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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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