Cohocton Wind Watch: Court knocks down town’s law regulating wind farms
Cohocton Wind Watch is a community citizen organization dedicated to preserve the public safety, property values, economic viability, environmental integrity and quality of life in Cohocton, NY and in surrounding townships. Neighbors committed to public service in order to achieve a reasonable vision for a Finger Lakes region worthy of future generations.


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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Court knocks down town’s law regulating wind farms

CENTERVILLE - A law in the town of Centerville regulating wind farms was annulled by the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division because the town failed to comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR).

The decision, which was made on Nov. 14, was prompted by a lawsuit from the Centerville Concerned Citizens (CCC), a group of landowners in the town who claimed that the Centerville Town Board worked along with the Noble Environmental Power to craft a local law that accommodates Noble’s proposed Centerville Windpark without fully looking at the environmental impacts.

The project would add 55 wind turbines, each about 50 stories high, to Noble’s Bliss Windpark in the town of Eagle.

The Centerville Town Board and Noble agreed to keep 1,000-foot distances from homes, and limit noise levels to 50 decibels, but that volume is far too loud, according to CCC head Dennis Gaffin.

“We told the town such noise levels would change life here dramatically, but they said there was no need to consider that issue because Noble would address it later,” Mr. Gaffin said in a press release.

CCC attorney Gary Abraham said the town broke the law by not considering the environmental impact of the project until Noble submitted its wind farm application.

“They said they would defer any of those things until applying for the project under the law,” Mr. Abraham said. “Once the law is in place, all Noble would have to say is ‘we complied with the law.’”

According to Mr. Abraham, under the SEQR, when a town takes on a project like a wind farm, the project is classified by its environmental impact as either a type one, type two, or unlisted action.

The court determined that the Centerville wind park project is a type one action, since it will affect more than 25 acres of the town. Centerville had pursued the project as an unlisted action, Mr. Abraham said.

“The town board, at their own peril, thought (they) weren’t going to lose this lawsuit and treated us as if we didn’t exist,” Mr. Abraham said.

However, the CCC’s lawsuit may have had some unintended consequences, according to Daniel Spitzer, lead legal representative for the town of Centerville in its discussions with Noble.

Since the court’s decision annulled the laws regulating wind farms in Centerville, there are essentially no regulations until the town enacts new laws.

“This doesn’t stop the project one bit,” Mr. Spitzer said. “Frankly, if the town does nothing, it means Noble can put (wind turbine) towers wherever they want.”

Mr. Spitzer expects the town board will take action swiftly, and that the project will continue to move forward.

“The petitioners did not get what they wanted either, so in that regard, we are pleased,” Mr. Spitzer said.

Centerville attorney David Pullen said the town will consider appealing the court’s decision.

“Hopefully, a decision will be made in the next few weeks,” he said.

“I question what (the CCC) thought they were achieving by bringing this lawsuit and invalidating the law, which leaves us with no law.

“That doesn’t mean their standards that they argued for are in place, it means there are no standards in place,” Mr. Pullen said.

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