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Naples Appeals to PSC

Naples: Don’t get too close with those windmills

By Emily McFaul, correspondent

Naples, NY — The Town Board says wind turbines planned for neighboring Prattsburgh come too close to the Naples town line. Board members agreed this month to send a letter asking the state Public Service Commission to intervene and order a developer to move the towers further from town line.

“I think the board has made clear, we’re not against wind turbines, but we are against the improper siting of towers,” Supervisor Frank Duserick said.

This is not the first letter of protest the town has issued regarding the location of towers in neighboring townships. In July, the town appealed to the state Attorney General’s Office, arguing that Naples landowners’ property rights and safety are threatened by the placement of the towers. While a date has yet to be set, the Attorney General’s Office has expressed interest in meeting with the town.

At issue are turbines planned for Knapp Hill in Prattsburgh, part of the Ecogen project. Five turbines are scheduled to go up in the area, with the closest only 489 feet from Naples landowner John Servo’s property line. Servo is president of the group Advocates for Prattsburgh, which has opposed this project.

Technically, the setbacks meet project guidelines established for Ecogen through an environmental study headed up by the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency. But both Servo and the Naples Town Board say the setbacks are not enough.

The neighboring town of Cohocton passed a zoning law prohibiting the placement of turbines closer than 1,500 feet from a residence, a step that Duserick points out to the PSC as precedent that another town has acknowledged the undesirability of building within that range.

By placing turbines less than 500 feet from the Naples property line, Duserick and Servo argue that the project is creating “reverse zoning” that effectively limits Naples landowners from full use of their property for safety reasons. “The safety zone is 1,500 feet,” Duserick later said. “There should be a 1,500 feet setback, and actually it’s not enough. That’s for the smaller turbines.”

At a hearing last month, the Steuben County IDA outlined Ecogen’s new plans to install larger 2.3-megawatt turbines instead of the originally planned 1.5-megawatt model, but Naples received no advance notice of the hearing.

The increase in the turbine size means that only 36 towers will be placed instead of the 53 originally planned, but the towers will be 26 feet taller to generate the increased output. Ecogen project manager Thomas Hagner said contrary to what some project critics have suggested, no new environmental study is required.

And despite the number of towers being scaled back, with the site earmarked a prime wind resource, the Knapp Hill towers are still planned. Technically, Ecogen is within its rights to do so, said Hagner. “The turbines meet the permitting requirements of the government agency with jurisdiction on this issue,” he said.

For Duserick, frustration goes back to initial planning phases for the wind project, when the IDA notified the village but not the town of the impending development, leaving the town out of the loop in the environmental review process.

“It’s inappropriate and unethical to place towers so close to the town line without even talking to (us),” said Duserick. “I clearly question the ethics of what’s happening in Steuben County.”
In the letter to the PSC, the town also asks for setbacks of five miles from designated historic sites in Naples like the Memorial Town Hall, in order to protect the town’s scenic views and tourism trade.

The environmental review process for wind developments evaluates the visual impacts of turbines for a radius of 5 miles; for the Ecogen project, the determination recorded in the environmental impact statement is that there would not be “significant adverse impact for distant views (greater than approximately 2 miles).”

But there is some precedent in the PSC limiting turbines from being built in sites where they could be visually and economically detrimental. Last year, the PSC required Jordanville Wind to eliminate 19 of the 68 turbines planned for its Herkimer County project, since they would be visible from the Glimmerglass Historic District. Though the district fell outside of the 5-mile radius, the PSC acknowledged the district as a “nationally significant” historic resource, and a key factor in a regional economic plan developed around heritage-based tourism.

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Playing it cool

The Buzz


Global warming has stopped. Carbon dioxide emissions have not decreased. And climatologists the world over are taking notice. A 231-page report that documents skepticism of climate change alarmism dropped this month citing the views of some 650 prominent international scientists. The document, an update from a 2007 U.S. Senate Minority Report that cited 400 dissenters, directly challenges the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN body warning of calamitous climate outcomes if greenhouse-gas emissions are not substantially reduced.

Among this new batch of dissenters are some former members of the IPCC, who have since come to disagree with the view that global warming is man-made. "Global warming has become a new religion," Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever announces at the document's outset. "I am a skeptic."

Similar sentiments echo throughout dozens of other skepticism-laced statements included in the document. Japanese scientist Kiminori Itoh, a former IPCC member, dubs the inducement of fear over warming a "scientific scandal" and says that people "will feel deceived by science and scientists" when they learn the truth. Scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association goes one step further in decrying the message of advocates like Al Gore: "It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don't buy into anthropogenic global warming."



Shout it from the hilltops!

Merry Christmas from the Morehouses!

We deeply appreciate all your encouragement and look forward to working for a better future together with you in the coming year.



Birds, Bats, and Who??

Click on Santa to hear him sing!

Have a wonderful holiday season!



The Sounds of "Silence"

During the public review phase of NY State's SEQR Environmental Impact process, we attended public meetings, spoke before the Cohocton Board and Planning Committee, wrote letters, and published many articles about the noise problem that industrial wind turbines have (see Noise link in Post Labels list at right). Now that Cohocton's turbines are up and some are running for us to hear, what kind of noise are they making?

There are 4 turbines within 1/2 mile of our dwelling on Lent Hill, none of which are within the tight 1500-foot margin set by our Town leaders. We can see 2 of them towering above our treetops. Only 3 are actually spinning. There are 3 distinct noises that the turbines make:

  1. A "threshing" sound, like machinery whirring or a train running by on tracks, that is constant while a turbine is spinning and is probably the massive turbine/gearbox unit itself.
  2. A "whumping" sound, like a heavy towel being flapped rhythmically in the wind about once a second while the blades are turning, that is made by the blades as they pass by the tower.
  3. A "groaning" sound, like a not-so-distant train horn blowing or metal wheels screeching on tracks, that comes on in 2 to 20+ second intervals 30-40 times an hour while the wind is shifting and appears to be coming from the mechanism that rotates the schoolbus-sized turbine nacelle unit to keep the blades facing the wind.

These remarkably intrusive sounds come from various directions, depending on which way the wind is blowing and which turbines are spinning. Even though the decibel level of the noises we hear may technically be under the unrealistically high limits set by our Local Law, the whole effect is that of living in an industrial district about a block or two away from a busy train switching station. Our quiet, pastoral countryside has clearly been overtaken by an industrial installation.

When the original noise studies were done, we seriously doubt that the second 2 noises were measured at all. Unfortunately, now that we've all been deceived by the developer and the turbines are up, there is probably little that can be done.



Prattsburgh wind farm stalls

Construction of energy-producing wind turbines in the town of Prattsburgh is on hold for at least a year.

Prattsburgh officials were notified late last week of the delay by the wind farm developer – First Wind.

“While we remain committed to wind development in the Northeast, we’ve made a strategic decision to postpone construction on the Prattsburgh wind project,” said Chris Swartley, the company’s vice president of development.

Swartley said the company appreciates “the strong community partnership” and will continue to maintain its Prattsburgh office, existing towers and the existing leases now in place with landowners.

The announcement caps a year of trouble for the energy company, which announced last spring construction of 36 turbines in Prattsburgh would begin in the fall.

Since then, a flurry of lawsuits have been filed regarding the project, with the first legal action this year brought in January by the Naples and Prattsbugh central school districts. The districts charged they didn’t receive a fair share of money from a tax relief agreement between First Wind and the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency.

Another lawsuit included challenges to eminent domain proceedings brought by the Prattsburgh Town Board to help First Wind lay underground transmission cables. Also, there have been charges of improper and unethical action by town Supervisor Harold McConnell.

First Wind also is one of two wind farm developers under investigation by the state Attorney General’s office.

Click here to read Mary Perham's entire article in this week's Corning Leader.



Good News from Prattsburgh

Dear Folks,

We just learned this weekend that First Wind is indefinitely postponing the Prattsburgh project. We have also heard from a reliable source that they are also refusing to pay the legal bills for the Town of Prattsburgh that they said they would pay. In addition, we believe the company owes the town money for other things (roads or something) that they have not paid.

We think it will be very hard for a court to allow the town of Prattsburgh to condemn property for a company that is indefinitely postponing the project and which OWES THE TOWN MONEY. And if the condemnations are disallowed, that will be disturbing for Ecogen, since we believe that the Ecogen project was counting on a precedent being set so that they could also ask the town to condemn land.

And speaking of Ecogen, there is reason to believe that their partner (and major financer) Babcock and Brown, is almost bankrupt. A recent look at the financial pages showed that their stock fell from $35 over a year ago to TWENTY FIVE CENTS. We are presently looking into this.

It's not over yet, but this news is VERY exciting.

We are very grateful to those of you who have not allowed yourself to be bullied by the companies -- those of you who have stood firm when pressed to sign leases and have chased off the wind company surveyors when they trespassed on your property. Because of all the letters written, meetings attended and attention to detail that has been paid, the wind companies have not been able to railroad through their projects.

If the condemnees had not chosen to appeal, First Wind could have possessed that land four months ago, and we might have had a very different scenario than the one we have now. Thank you to everyone who has supported the condemnees; thank you to those who have answered our most recent appeal for funds; and for those of you who want to help the condemnees with the final bill [see below], please send your checks to Advocates for Prattsburgh, Box 221, Prattsburgh, NY 14873.


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Prattsburgh Update

Members of Advocates for Prattsburgh are continuing to monitor wind happenings, even as the condemnees prepare for the December 12 appeal. We know that nearly everyone on this list continues to be concerned about the future of Prattsburgh, because wherever we go we are asked for the latest update.

Because of generous financial donations the condemnees will have their day in court for a case that affects every community besieged by wind companies. At this point, just $2000 is needed to ensure that the final legal bills can be paid.

Due to our vigilance, most Prattsburgh residents are not yet suffering from turbines with inadequate setbacks, although the Cohocton project has begun to affect some Prattsburgh properties. A drive to Cohocton will demonstrate the reality of the size of the turbines. There have already been noise complaints.

If you read the Naples Record a couple weeks ago, you know that Francis Hall, the father of former Prattsburgh Council Person, David Hall, received $439,250 from Ecogen Wind LLC for a deed transfer. This happened when David Hall was on the Town Board. Since Francis Hall began doing business with Ecogen in about 2003, David Hall voted on several resolutions having to do with wind companies – never once did he recuse himself.

It is impossible for people like David Hall and Harold McConnell to honestly assess the pros and cons of wind projects in Prattsburgh when they or their families are benefiting financially. And without constant monitoring by Prattsburgh residents and landowners, no one would know about these deals that are going on.

On December 12, the lawyer for the condemnees will appear in court to present their case that the benefit of the First Wind project will not be worth the cost. He will argue that the town has overstepped its bounds by condemning property for use by a private company and that, due to conflict of interest, the Supervisor’s tie breaking vote for condemnation should not be allowed to stand.

Because of your support, the condemnees have raised nearly $20,000. Just $2000 more will ensure that the lawyer is paid for the court appearance and for last minute responses to First Wind’s lawyers. If we all chip in, that goal can be reached. Please send whatever you can to Advocates for Prattsburgh, Box 221, Prattsburgh, NY 14873.

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