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Has RG&E been bought?

According to an article in today's Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and confirmed by many other business news sources, RG&E is lined up to be purchased by Iberdrola, a Spanish energy conglomerate:

The parent company of Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. has agreed to be acquired by a Spanish company that is a worldwide leader in wind energy.

Under terms of the deal announced Monday, Iberdrola SA, which is based in Bilbao, Spain, will pay $4.5 billion in cash to acquire Energy East Corp., which is headquartered in Portland, Maine, and owns RG&E and NYSEG, another major New York supplier of electricity and gas.

The acquisition, subject to approval by Energy East stockholders and state and federal regulators, is expected to become final in 2008.

The following links help fill out the story.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out with the regulatory agencies and financiers. There's a lot of movement in the energy field, especially in the volatile wind energy industry, much of which seems to have been in quiet preparation for quite a while. The antitrust implications of what appears to be developing are staggering, however, and we may witness the whole house of cards come tumbling down, Enron-style, if we are just patient.

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Wafting in the wind

Towns may permit electricity-producing towers

James Goodman

Democrat & Chronicle staff writer

Caption: Yuri Odeychuk, 48, of Orleans County checks the batteries that store the power generated by his wind turbine. The Hamlin Town Board put a one-year moratorium on wind turbines while it researches regulation. A large-scale turbine project also is emerging in six Wayne County towns.

The wind turbine that went up next to Yuri Odeychuk's home in the Orleans County community of Clarendon was approved by a special-use permit issued by the town last December, without controversy and without restrictions.

Odeychuk, who built the 70-foot-high wind turbine himself, considers his attempt to harness the winds a practical step toward clean energy and self-sufficiency. He is one of a small but growing number of homeowners who are putting wind turbines on their property - producing just a fraction of the state's electricity.

And, for the most part, town code enforcement and building officials say such requests can be handled by special-use permits or existing ordinances, though the town of Perinton is expected to vote soon on an ordinance to regulate wind turbines.

But the prospect of towering wind turbines - some reaching about 400 feet high - for large-scale generation of electricity has focused public attention on whether existing local regulations are sufficient for the big projects. Prompted by a developer exploring the possibility of putting 40 to 50 commercial turbines in the northwest part of Hamlin, the Town Board has declared a one-year moratorium on any wind turbines and is looking at how to regulate them.

Meanwhile, six Wayne County towns - Lyons, Sodus, Wolcott, Huron, Butler and Rose - are working to form partnerships with Empire State Wind Energy, a company founded last year with the help of local businessman Thomas Golisano. As much as $300 million might be invested by the company to generate wind power in Wayne County in what would be one of the biggest wind-turbine generating projects in the state, said Keith Pitman, president and CEO of Empire State Wind Energy, based in Oneida, Madison County.

Click here to read the whole story.



VN 6/26 - Imprudent Comments?

Last week's Valley News ran an ad from the YES! group extolling their vision for "Cohocton's Bright Future" and proclaiming that wind project construction would be starting "a few weeks from now." The ad went on to claim that everything has been "done right" by local government and that the result will be "beautiful wind farms that all the people of Cohocton will be proud of." And, as if this wasn't enough provocative content for one short article, the ad went even deeper.

What else did the YES people try to get us to believe?
- That our local government has been doing a "great job."
- That opposition is limited to "a few people that continue to spread rumors and lies about public officials and wind farms."
- That the Valley News has been publishing letters recently that "repeated stories that have long been proven false" or that their authors "were blatantly lying about."
- That "the handful of people that oppose wind farms have been making up stories and spreading rumors" without "living up to the fact that they were proven wrong."
- And that opponents have "tried so hard to cause dissention in our community through threats, rumors, and lies."

What?? It might come as a surprise to the YES chorus when they discover that their opposition turns out to be more numerous and in touch with the truth than they thought. For what could well prove to be a majority of Cohocton's citizens, plans to turn our town into an industrial power plant represent an ugly nightmare, not a "beautiful bright future." Only time and honest elections will tell.

In the meantime, make sure you come out to this week's Planning Board meeting at the Hatch Hose Fire Hall in Atlanta on Wednesday night, June 27, at 7 pm to voice your opinion about UPC's Final EIS submission and building permit plans. It sounds like they may be trying to railroad their project through.

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Planning Board Meeting

According to an article published by WETM:

A public hearing is set to happen on June 27th where town leaders in Cohocton are expected to grant developer UPC Wind the permits it needs to begin construction on close to 50 wind turbines across the farmland there... The June 27th public hearing is scheduled to happen at the Hatch Hose Fire Hall in Atlanta at 7 pm.
This is an essential meeting. Please do what you can to attend on Wednesday evening and voice your opinion.

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Turbine components arriving

Amidst numerous reports of turbine component sightings on Route 390 comes this eyewitness report from Dansville:

Last night I received phone call from my stepson who works over at the old Foster Wheeler plant. At 9 am they had a crane tip over unloading the turbine bases. As of 3:30 quitting time they still didn't have it back up. Don't know if they worked on getting it up or if it is still tipped over. As the guys were leaving they had to sign a paper stating they would not talk to the press, etc.

They aren't supposed to go anywhere near this part of the plant that is housing the turbines, aren't supposed to talk to any of those guys either. They were told that they don't need anymore problems over there about the turbines so the guys are to stay away from there and forget about it. They didn't need special interest groups coming there and causing problems. A very large number was thrown out there that they are making to house these units and that it will be used for that for some time. These turbines they are working on right now are for Prattsburgh. Everything is there but the blades.

He had pictures on his camera and got caught, they took the memory card out of it and put it on the computer and erased all the pictures.

Yesterday my wife and I were in Dansville and saw a large semi loaded with a huge turbine nacelle coming down the north exit toward Foster Wheeler. Pictures posted recently on the CWW website (click image above) confirm what's happening. How many of these belong to UPC Wind and are being shipped in prematurely for the proposed Cohocton project remains to be completely revealed, but this recent article in Dansville's Genesee Country Express begins to tell the story.

We believe that good, wholesome, and properly approved projects that have been accepted widely by their surrounding communities should not be accompanied by this kind of secrecy.



Wind Power Disadvantages

In a section of its website titled "Wind Powering America" the US Department of Energy is actively promoting properly sited industrial wind power generating plants. Tucked away deep in the website under a pile of prowind material is the following disclaimer:

Wind power must compete with conventional generation sources on a cost basis. Depending on how energetic a wind site is, the wind farm may or may not be cost competitive. Even though the cost of wind power has decreased dramatically in the past 10 years, the technology requires a higher initial investment than fossil-fueled generators.

The major challenge to using wind as a source of power is that the wind is intermittent and it does not always blow when electricity is needed. Wind energy cannot be stored (unless batteries are used); and not all winds can be harnessed to meet the timing of electricity demands.

Good wind sites are often located in remote locations, far from cities where the electricity is needed.

Wind resource development may compete with other uses for the land and those alternative uses may be more highly valued than electricity generation.

Although wind power plants have relatively little impact on the environment compared to other conventional power plants, there is some concern over the noise produced by the rotor blades, aesthetic (visual) impacts, and sometimes birds have been killed by flying into the rotors. Most of these problems have been resolved or greatly reduced through technological development or by properly siting wind plants.

Emphases added. Over the past year we've carefully noted and weighed all of the concerns expressed so clearly by the Department of Energy and have come to the informed conclusion that the problem in Cohocton has to do with proper siting. The plans submitted by UPC Wind - and the provisions of Local Law #2 of 2006 that was written to accommodate the developer's needs - place industrial wind turbines too close to dwellings, roads, and the property lines of nonleaseholders. It's as simple as that.



VN 6/19 - Close and Personal

We're all waiting for a verdict in Bath Supreme Court about Local Law #2, and the Public Service Commission has yet to issue a ruling after UPC Wind testified that its project was still in the design stage. But in spite of accumulating evidence of impropriety, ineffectiveness, and significant potential public harm, local supporters of the Cohocton wind project seem to be pressing ahead with their plans.

What effect is this having on some of us personally?
- The map depicted above shows only 4 of the 52 proposed turbines. 3 are still sited within 1500 feet of the Wheaton Cemetery, a public place (marked X) and 2 near a dwelling (marked Z), contrary to Local Law #2.
- This is just one example. In keeping with Local Law #2, towers throughout the project like these 4, are sited within 600 feet of our local roads.

If dwellings and public places need a 1500-foot setback, why not roads? And if their Law requires 1500 feet, why do UPC's plans still have turbines sited closer than that? Read our recent Proposal for breaking the deadlock, browse around our "Updates" section, and then make your opinion known.



Wheaton Family Cemetery

Turbines too close?

I'm writing this letter to all Cohocton residents and anyone that is related to the Wheatons.

The Wheaton Cemetery on Lent Hill may be invaded by turbines that UPC wants to put around it. These turbines will not be at the 1500-foot setback for a public use area. #18 will be about 1200 feet, #19 will be about 800 feet, and #20 will be about 1300-1400 feet. These distances are according to Rick Towner. UPC is not following Local Law #2 that was passed. People should be able to go to a cemetery without having to worry about there safety. These distances are unacceptable.

This cemetery is a part of my family’s history and anyone else that is related to the Wheatons. This is a sacred place and should not be disrupted or invaded by these turbines. Even the access road will be unsafe. What is wrong with you UPC people? Have you no sense of responsibility? Why would you even think of putting people in danger?

Please understand that UPC and its employees at the office in Cohocton are not telling anyone the truth, that is the whole truth, about these turbines.

My name is Charlene (Klug) Fairbrother. If anyone wants more information on this you may contact me at home (384-5063) or by email.



VN 6/12 - Prudent Delays

Last week an Evidentiary Hearing was conducted by a Public Service Commission (PSC) Law Judge in Bath. The hearing was held because two groups advocating for the proper siting of industrial wind turbines had objected to the request by UPC Wind for a certificate of necessity from the PSC. The Town of Naples and NYSEG were also involved as intervenors. The two central issues addressed were 1) the proposed Clipper Liberty 2.5 MW turbines and their certification and reliability to provide safe energy, and 2) the design and layout of the substations and 115kv transmission lines for the Cohocton Wind project.

What evidence was presented at the Evidentiary Hearing?
- Under oath UPC stated repeatedly that the project is still in the design stage with many unresolved issues with different components.
- Permission from landowners for the overhead transmission lines is causing problems with the layout. There may also be a problem with turbine leases not being obtained and filed in a legal manner.
- UPC was lacking many of the documents that PSC staff had asked for. At one point the issue of a report possibly being too costly to provide was discussed by Mr. Swartley.
- Wind data as well as turbine reliability information is confidential according to UPC, who also claimed that the results of geological tests conducted at the turbine sites were not available as requested.

The hearing apparently raised more questions than answers. Since the project is not yet finalized it would seem many more site plan reviews and public hearings may yet to be conducted. Wisely, our Planning Board has postponed further decision-making for the time being.

At Cohocton Free we believe in the old adage that "the wheels of God grind extremely fine." In other words, man plans but ultimately divine justice will prevail. Browse our main website; check out some of the other items in our "Updates" section; read our recent Proposal for breaking the deadlock; and then contact us for a yard sign if you agree!

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Global Warming Consensus

They call this a consensus?

This past Saturday, June 2nd, the Canadian Financial Post published a thought-provoking and well researched article by Lawrence Solomon that started out

"Only an insignificant fraction of scientists deny the global warming crisis. The time for debate is over. The science is settled."

So said Al Gore ... in 1992. Amazingly, he made his claims despite much evidence of their falsity. A Gallup poll at the time reported that 53% of scientists actively involved in global climate research did not believe global warming had occurred; 30% weren't sure; and only 17% believed global warming had begun. Even a Greenpeace poll showed 47% of climatologists didn't think a runaway greenhouse effect was imminent; only 36% thought it possible and a mere 13% thought it probable.

Today, Al Gore is making the same claims of a scientific consensus, as do the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and hundreds of government agencies and environmental groups around the world. But the claims of a scientific consensus remain unsubstantiated. They have only become louder and more frequent.

Click here to read a PDF copy of the whole article, then follow through with the entire series of background articles in the Canadian National Post, starting with this link.



VN 6/5 - What Outcome?

Last year at this time it looked almost certain - UPC Wind would be putting up about 42 wind towers on our hills, each about 405 feet high, with 2.0 MW Gamesa turbines on them. Since then, however, the legal process mandated by New York has been slowly moving through its various stages while the developer has been trying to extend its grasp.

Where do we stand now, and what will be the outcome?
- UPC has expanded its project(s) and is now proposing 52 wind towers, each 425 feet high, with 2.5 MW Clipper turbines on them.
- The project has become so large that it needs permission from the Public Service Commission, which is asking some tough questions like "Why aren't your Clipper turbines certified?"
- Local Law #2, passed by our Town Board last fall to accommodate the developer's plans, is being reviewed by Supreme Court Justice Marianne Furfure and may be thrown out.
- The Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice is actively looking into allegations of illegal geographic market allocation, price fixing, and bid rigging by UPC Wind and the wind industry.
- Rumors are flying that UPC is replacing Chris Swartley as its front man and that some leaseholders and Planning Board members are beginning to wake up and smell the coffee.

How much more do we have to see before the plain truth begins to dawn on us, that there is deep corruption in this pot, not gold? Pride and greed go before a fall. Can we learn before we suffer any further, or will we continue to press ahead and bear the consequences?

We believe in the old adage that "the wheels of God grind extremely fine." In other words, man plans but ultimately divine justice will prevail. Will we cooperate with the gentle promptings of truth or require a big stick? Browse our main website; check out some of the other items in our Updates section; read our recent Proposal for breaking the deadlock; and then contact us for a yard sign if you agree!



Idiot Wind

Henry S. F. Cooper Jr., a veteran science and space reporter for the New Yorker and author of several books about space exploration, contributed a cogent op-ed piece to Sunday's New York Times about wind power development in New York. He writes:

Much of upstate New York, from north of Albany to Buffalo, from the Catskills to the Adirondacks, is in danger of being transformed beyond recognition by industrial wind parks. Some 50 of these wind parks are being planned and even built. All of this is being done in the name of clean energy and saving the planet.

But it isn't clear that wind power is such a panacea in the battle against global warming that developers of these wind parks should be allowed to run roughshod over some of our loveliest land. What we need are statewide siting guidelines that take other environmental factors, including visual impacts, into consideration.

Click here to read the entire article.



Job Opening at WCCS

Director of Curriculum K-12

5 years teaching experience & masters degree required. Submit resume & credentials by June 14, 2007 to Michael Wetherbee, Superintendent Wayland-Cohocton CSD, 2350 Route 63, Wayland, NY 14572. Click here for more information.


Interview: May Berenbaum

Where have all the honeybees gone?

Honeybee populations in more than 20 states have mysteriously crashed. May Berenbaum, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studies "colony collapse disorder" and its consequences. Click here to read a fascinatingly delightful interview with her about the problem (which has absolutely nothing to do with wind power in Cohocton as far as I can tell), published in the June issue of Smithsonian Magazine.



A Grave Error

Man's grave is focus of dispute

The front page on yesterday's Rochester Democrat & Chronicle ran the following news story:

Maureen Wolcott, a 76-year-old resident of this Steuben County town, is doing all she can to keep her husband, Charlie Wolcott, in his grave. The problem is that officials of Holy Family Parish, which includes St. Pius V Church in Cohocton, contend that Mr. Wolcott was buried in the wrong place last July.

The struggle between Maureen Wolcott and the parish, which has been going on for months but is supposed to be resolved today, is proof positive that in cemeteries, as in real estate, it's all about location, location, location. "To me, where a person is buried, that's where they should stay," said Wolcott. "It's a sacred trust."

The parish doesn't quarrel with her overall point, but it says that Mr. Wolcott was buried by mistake in a part of the cemetery that isn't really a cemetery.

Click here to read the whole story. Our hope and prayer is that the Wolcott family and their church can find a godly solution that leads to a peaceful reconciliation.