the towns of Italy and Prattsburgh have used our democratic process and shown that they are "Mad as hell. and not going to take it anymore." Now the greedy corporation will turn to a bevy of lawyers to twist the facts into some sort of feeble attempt to go against the will of the people.... Maybe it is time for another Tea Party!

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Italy Responds to Threat

Town to fight wind company lawsuit

By Julie Sherwood, Staff Writer, Daily Messenger

A fight over whether a proposed wind turbine project bordering Naples will go forward heated up last week when the developer filed a lawsuit against the town, where 17 turbines were to go up.

The Article 78 action, filed in state Supreme Court in Monroe County by developer Ecogen Wind LLC, seeks to overturn the Town Board’s decision to stop the project by denying approvals and placing a moratorium on its development.

Last month, the board unanimously rejected the proposed wind turbine project, determining the gigantic, power-generating machines would have a negative effect on the environment. The board also imposed a six-month moratorium on wind turbines following a public hearing.

The decision followed a meeting the previous month attended by 116 residents. Most of those who spoke opposed the project over concerns about noise, light flicker, positioning on steep slopes and other concerns.

Supervisor-elect Brad Jones said he and other elected officials are ready to challenge the lawsuit that claims the town acted improperly and illegally in rejecting the project’s application.

“You don’t try to build a big industrial project when 70 to 80 percent said ‘we don’t want
industrialization in the town,’” said Jones. His family, like most others in Italy, choose to live there because of family history and the town’s rural character, he said.

“We need to represent the will of the people,” added Jones. “We will continue to fight.”

Messages left with Nixon Peabody LLP, Ecogen’s legal representative on the case, were not returned. Beth O’Brien, a spokeswoman with Ecogen’s partner on the project, Pattern Energy Group, said she could not comment because of the pending litigation.

Ed Premo, with Harter Secrest & Emery LLP, which represents the town, said the Town Board did due diligence.

“It went through the process of carefully reviewing the application, went through two public hearings and carefully considered all documents and evidence,” he said, before the board determined the benefits Ecogen offered did not outweigh “the substantial adverse impacts of the project.”

Jones said Ecogen had bought several properties in the town, with plans to build turbines there, claiming in the lawsuit it had spent between $10 million and $12 million on those land deals, while pegging its entire cost for the project at more than $150 million.

Town resident Vince Johnson said he plans to ask the town to set up a legal-defense fund to pay for the ongoing costs in fighting Ecogen in court.

“Sadly, Ecogen is coming back to town again with a legal gun and trying to bleed the town dry,” he said.

Italy and Ecogen have been involved in several legal battles involving the turbine project, which is tied to one in neighboring Prattsburgh. Ecogen and Pattern Energy Group want to put up 33 wind turbines across the two towns, with the companies saying the Prattsburgh project depends on getting the permit from Italy.

Naples also has a lot at stake. This summer the Naples Town Board asked the state’s Public Service Commission to stop development of turbines that would be built close to the town line. The town has focused on five turbines that Ecogen’s original plans sited on Knapp Hill in Prattsburgh. One would be within 250 feet of the Naples town line and less than 500 feet from a Naples landowner's property line.

Wind turbines are already towering over the landscape to the south of Naples. Fifty turbines — with most clustered on Pine and Lent hills in Cohocton — installed by another wind energy company, First Wind, became operational early this year. The company’s plans to erect more than 40 additional turbines for a project in Prattsburgh are currently on hold due to financing issues.
Lynn Barbuto, who owns Ceasar’s Pet Palace in Geneva, said she was dismayed when she drove to Naples recently with a friend who had been interested in buying a home there. When they saw the industrial wind turbines covering the hillsides south of town, they were “mortified,” she said.

Her friend, who grew up in Rochester and had been living in Florida, wanted to return to the Finger Lakes region — particularly the Naples area — and settle down, said Barbuto. “But she rejected that area due to those wind turbines.”

“We couldn’t believe these monstrous things were in this most beautiful site in New York,” said Barbuto. “What next?”

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Ecogen Sues Town of Italy


Wind-energy firm takes town to court

Angered by a Town Board vote in Italy, Yates County, to kill a turbine proposal, a wind-energy company is asking a judge to override the elected board members and allow the project to go forward.

Ecogen Wind LLC, which had been seeking permission to erect 17 wind turbines, each standing 415 feet, said in court papers filed Wednesday that town leaders had dodged and delayed a decision on the proposal since 2002.

When board members finally did vote 5-to-0 in early October to deny Ecogen the approvals it needed, the action was illegal and based on reasons that Ecogen lawyers said were "demonstrably false and/or pretextural."

Ecogen's lawyers, from the Rochester firm Nixon Peabody, said the board had no lawful reason to withhold the permit, had violated the state Open Meetings law by acting in private and had been "arbitrary and capricious" in handling the environmental review process.

The legal action will ask a state Supreme Court justice to reverse the Town Board action and grant Ecogen the permit it needs to proceed, or to order the Town Board to issue the permit.

Ecogen, based in suburban Buffalo, and partner Pattern Energy of San Francisco have planned to build an additional 16 turbines in adjoining Prattsburgh, Steuben County. The two-county wind farm could generate up to about 76 megawatts of electricity.

Because the Italy Town Board also declared a moratorium on any wind-related construction, the unbuilt Prattsburgh turbines are effectively blocked because they would connect to the transmission grid through an electrical substation to be built in Italy.

Ecogen said in the court papers that it has spent $13 million on studies, testing, land acquisition and other work related to the stalled project. It said $120 million in financing is jeopardized.

The action marks at least the fifth court skirmish over the Italy-Prattsburgh wind farm.

A spokeswoman for Pattern Energy did not return a call for comment Thursday. Neither did Italy Town Supervisor Margaret Dunn.

Dunn and two Town Board members who voted to deny the permit to Ecogen were ousted from office in voting Tuesday in favor of stridently anti-turbine candidates.

Supervisor-elect Brad Jones said he could not comment on the lawsuit because he hadn't seen the court papers. But, he added, the board will "continue to represent the expressed desires in the town, which is to resist industrialization."

Steve Orr, Staff writer, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

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Clean Sweep in Italy Elections!


November 3, 2009 Italy Town Election Results

Supervisor
Bradley E. Jones 204
Margaret M. Dunn 170 (incumbent)
Write-in 1

Town Council (2 seats)
Frederick T. Johnstone 201
Donna L. Baran 200
Charles E Kreuzer 138 (incumbent)
Write-in 81

An articulate slate of candidates critical of industrial wind development in Italy, led by Brad Jones, have won the Town elections in a clean sweep! Our congratulations and prayers are with the new team as they begin the work of rebuilding trust and hope in the Town's future.

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