Thursday, April 30, 2009

Prattsburgh gag order

Posted with the permission of The Naples Record, originally published Wednesday April 22, 2009

Ecogen tries to buy off residents to keep them quiet about excessive noise from towers

To the editor:

At the Prattsburgh Town Board meeting, it was revealed that Ecogen is offering payments to non-participating landowners - $10,000 in the example raised in the citizen's complaint last night - on the condition that they not complain about the noise.

This "gag order" - a condition for receiving "compensation" in exchange what has been forcibly taken (not freely negotiated and given) is disgusting, and takes away the citizen's freedom of speech. It appears that targeted landowners are being "incentivized" to live with what will be constant industrial noise, and in some cases - as in Cohocton - perhaps not be able to sleep at night, and then have to "forever hold their peace" or face lawsuit.

As was shown at the Tug Hill project near the Adirondacks, one-time payments and gag orders are standard operating procedure for wind project developers. But what I found particularly shocking was that board member Stacy Bottom admitted that she was directly involved with this effort to buy off and gag local citizens during this period leading up to the Town Board then deciding to "approve" the Ecogen project.

Analyzing this bizarre state of affairs in Prattsburgh, if you want to see what's really going on, follow the money. Following this straightforward approach, I brought up during the comment period a critical point many citizens may not know about. While the Town of Italy is scheduled to receive $12 million from Ecogen for siting 18 turbines while Prattsburgh is currently scheduled to receive only $3 million under its payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement - $9 million less - for siting 16 turbines in our town.

For whatever reason, John Leyden, Prattsburgh's attorney (and ALSO the attorney for SCIDA, the lead agent for the Ecogen project), told the Town Board a few months back that the Board had to approve the Ecogen PILOT at the same time they approved a new split of PILOT monies for the First Wind project renegotiated with the school districts. Well, accepting this "deal" - the extraordinarily bad Ecogen PILOT - cost the town $8 million to $9 million in lost income, compared to the deal Italy negotiated. And since then, Leyden has repeatedly stated, including Tuesday night, that the Town of Prattsburgh couldn't re-negotiate the bad PILOT, because the deal was done, and the town couldn't use other issues (such as noise) to sweeten the bad deal.

But what we heard Stacy Bottom say last night was that Ecogen had "offered" to consider providing funds for civic improvements as a "good neighbor." And we're supposed to believe there's no quid pro quo, no trade-off. Is the Ecogen - backing Town Board majority going to sell out the citizens who live "in the hills" - those Councilwoman Stacy Bottom calls "you people" - who would be harmed, and potentially ruined, by turbine noise, in exchange for, perhaps, some sidewalks in the village and a new truck for the Highway Department? And all this when the town should have received millions of dollars more if it hadn't been suckered into a bad deal in the first place?

By the way, this development is virtually "job-free." When you take the six to eight jobs permanent jobs the Ecogen project claims it will generate - over two towns - and factor in the exclusions for skill staff and remote monitoring, each town will be lucky if it gets more than one security guard. And the project's lead agent - Steuben County IDA - claims to be a "development" agency! To make matters worse, at the Tuesday Town Board meeting Stacy Bottom made a big deal out of the local jobs we'd get when the Town Board approves - meaning "rubber stamps" - this project. What jobs? One job? Maybe two? Do they think our citizens are really that stupid that we'd fall for this?

There will also be two critical meetings' in Prattsburgh next month that will address the Ecogen project.

• Tuesday, May 19,7 p.m. Prattsburgh Town Board meeting,
downstairs at the Ingleside Christian Church in Ingleside.
• Thursday, May 21,6:30 p.m., at either the Prattsburgh
School cafetorium or the Fire Hall: Ecogen will present its project
and the public will be allowed to comment.

We live in interesting times. Two-hundred years ago, during the Constitutional Convention, Ben Franklin was asked by a woman on the street "what they were doing in there." He answered, "creating a new country, if you can keep it." I guess it's still up for grabs.

John Servo,
Prattsburgh landowner

Unethical, disrespectful, unbelievable

Posted with the permission of The Naples Record, originally published Wednesday April 22, 2009

Prattsburgh Town Board eschews democratic process for intimidation, exclusion

To the editor,

Unbelievable - that was one of several words used by many of he at least 30 people left out of the Prattsburgh town meeting on April 21. The main meeting room was ruled to capacity (45 people). Several people asked town Supervisor Harold McConnell to move the meeting to a place where everyone who came could hear and participate. A motion was even made by Councilman Steve Kula to move the meeting. He offered to make phone calls to see if the school or firehall were available. The motion was voted down by Stacy Bottoni, Sharon Quigley and Harold McConnell.

Is this the democratic process in action or an attempt to intimidate and exclude citizens who came to participate in local government? Many other people came to the Town Hall, saw the situation and left. Perhaps the presence of armed police officers was also meant to scare people away.

There were elderly people standing for over two hours. To really illustrate the injustice of this, the attorney for Ecogen was using an empty seat for his briefcase.

Prattsburgh is in a unique position to "do the right thing" rather than be bullied by Ecogen and its representatives. Real concerns regarding health, safety and finances have consistently been ignored by the majority of the board.

One councilwoman in particular should be noted for her comments. She was very concerned about someone receiving a water bill she felt was unfair. She read a well prepared statement describing the situation and her opinions regarding the issue. In the more than two years that I've been attending these meetings this was the only time she has spoken more than a few words. The issues of the health and safety of Prattsburgh citizens poised to live under industrial wind turbines haven't been enough to invoke a full spoken paragraph from this woman. Aren't board members supposed to represent all the citizens of the town?

People in Prattsburgh and surrounding areas - please attend board meetings and do whatever research you need to do in order to see how business is conducted here. It's unethical, disrespectful, disturbing and yes, unbelievable.

Stephanie Lipp,

Who is looking out for the citizens of Prattsburgh?

Posted with the permission of The Naples Record, originally published Wednesday April 22, 2009

To the editor,

Last Tuesday's Prattsburgh Town Board meeting left me with more questions than answers. Most importantly, does the majority of the Board really have the people's best interests in mind?

Until recently, I thought they did (though I often disagreed with their tactics). Why then, did Supervisor McConnell and the majority of the board refuse to change the location of the meeting to accommodate the people who were not allowed in the room due to lack of space? Is it still considered an open meeting when people are forced to stand out of sight and, for some, out of earshot?

Why does the majority of the board continue to refuse to write and pass regulations that would address citizens' health and safety concerns regarding the proposed wind farms, despite mounting evidence that regulations are needed? The board has heard opinions from people including current wind turbine lease holders, town governments with current wind projects, an independent sound specialist, and a lawyer who has worked on other wind projects. The common thread in all the opinions is that noise is an issue everywhere and it can and should be addressed through regulation and/or increased setbacks.

Whose interest is the majority of the board watching out for -ours or the developer's? As I sat through the meeting, I couldn't help but wonder why a board member's young daughter was chatting comfortably with the developer's attorney. We know the developer is looking out for himself, but who is looking out for Prattsburgh citizens?

Anneke Radin-Snaith,

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Modern Wind Turbines Generate Dangerously “Dirty” Electricity

Wind turbines are causing serious health problems. These health problems are often associated, by the people having them, with the flicker and the noise from the wind turbines. This often leads to reports being discounted.

Residents of the area around the Ripley Wind Farm in Ontario where Enercon E82 wind turbines are installed feel that the turbines are making them ill. Residents suffer from ringing in the ears, headaches, sleeplessness, dangerously elevated blood pressure (requiring medication), heart palpitations, itching in the ears, eye watering, earaches, and pressure on the chest causing them to fight to breathe. The symptoms disappear when the residents leave the area. Four residents were forced to move out of their homes, the symptoms were so bad. Residents also complain of poor radio, TV and satellite dish reception. There is no radio reception under or near the power lines from the wind turbines because there is too much interference. Local farmers have found that they get headaches driving along near those power lines.

The waveforms below were taken at one of the residences in the area. The first waveform was taken before the wind farm started operation. (As you can see, a ground current problem existed even before the wind farm started.) The frequency profile of the neutral to earth voltage changed dramatically after the wind farm became operational (second waveform). There are far more high and very high frequencies present; indicated by the increased spikiness of the waveform.

(Click to read entire article)

First Wind Turbine coming down on Brown Hill - Cohocton Project

The first of many dismantling of First Wind turbines! The project is still not producing electricity for sale to the grid.

TALK BACK: Wind Studies Disputing Health Woes Are Fictional

A reader in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada, responds to Christine Buurma's column "RENEWED ENERGY: Noise, Shadows Raise Hurdles For Wind Farms":

I note with some interest the comment stating that "wind-energy advocates point to peer-reviewed studies in Canada and the U.K. that dispute any impact on human health from wind-turbine noise or vibrations," and I wonder if you would reproduce absolutely anything I told you, without checking for accuracy.

There are no such studies done in Canada showing these preposterous results. Indeed, I doubt very much that such studies exist in the U.K. either. The quoting of mysterious studies from "far-off" lands is a rather transparent and juvenile tactic to mislead, something the Industrial Wind Industry relies on routinely.

However, I find it astonishing that a credible news organization such as yours would be co-opted into repeating such deception with no caveat or qualification.

You can always tell when Industrial Wind is starting to spin its tales, hurling the words "peer review" around. There are many credible, carefully executed, scientific studies around the world showing a growing health disaster resulting from improperly sited industrial wind turbines.

More to the point, there is a rapidly increasing body of victims in desperate need of help. They do not need to be "peer-reviewed" to know that they are sick and neither does a medical community that is now awakening to this serious dilemma.

(Click to read entire article)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wind farm firm cutting 1,900 jobs

Wind turbine-maker Vestas Wind Systems is to cut 1,900 jobs - mainly in the UK and Denmark - despite reporting a 70% rise in quarterly profits.

It will be closing its UK turbine plant on the Isle of Wight, cutting 450 jobs.

The Danish firm blamed the headcount reduction, which represents 9% of its workforce, on market oversupply.

It came as Vestas reported a net profit of 56m euros ($73m; £50m) for the first three months of 2009, up from 33m euros for the same period last year.

The company also said it planned to raise funds through a share issue.

Vestas said that supply of wind turbines exceeded demand in Northern Europe, despite the drive of governments including Germany and the UK to increase the amount of electricity generated by green energy alternatives.

(Click to read entire article)

The New York Independent System Operator’s Market-Clearing Price Auction Is Too Expensive for New York

Three alternative auction rules would reduce the price of electricity across New York.

1. Require the NYISO to make the identities of bidders, bids, and the calcula-tions needed to calculate prices immediately available to the public, decision-makers, elected officials, scholars and the media.

2. Adopt the American Public Power Association’s recommendation limiting bids for short-term power sales to true marginal costs.

3. Move consumer supplies back again to fully allocated, cost-of-service electric generating plants. This would produce savings of $2.273 billion or a nearly 10% reduction in the electric bill for each New York residential household.

Monday, April 27, 2009

WLEA Congressman Eric Massa Interview April 25, 2009


John Servo comments at the 4/21/09 Prattsburgh Town Board Meeting

As you know, I and my family have homes directly across from Eocogen turbine sites, and I'm a member of Advocates for Prattsburgh. We and many of our fellow citizens throughout the Town are concerned about the high level of noise these turbines will make.

We hope the Prattsburgh Town Board will implement a three-month moratorium, and that during this moratorium, the Town Board will draft a Wind Law mandating guidelines which will protect both nonparticipating landowners and leasing landowners. A key issue is the critical need for greater setbacks to protect adjacent and nearby landowners from noise, health and safety issues, as shown by the noise problems suffered by Cohocton residents.

To start, I have a letter from Jack Zigenfus, Supervisor for the Town of Cohocton, to First Wind, which I'd like to excerpt.

I'm sure you remember that Mr. Zigenfus has been a strong backer for the First Wind project, and accepted – like Hal Graham and so many others – that these industrial machines were quiet and not a problem.

He starts, "... noise from First Wind's installation and operation of the Clipper Windpower 2.5MW Wind Turbines in the Town of Cohocton has been and continues to be the subject of extensive scrutiny by the Town, including the Town's Code Enforcement Office and its technical consultants, and extensive complaint by the Town's residents. As the Town's Supervisor, and as a non-participating resident of the Town, I can tell you that many of the complaints ... were merited.

"It is my understanding...actual noise levels at and near nonparticipating residences and other property lines may be exceeding the levels which were modeled by First Wind's consultants during the Planning Board's review and consideration of the project applications."

Now, I'd like to point out that Cohocton enacted a Wind Law virtually written by the developer to ALLOW a high threshold of noise, and their turbines exceeding even THIS "pro-noise" ordinance.

Continuing, "The Town will not stand idle during operation of the projects if the projects are not in total compliance with all of the Town's local laws, the conditions of the special use permits issued to First Wind's subsidiaries, or the terms of the agreements between First Wind's subsidiaries and the Town."

I'd like to point out that, even though Cohocton bent over backwards to give First Wind what they wanted, they still had a Wind Law, Special Use Permits, and other agreements in place BEFORE the Town OK'd the developer moving forward. We in Prattsburgh have essentially NOTHING – the Wind Law never got started. And while the Town COULD have done this without a moratorium, the ONLY way to take care of this NOW is to put a three month moratorium in place.

Jack then says, "First Wind should immediately contact the Town and its consultants to explain why noise from operation ... is exceeding the levels modeled during review of the projects, and whether, when and how First Wind and/or Clipper Windpower, anticipate remedying the situation."

As happens again and again, the developer MODELS how LITTLE noise the project MIGHT make, rather than determining how MUCH noise the turbines DO make, through testing at a comparable project. And we have a comparable project, in Cohocton, which uses turbines rated at 106.4dB of noise, just like the Siemens turbines Ecogen claims are so quiet.

Continuing, Supervisor Zigenfus states, "The current state of affairs in Cohocton, insofar as the wind projects are concerned, is unfortunate for Cohocton, and should be unacceptable...". Again, unless we have the Wind Law in place, Prattsburgh will be even more defenseless than Cohocton.

Now, I have with me Rick James of E-Coustic Solutions, a nationally recognized noise expert, who is conducting a noise study at various sites in the Cohocton project, to present what he's found.

Rick speaks

Thank you, Rick. As a reference, the L90 noise level at my property line is 23dB, 21dB at the house. Following the DEC guidelines, the maximum allowable noise at my house should be 6 dB higher – 27dB. As you know, at Ecogen's invitation, Sharron Quigley and Stacy Bottoni visited the Kruger Energy Port Alma Wind Power Project in Chatham Kent, Ontario, Canada. This windfarm uses the same 2.3MW Siemens wind turbines chosen for the Ecogen project. The stated purpose of this visit was to show these Town Board members how "quiet" these turbines are. Ecogen claims these Siemens turbines are quieter than the 2.5MW Clipper turbines causing noise problems in Cohocton, even though industry experts classify both turbines at 106.4dB of noise.

Please note the Ontario Ministry of Environment currently mandates 600 meters – 1968 feet – as setbacks from "any residential zone" at the Port Alma project. In comparison, Ecogen's current setbacks are only 1200 feet from residences – at least 768 feet closer than this Ontario project, the same project Ecogen "showcased" for Sharon and Stacy.

But this additional 768 foot setback – which Ecogen doesn't mention – isn't the best part of the story. This past month a representative from the Ontario Ministry of Environment indicated that the current setbacks for this Ontario project inadequate, due to louder noise than presented in the developer's "projections" – Big Surprise – and new setbacks would be greater still during Phase II of the Project.

There you have it. The very Siemens turbines Ecogen would have us believe are quieter than Cohocton's, have noise levels the Ontario government considers TOO LOUD at even 1968 feet away. Ecogen's current setbacks offer adjacent and nearby landowners woefully inadequate protection from potential serious harm. We could be ruined by turbines sited too close to our properties and homes, and the Town needs to enact a good "Wind Law" to protect us.

A good Wind Law would also protect leasing landowners. Let's not forget about them. The developer or project owner should be required to indemnify the leasing landowners and adjacent landowners from all legal liability arising from the operation of these wind turbines. Right now, if anything goes wrong – as it sometimes does – they're on the hook. And currently, it appears virtually impossible for leasing landowners to get adequate liability insurance for wind turbine related accidents. In addition, escrow provisions should be implemented to protect leasing landowners from potential mechanics liens, which can destroy the landowner's credit. These liens are a proliferating problem arising from deadbeat developers not paying their contractors. And as the Town Board should already know, Ecogen's Australian financial backer, Babcock and Brown, is in serious financial trouble. You don't need to take my word for it. Just search the Internet. In 30 seconds you'll find out that Babcock and Brown is as financially flush as a bad bank without a bailout. The Town Board needs to explicitly and adequately address these clear financial dangers. Our landowners need protection, not just promises, and Prattsburgh leasing landowners shouldn't be stuck paying the tab in what might amount to that "bad bank" bailout.

All of these issues can be effectively addressed during a moratorium period. I can only see one downside to having a brief moratorium and putting in lace the protections we need. Ecogen and their foreign investors – good neighbors that they are – have threatened to immediately sue Prattsburgh for many times our annual revenues if you, our Town Board, don't cave in and give them what they want. And let's get this straight. The reason they don't want a moratorium is not any "hardship" of a three-month delay. The real reason is they don't want a good Wind Law, which would protect us from noise, protect leasing landowners from financial exposure, and may even cut into their huge, taxpayer-subsidized profits.

So the Town Board is now at the point of decision. All we need is three months. So, which would you rather have?

• Would the Town rather be sued by a carpetbagger and his foreign backers, who don't want you to even take a deep breadth to make sure we do this right?

• Or would you rather force Prattsburgh citizens to dip into their life savings to fight the Town – something they DON'T want to do – to protect themselves and their friends and neighbors from ruin?

This is the most momentous decision in the history of the Town. Don't surrender to Ecogen's threats. Pass the moratorium, embrace the work, write a good Wind Law, protect all of us, including the leasing landowners, THEN build the project right. It's easier than you think, and if you want it, you'll have our help.

John Servo
Advocates for Prattsburgh
Prattsburgh, NY

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Critically Important Prattsburgh Town Board Meeting Tuesday, April 21

At this upcoming meeting, the Prattsburgh Town Board will decide whether to impose a three-month moratorium for the Ecogen Wind project. It is hoped that during this moratorium, the Town Board would draft a Wind Law mandating guidelines which would protect both non-participating landowners and leasing landowners. A key issue is the critical need for greater setbacks to protect adjacent non-participating landowners from noise, health and safety problems, as shown by the noise problems suffered by Cohocton residents. Leasing landowners also need to be indemnified by the developer from legal liability and protected from the thereat of mechanics liens. Another issue is the incredibly bad PILOT deal previously accepted by the Town at the recommendation of the Town's attorney, John Leyden (who is, coincidentally, also the attorney for SCIDA, the lead agent for the Ecogen project). At the previous meeting, it was voted to give Ecogen two weeks to come up with a better deal, and to address the noise concerns.

Ecogen's response was to invite two Board members – Stacy Bottoni and Sharron Quigley – to visit the Kruger Energy Port Alma Wind Power Project in Chatham Kent, Ontario, Canada. This windfarm uses the 2.3MW Siemens wind turbines chosen for the Ecogen project. The object was to shown these Town Board members how "quiet" these turbines are. The developer claims these Siemens turbines are quieter than the 2.5MW Clipper turbines causing noise problems in Cohocton, even though industry experts classify both turbines at 106dB of noise.

Please note that the Ontario Ministry of Environment currently mandates 600 meters (1968 feet) setbacks from "any residential zone". In comparison, Ecogen's current setbacks are only 1200 feet from residences – at least 768 feet closer to houses than residential zone homes in this Ontario project, which Ecogen "showcased" to these Town Board members. It can also be assumed that the closest home in this residential zone is greater than 1968 feet away from these wind turbines, as the residential zone boundary is at the property lines, not the home itself, as Ecogen would like.

Ecogen should also tell the whole story. For example, this past month a representative from the Ontario Ministry of Environment indicated that the current setbacks for this Ontario project (setbacks which are far greater than what Ecogen is currently offering) were inadequate, due to louder noise than originally presented in the developer's "projections", and new setbacks would be greater still during Phase II of the Project. Our concern is that a Town Board majority will give Ecogen whatever it wants, even though current setbacks offer adjacent and nearby landowners and homeowners inadequate protection from potential serious harm.

The Town should also enact a "Wind Law", to protect not only non-participating landowners, who could be ruined by turbines sited close to their properties and homes. A good Wind Law would protect leasing landowners as well. Ecogen and First Wind should be required to indemnify their leaseholders and adjacent landowners from all legal liability arising from the operation of these wind turbines. Currently, it appears virtually impossible for leasing landowners to get adequate liability insurance. In addition, escrow provisions should be implemented to protect leasing landowners from potential mechanics liens, a proliferating problem arising from deadbeat developers not paying their contractors. And as the Town Board knows, Ecogen's Australian financial backer, Babcock and Brown, is in serious financial trouble. The Town Board needs to explicitly and adequately address these clear dangers. Our landowners need protection, not just promises, and Prattsburgh leasing landowners shouldn't be stuck paying the tab in what would amount to a "bad bank" bailout.

All of these issues can be effectively addressed during a brief moratorium period. The Town Board needs to vote for a moratorium – rather than caving in to the developer's threats to immediately sue the Town if they don't get what they want. An effective Wind Law will be essential for protecting all our citizens. Please attend this critically important meeting this coming Tuesday, April 21 at 7:00PM.

First Wind Plots Financing For 2GW Pipeline

Newton, Mass.-based First Wind will likely be in the project finance market again this year as it looks to develop nearly 2 GW of projects in Hawaii, Maine, New York, Utah and Vermont. "First Wind is always looking to efficiently capitalize its projects and I wouldn't be surprised if we came to market again this year," says Steve Schauer, v.p. of finance. Wind development costs roughly $2 million per megawatt, project financiers say, bringing the portfolio's costs to $4 ...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Prattsburgh delays wind farm moratorium

PRATTSBURGH — The topic of wind energy was hotly debated by the Prattsburgh town board last week, although no formal action was taken on concerns raised by board members last month.

With more than two dozen residents crowded into the town hall corridor and roughly 50 in the board room, the councilmen reviewed information and agreed to attend a public meeting hosted by wind developer EcoGen at 6 p.m. May 14.

EcoGen is looking to erect 16 wind turbines in the town.

Concerns about EcoGen's project were first raised in late February when residents from nearby Cohocton complained about excessive noise from the First Wind wind farm operating there since January.

EcoGen representatives countered the Prattsburgh project will use a quieter turbine model, manufactured by Siemens.

The board first considered a moratorium to develop a wind law, but voted to delay the moratorium pending further discussions with EcoGen.

The board also discussed a trip Councilwomen Stacey Bottoni and Sharon Quigley took to the Post Alma wind farm in Ontario, Canada.

The Post Alma wind farm uses Siemens turbines. Bottoni reported their observation was "generally favorable" with strong, 20-mph winds on the second day of the visit. She said the Siemens model has an exhaust fan designed to reduce the turbine noise.

However, Bottoni recommended the town hire an independent technician to test the exhaust fan's reliability, and the board unanimously supported her recommendation.

She said other issues, such as tower collapse and job creation, also were answered by EcoGen representatives. Bottoni claimed collapses are rare, and EcoGen has pledged to hire local, capable workers for unspecialized work if their rates are competitive.

Quigley said the concerns were answered satisfactorily.

But Councilman Steve Kula said information he received on wind speeds at Port Alma on the days Quigley and Bottoni were at the site indicated the speeds were 11-15 mph, with the turbines operating at reduced levels.

He claimed residents near Port Alma have filed complaints about the noise generated by the turbines.

Kula said studies from across the world show 40-60 percent of residents near wind farms are disturbed by the noise, including those with setbacks far greater than any in place in the U.S.

Councilman Chuck Schick said exhaust fans will not prevent the turbines' noise. "They will sound like jet engines because that's what they are," Schick said.

Board members received other input from those in attendance, including comments from acoustical engineer Rick James, of Michigan.

James told the board, based on the state Department of Environmental Conservation recommendations for decibel increases, the acceptable noise level for the region was 27-30 dBA. The current standard for wind farms in Steuben County is 50 dBA.

"Fifty decibels is based on the needs of the wind developers," he said. "It is not based on science ... it is a smokescreen."

James said he worked for 35 years setting up industrial sites before specializing in wind turbines for the past four years.

"And I will tell you this," he said. "Done properly, the problem goes away once the project is done. With the turbines, the problems always escalate."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Many feel bill would spell doom for IDAs

Editors NOTE: Mr. Griffin is getting $13,000.00 a month for being on the Hornell IDA and SCIDA. IDAs tax exemptions drive up property taxes for residents that are forced to make up the difference of the corporate welfare. Sen Winner's law firm represents Fortuna Energy gas developers who seeks to benefit from IDA exemptions. SCIDA operates as a criminal enterprise. Steuben County would be served well with the abolishment of the IDAs.

Area representatives to Albany and local industrial development agency leaders are up in arms over a new piece of legislation seeking to reform IDAs, but the assemblyman who wrote the bill said he is open to compromise if it helps the bill pass.

So far this year, 28 separate bills — not counting identical bills introduced into each house of the Legislature — have been introduced to regulate IDAs.

One of the bills, named the Hoyt Bill after its sponsor, Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, is a combination of many of the reforms, including some local leaders feel will drive business out of the state.

The biggest impact of the 32-point bill, said State Sen. George Winner, R-Elmira, is requiring construction workers to be paid prevailing wages for all construction work and a “living wage” for all employees beyond the life of the project.

“Those mandates would create a significant increase in costs ... and remove any real advantage of using an IDA,” he said. “That’s the death of IDAs upstate.”

Winner said one IDA attempted to make those changes and it effectively stopped all new development.

“Ulster (County IDA) put something like that in place,” Winner said, adding that organization had to repeal the measure after 18 months because no applications for assistance were submitted in that time.

“Couple it with the fact that we no longer have an effective Empire Zone,” Winner said, and there is little to bring business to upstate.

And the legislation would cause even more harm in the southern parts of Steuben and Chemung counties.

“It would become almost laughable,” Winner said, to try and attract businesses close to the Pennsylvania border because there would be almost no benefit to companies to choose New York over the Pennsylvania’s Northern Tier.

Hornell IDA Executive Director Jim Griffin said the biggest problem is not when building the projects, but when it comes to paying employees through the long term.

“The living wage is the big stickler around here,” he said, adding the living wage for the area is around $11.50 an hour.

“A lot of our jobs are second income jobs,” Griffin said. “A lot of families need those second income jobs.”

With that provision, the IDA would not have been able to assist Wal-Mart or Lowe’s in Hornell, which likely would have led to the businesses going somewhere else.

The prevailing wage regulations on building projects are moot points, Griffin said, because most projects are union-shop projects already.

“We encourage them (to pay prevailing wage) because it keeps peace in the valley,” he said, adding work on the Lowe’s in Hornell is being constructed using union labor. “They (Lowe’s) could have brought in some contractor from Wisconsin to build it, but they didn’t.”

Griffin said local IDAs are important because they can focus on a wider variety of projects than a state system could.

“The value, to me, of IDAs is they respond to area needs,” he said. “For some areas it’s tourism, for some it’s commercial. For some, it’s industrial. For the state to take on economic development with a blanket policy, it doesn’t make sense to me.”

Griffin also said if local IDAs are rendered useless, nothing else is available to bring business to the area.

“Right now, at this stage of New York’s history, there’s nothing else,” he added, citing the upcoming sunset of the Empire Zone program in 2010 and the loss of state economic development loan money.

John Foels, director of the Allegany County DA, said the impacts of wage restrictions could be dire, especially for the many civic projects on hold.

“What that basically does is drive the cost up 25-30 percent,” Foels said.

Before those projects go through, Foels said, the state will need to re-adopt a law allowing IDAs to assist not-for-profit organizations.

Our ability to do those projects sunset over a year ago,” he said. “We have a project pending in Cuba for Cuba Memorial Hospital for an assisted living campus ... There’s a considerable amount of these projects on hold around the state.”

A far as regulations requiring more reporting and disclosure, Foels said that would not be a problem.

“We do very extensive reporting to the Comptroller’s Office annually,” he said. “We’re very used to it.”

Assemblyman James Bacalles, R-Corning, agreed the prevailing and living wage clauses would seriously increase the cost of projects.

“If the Hoyt bill becomes law, you might as well not have an IDA. It’s as simple as that,” Bacalles said.

“In two years, they only did projects that were exempt from that rule because they were already in the planning stages,” he said.

One part of the legislation — restricting IDA developments outside of brownfields unless there is a reason why it is not feasible — would shut down local IDAs because few brownfields are located in the area.

“He’s trying to eliminate IDAs in rural areas,” Bacalles said, adding the move would push for more development in urban areas where many brownfields are located. “It works well for his district, but not the rest of us.

“The only brownfield we have in Steuben County is the old foundry site for Ingersoll-Rand,” he said, adding there are other possible sites for use, but businesses already occupy those locations.

Leaders have said they do support many of the measures in the bill, however.

Requiring IDA boards to have members from education and environmental groups could help offer input to groups affected by projects.

“PILOT agreements have an impact on school taxes,” Winner said, adding letting schools have input on project negotiations could help secure better deals for everyone involved.

Other regulation changes, including shutting down IDAs with no outstanding debt, will clean up the system.

“I think they’re getting at IDAs that haven't done anything,” Winner said. “Our IDAs are very active.”

Winner also said IDAs should crack down on companies that do not follow the laws governing their projects.

“If it’s a violation, it should be corrected,” he added.

Could there be a compromise?

Hoyt said in an interview with The Evening Tribune this morning he recognizes some of the measures in his bill are controversial for rural business development, but he knows some kind of reform is needed to clean up the system.

"There's widespread — almost unanimous — support for IDA reform," he said. "I suspect my friends George and Jim probably support 90-percent of the bill. I've said from Day 1 that I am willing to compromise to get the bill done."

Hoyt said measures requiring prevailing and living wages are important for IDA projects because he has seen too many projects where minimum-wage jobs are the result of government investment.

“There’s been all sorts of information in many reports from the Comptroller’s Office that show, like many public authorities, IDAs are wasting taxpayer dollars,” he said. “They’re meant to attract good jobs. We want to make sure those create jobs with good wages.”

Hoyt also defended the increased restrictions on developments outside of brownfields, saying the intent of the clause is to stop urban sprawl and save taxpayers money.

“We’ve seen in many of our communities too much sprawl,” he said, adding instead of moving to the suburban areas, IDAs need “to encourage development where there is already infrastructure, saving the taxpayers money.”

Prattsburgh Town Board Meeting Recap - April 21, 2009

Each time it appears that a Prattsburgh Town Board Meeting couldn't possibly become more heated, more contentious, more raucous, more issue-partisan than last month's; the next Meeting trumps the last. If it weren't so tragic, it would be humorous to watch the spirited sparring - but the last thing the Tuesday, April 21, 2009 Prattsburgh Town Board Meeting was even remotely funny.

The tenor was set in the first 30 seconds of the Meeting. While attendees were greeted by not one, but 2, armed Steuben County Sherriff's Department officers, there was no 'wanding' this month. As has been the case now for every meeting of consequence for now the past several years, every of the ± 45 visitors seats was taken by shortly after 6:30 pm. The hallway and lobby was standing room only with at least another 25-30 people trying to hear; more people stood in the rain under umbrellas at the open side door. Others were standing on the porch, out in the driveway, and could be seen driving away because they couldn't get in.

Immediately after the Supervisor gaveled the Meeting to order shortly after 7 pm, Steve Kula introduced a motion, seconded by Chuck Shick, to move the session to the Fire Hall to accommodate the overflow crowd of those interested in both sides of the issues on the agenda. After a brief attempt by Harold McConnell to characterize moving the meeting as difficult "at this late hour" because he'd had no forewarning that the meeting would be "well attended", a 3-2 vote - Steve and Chuck voting Yes, Staci, Sharon and Harold voting No - ended any discussion of whether the meeting should be moved to another venue just because doing so would be in the best interests of the taxpayers.

The meeting was, as the saying goes, all down hill from there.

The battle lines are drawn.

Staci Bottoni and Sharon Quigley want whatever Ecogen wants. They want wind turbines now, wherever and however Ecogen wants them - taxpayers, scientific data and public opinion be damned. Who cares if the people in Europe and other parts of the world with many, many years more first-hand experience with wind power have dramatically rethought siting regulations and now understand that the low frequency noise generated by the turbines really does cause serious health problems? Who cares if almost all the initial impressions of those who live near the Cohocton sites are bad? Who cares if Hal Graham's windows rattle and he and his neighbors near the turbine can't sleep from the noise? Who cares if Ecogen's backer appears on the brink of bankruptcy?

Staci said she was not personally going to be impacted by turbine noise anyway because she could not afford the expensive land "up in the hills" where "those people" live and the turbines will be placed. Sharon said she paid "a lot of taxes" and that the Baptists should have drained their pipes.

Steve Kula and Chuck Shick are not yet sold. Steve Kula, a self-avowed wind power advocate who still supports the concept and feels a wind project might be good for Prattsburgh, is not willing to proceed without solid assurances that both participating and non-participating landowners would be equally protected. Charles Shick has been skeptical from the offset, cautiously optimistic but still skeptical - not opposed, but firm in his position that it would be inappropriate to proceed without more facts backed by solid scientific data.

And, so far at least, Harold's position has been to vote with the developers.

Time and again, the discussion became way beyond heated - hostile would be a more accurate description.

Steve Kula went after John Leydon and Harold like a rat terrier. John didn't like having his billing and whether it was appropriate for him to represent the Town, SCIDA and the developers questioned. Steve asked Harold for a copy of the letter he'd written apparently supporting the Ecogen project that some landowners have said the developers appear to be using to convince landowners to sign up. There seem to be questions about whether the developers have been billed by the Town for all the expenses and cost they had agreed to pay.

Steve and Chuck made a valiant effort to turn the Board's attention back to the need for developing a Wind Law. Staci and Sharon - after accepting Ecogen's invitation to visit a wind farm in Canada sporting the Siemens 2.3 MW turbine at the Town's expense - are convinced that Ecogen is prepared to respond positively to all the issues that came up last month - noise, safety & liability, and local jobs - and that a Prattsburgh Wind Law or a moratorium - is not necessary.

The Board's on-going position and planned next steps about what they intend to do about why Italy is getting a hugely 'better deal' was less clear.

The mystery stenographer was there again but was sporadic in what discussion topics she fully transcribed.

Many from the audience spoke when afforded the opportunity.

Many expressed outrage that the Board was so aloof and unencumbered by the interests of those who elected them that the idea of moving the meeting to a location where the at least 75-100 members of the public could all hear and participate was dismissed out-of-hand. Several questioned whether the Town should consider a new attorney with clearer allegiance.

Al Wordingham presented detailed siting, blade throw and noise data from other parts of the world that should be incorporated in a Wind Law.

John Servo spoke eloquently about some of the legal, liability and mechanics lien issues that rendered participating landowners unable to protect themselves or even sell their properties once a wind turbine had been erected on their land.

A licensed noise engineer, Rick James, paid for by John Servo, described in detail that - allowed to proceed as planned - the noise from turbines for Prattsburgh residents is going to be a serious issue and that considerable uncontroversial data proved that the low frequency noise from the turbines, in fact, presents health hazards.

Terry Drake repeated what he presented in a recent letter to the Naples Record - that although Ecogen had told him that the lease he'd signed with them would not stand in the way of his agreement to sell John Servo an easement across his land for a power line - today, several years after he and John had reached their agreement, Ecogen had successfully stopped them from moving ahead.

Other speakers said that Ecogen had trespassed on their property, used harassment to them get them to sign up, and told them things that did not appear to be true as an inducement to proceed.

Prattsburgh residents and landowners are missing a real spectacle - small town politics at their best and their worst - if they don't attend these meetings.

In truth, if this month's meeting was typical, you may not be able to get in unless you arrive early or call Harold McConnell in advance so he can anticipate how many people may come, but by coming and complaining if you cannot get in, you'll send a clear message that the Board represents you and you want to be able to watch while they do so.

Next month's meeting - 6:30 pm on Thursday, May 21st at either the Fire Hall or the School - will be a Public Meeting at which Ecogen will make a presentation and answer questions on their project.

Nancy Wahlstrom

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Prattsburgh Councilman Charles A Shick Letter to the Editor

After recently hearing about the noise problems in Cohocton, the tower collapse in Altona, and the mechanic liens placed on homeowners in Franklin County, it is beyond any rational thought to continue placing wind turbine generators too close to homes. The medical evidence of neurological problems with children under six years old and the elderly caused by living too close to turbines is well documented in Europe and other places around the world and is currently being studied in Maine. Turbines that are erected too close to people’s homes impose threatening health and safety issues. The setbacks in Cohocton are 1,500 feet from a home. Whereas, SCIDA has setbacks in Prattsburgh at 800 feet from your home and 480 feet from your property line. Most of Europe now has incorporated a one mile or greater setback law. Even the prowind Town Supervisor of Cohocton, Jack Zigenfuss, has written a letter pleading with the developer to fix the severe and pressing noise issues there. This is not new information; SCIDA and the Prattsburgh Town Board have known it for years and have chosen to ignore the facts. The Clipper Turbines used in Cohocton and the Siemens Turbines chosen for Prattsburgh are rated in the same intermediate category and have the identical noise rating of 106 decibels. State agencies and elected state and federal representatives are well aware of the issues and yet few have come forward to stop this travesty.

Environmentally conscious Prattsburgh residents who are opposed to the Prattsburgh project have always supported clean, green energy with the importance of proper placements of turbines. SCIDA chose the setbacks based on being able to get enough turbines in an area to make the project worthwhile for the developers. Corporations should not be put before people.

Never was there a concern for the nonparticipating land owner’s health and safety. Based on faulty data and information, provided by the developers, small towns have set noise levels that are completely inadequate. The DEC says an increase in ambient noise of 6 decibels will cause a disturbance. The ambient noise for rural areas is about 20-25 decibels. So, the noise level should not be over 31 decibels at the property line. Measurements in Cohocton are just under the limit of 50 decibels. This is 19 decibels above the DEC’s recommendation and that is why the people of Cohocton cannot sleep at night. We have all paid for Government Agencies (DEC, PSC, and NYSERDA) to study issues and make recommendations to avoid problems like those in Cohocton. Now the Prattsburgh developer wants to hold a special meeting to explain their plan and answer questions. I am sure they will offer the town many incentives like fire trucks, town barns, road signs, and the like. The Town Board shouldn’t allow itself to be bought off at the expense of its citizens. The Ecogen Turbines have the same noise rating as the turbines in Cohocton, but our setbacks are considerably less. This will cause serious harm to our citizens living in the area. To allow this project to move forward without significant change is negligence at best. The issues are health and safety, plain and simple!

Best Regards,
Councilman Charles A Shick

Windmill noise unbelievable' by Robyn Rime

Posted with the permission of The Naples Record, originally published Wednesday April 22, 2009

Property owners say company promised noise no louder than a refrigerator

In an effort to make the Naples Town Board aware of the possible impact of Prattsburgh's wind turbines, two local residents were invited to present information about the Cohocton and Prattsburgh wind farms to the board during its April 13 meeting. The reports from Hal Graham and John Servo raised perennial questions about the hazards of wind turbines and the abrogation of property rights.

Graham, whose Cohocton property has a wind turbine on it, reported that noise from the turbines was beyond anything turbine leaseholders had been expecting. Told the 400-foot towers would produce only a sound equivalent to the hum of a refrigerator, property owners instead call the noise "unbelievable."

"It sounds like a jet engine trying to take off in the back yard," Graham said.

Regulations allow turbines to produce up to 50 decibels; Graham estimates the noise in his back yard at 80 to 110 db. More than 20 property owners in the surrounding area are experiencing the same noise difficulties, he added, with all reporting difficulty in sleeping.

"The sound goes completely through the house," he said.

At a meeting between First Wind and leaseholders, the wind developer was told the noise level was unacceptable and needed to be fixed. Graham says the company's response has been to stall and evade.

"At first we were told they didn't hear anything unusual," he said. "Now they say they're looking into it, but no one has contacted us. They feel they're in compliance."

In addition to the noise, which Graham says is the major problem, other concerns include the red lights, which owners were told would not be installed, and a phenomenon called shadow flickers, which Graham describes as an effect like that of a strobe light going on and off for 30 to 45 minutes at a time.

"I'm not trying to influence the town board, Fm just telling you what to expect with these windmills," he explained. They have a drastic effect on their neighbors."

Graham cited studies that identified deleterious effects to residents within a six- to ten-mile radius of wind turbines.

John Servo's wife's property on the Naples/Prattsburgh bor-der has interested wind developers for years. He presented the board with a map dated October 2008 of the EcoGen project area in Prattsburgh, highlighting the areas on the Steuben and Ontario County lines. The map indicates that the project pushes 1,300 feet into Ontario County, absorbing approximately 270 acres into the Prattsburgh wind project area.

"They have declared that they own you and have the right to say what happens in your town," Servo told the board.

The abrogation of property rights for Naples residents has concerned the town board for many months. Naples residents whose property borders Cohocton wind turbine properties are not, for safety setback reasons, allowed to build on their property between their houses and their property lines, and they are receiving no compensation from First Wind for that loss.

In New York State, a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), or environmental impact assessment, is required by most projects or activities proposed by a state agency or unit of local government, such as the Cohocton wind farm. A SEQR requires the sponsoring or approving governmental body to identify and mitigate the significant environmental impacts of the activity it is proposing or permitting.

"Naples was not involved in the SEQR process at all, and this does have a negative impact on Naples property owners," said Duserick.

The issue has been brought to the attention of Rep. Eric Massa, who delivered a letter from the town board to State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Duserick said both Massa and Cuomo understood and empathized with the issue but that it had yet to get picked up as a hot button issue by the AG.

The board agreed to follow up with the Public Service Commission and with Ontario County, which will receive a copy of the EcoGen project area map.

"This impacts Ontario County, and we hope they get involved in helping us," said Duserick.

Representatives from First Wind have not yet responded to an invitation to address the board; Duserick said the board wants to give equal opportunity to both sides to speak their positions.

"It sounds like a jet engine trying
to take off in the backyard. The sound goes
completely through the house."
Hal Graham, who has a wind turbine on his land

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hot Air on Wind Energy

Don't expect wind power to replace coal as the nation's main source of electric power, whatever Obama's interior secretary said.

We calculate that converting wind to enough electricity to replace all U.S. coal-fired plants would require building 3,540 offshore wind farms as big as the world's largest, which is off the coast of Denmark. So far the U.S. has built exactly zero offshore wind farms.

Another government study last year concluded that to supply just 20 percent of U.S. electricity with wind turbines would require land-based equipment taking up an area "slightly less than the area of Rhode Island," plus scores of offshore wind farms.

(Click to read entire item)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

There ought to be a law

BATH - The Bath town board will begin a review of possible land use regulations that would govern the future location of wind turbines in the town.

Councilwoman Robin LattimerMonday told boardmembers improved wind energy technology may make the municipality a candidate for wind farm developments. Lattimer also cited the municipality's newly approved comprehensive plan, which notes potential sites for wind farms exist in the town.

The idea, Lattimer said, is to draft land use regulations before any wind farm development company takes steps to erect wind turbines in the town.

At a minimum, board members will consider setback requirements to govern the distance between wind turbines and private residences.

"Obviously noise concerns have been raised," Lattimer said. "There are a lot of issues to deal with."

Drafting local regulations affecting wind turbine locations would give the municipality an advantage over future development that has not been available to other municipalities in which development companies have pursued wind turbine developments.

The Town of Prattsburgh, for example, has been warned it could face litigation if it tries to restrict developers' plans to build wind turbines within the municipality. At the same time, Prattsburgh officials have been advised by residents of Cohocton that recently erected wind turbines are creating significant noise problems in that municipality.

"The noise issue is a definite concern," Bath town resident Hal Bailey told town board members. Bailey served as chairman of the committee that drafted the town's comprehensive plan.

Lattimer asked board members to consider possible land use issues in time for next month's regular board meeting. "We want to get the barn door closed before the horse gets out," she said.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wind Power Ethics Group posts Web petition for governor

The Wind Power Ethics Group is taking its case to the Web.

Members of the Cape Vincent-based citizens organization's legal committee wrote and posted a petition online for Gov. David A. Paterson, which had more than 390 signatures as of Thursday evening. The group opposes large-scale wind power development.

Group member Arthur D. Pundt cited the governor's Jan. 11 visit to Watertown, when he told local residents that siting along the St. Lawrence River and other culturally sensitive areas should be done carefully.

The petition asks the governor "to take immediate action that will preserve these special places, and forever protect them from the rampant Klondike-like wind rush that is overtaking our state, and is poisoned with unethical behavior."

The petition lays out concerns about industrial wind development and conflicts of interest.

Then it asks for:

■ Enacting an immediate two-year moratorium on wind development.

■ Turning the attorney general's voluntary code of conduct for wind developers into a mandatory code.

■ Beginning an investigation into the conflicts of interest in Cape Vincent.

■ Banning industrial wind development near New York's "treasured places."

■ A meeting with the governor to discuss and clarify threats to communities and the environment from wind development.

John L. Byrne suggested using the online petition Web site to see if the group could get a wider response. The group posted the petition Monday.

"It's been phenomenal," Mr. Byrne said. "Nobody in Cape Vincent ever thought it would get this response."

The signatures have flooded in from Cape Vincent, Lyme, Watertown, Hammond and beyond. At least half have signed their names and hometowns publicly. For those who sign anonymously, Mr. Byrne has access to their Internet service protocol addresses and e-mails.

"If they're not legitimate, they can be deleted," he said.

He didn't want to say how long the petition will be available, but he will collect the data and send them to the governor and possibly other state officials.

"By doing it this way, a lot of people are joining on this bandwagon," Mr. Byrne said. "I have friends that would never consider joining WPEG, but they've signed the petition and I was surprised."


Wind Power Ethics Group online petition:

Friday, April 10, 2009

State Launches Investigation Into Turbine Collapse

ALTONA, N.Y. -- The New York Public Service Commission has launched an investigation into the Noble Wind Farm accident in Altona and will make its own determination on the cause of the collapse.

Public Service Commission spokeswoman Anne Dalton said the agency requested information from Noble on turbine equipment and operations before the collapse, debris scatter and whether the company had proper emergency response and maintenance procedures, as well as whether they were followed. New Wind Turbine Investigation

She said the company has cooperated with the investigation, and a review of the information is under way.

Dalton said it is unclear how long the investigation will take, but added it is the first time the commission has investigated a turbine collapse.

Noble Environmental Power issued a statement in late March blaming the March 6 turbine collapse on a "wiring anomaly" that was exacerbated by a power outage at the wind farm.

Still wind farm neighbors seem unwavering in their support.

"It shouldn't discourage them at all," said Marie Gennett. "They should repair this or put a new one up. We thoroughly need this for our future."

"I don't think it's too big of a deal right now, said Steve Stanley. "They should look at it, and if they find nothing leave it alone. But if it happens again they've got to do something about it."

View Images Of Wind Turbine Collapse |Noble Confims Turbine Collapsed

Read Entire Statement From Noble

ALTONA, N.Y. -- On the morning of March 6, 2009, the Noble Altona Windpark experienced a loss of power; in response, sixty three (63) of the sixty five (65) Noble Altona Windpark turbines shut down as expected. Turbine 42 and Turbine 59 of the Noble Altona Windpark did not respond to the power outage by shutting down immediately.

Company Explains Cause Of Turbine Collapse

GE wind turbines are equipped with a pitch control system that shuts down the turbine when a loss of power occurs. Without this pitch control system, the wind turbine will spin faster than its design allows.

GE's inspection of the pitch control system in Turbine 59 revealed a wiring anomaly that resulted in the pitch control system not responding correctly, thus impacting the turbine's ability to shut down as designed. Turbine 59 was damaged, but did not collapse. Data from Turbine 42 indicates that it experienced the same wiring anomaly which resulted in Turbine 42 failing to shut down properly and ultimately led to its collapse.

Noble believes that the combination of power loss and the wiring anomaly were to blame for last week's incident, in which nobody was injured.

Noble CEO Walt Howard visited the site the day of the incident, noting, "Noble values the safety of its employees and neighbors above all else. Noble has committed its full resources to understanding the cause of this incident. We will keep you informed as we learn more information."

Immediately following the incident, Noble Environmental Power secured the site and shut down the entire Noble Altona Windpark. That day, Noble also teamed up with General Electric (GE), the manufacturer of the 1.5 megawatt turbines. Engineers from GE's global service, operations, manufacturing and engineering organizations are working to find and examine the root cause of the incident and are methodically testing other turbines in Noble's fleet. Upon GE's notification of the successful completion of the tests, the previously shut down turbines are being returned to service.

Noble has determined that the farthest piece of debris from collapsed Turbine 42, which has been identified as a piece of fiberglass, landed 345 feet from its base. This distance is well within the 1,200 foot setback from the nearest off-site residence, as required per the Town of Altona's Wind Law. This law also states that wind energy facilities must be located 500 feet from the nearest public road; the debris landed within this setback.

Images Surface In Turbine Collapse

Howard said, "Although this incident is extraordinarily rare, it is reassuring to see that the setbacks worked as intended. We want our neighbors to feel confident that our wind parks are designed and constructed with the public's safety in mind."

Local Couple Reacts To Altona Turbine Collapse

On Friday, March 13, 2009, at Noble's invitation, the Town of Altona Supervisor, Larry Ross, as well as a representative of CRA, the Town's engineering firm, walked the site of Turbine 42.

Currently, efforts to remediate the site of the incident are under way. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Supervisor Town of Cohocton April 1, 2009 letter to First Wind

01/16/2807 18:11 5853849531 . TOWNOFCOHOCTN PAGE 01/02

Town of Cohocton
P.O. Box 327
15 South Main St. Cohocton, NY 14826

April 1, 2009

Paul Gaynor, C.E.O.
First Wind
85 Wells Avenue
Newton, Massachusetts 02459

Re: Cohocton and Dutch Hill Wind Projects

Dear Mr. Gaynor:

As you should be aware, noise from First Wind's installation and operation of the Clipper Windpower 2.5MW Wind Turbines in the Town of Cohocton has been and continues to be the subject of extensive scrutiny by the Town, including the Town's Code Enforcement Office and its technical consultants, and extensive complaint by the Town's residents. As the Town's Supervisor, and as a non-participating resident of the Town, I can tell you that many of the complaints received prior and subsequent to commercial operation of the projects in January 2009, were merited.

I have discussed this matter at length with the Town's Code Enforcement Officers and technical consultants, and the Town Planning Board. I have also met with various personnel of First Wind, and spoken with other members of the Town Board and Town personnel who have had conversations with the Clipper Windpower personnel who were recently in Town apparently at the direction of First Wind to investigate noise related issues. It is my understanding, based upon these conversation, that while the Cohocton and Dutch Hill wind projects may be producing noise levels of 50 decibels or less at the non-participating property lines being monitored, actual noise levels at and near non-participating residences and other property lines may be exceeding the levels which were modeled by First Wind's consultants during the Planning Board's review and consideration of the project applications.

Although the Town was willing to stand patiently beside First Wind during construction, anticipating that operation of the projects would eliminate certain noises from the Clipper 2.5MW Wind Turbines, the Town will not stand idle during operation of the projects if the projects are not in total compliance with all of the Town's local laws, the conditions of the special use permits issued to First Wind's subsidiaries, or the terms of the agreements between First Wind's subsidiaries and the Town. Accordingly, First Wind should immediately contact the Town and its consultants to explain why noise from operation the projects is exceeding the levels modeled during review of the projects, and whether, when and how First Wind and/or Clipper Windpower,anticipate remedying the situation.

The current state of affairs in Cohocton, insofar as the wind projects are concerned, is unfortunate for Cohocton, and should be unacceptable to First Wind and Clipper Windpower. Thank you.

Jack Zigenfus
Supervisor, Town of Cohocton

Cohocton Town Board
Cohocton Town Clerk
Cohocton Office of Code Enforcement
Cohocton Planning Board
Peter Gouldberg, Tech Environmental
Richard T. VenVejrtloh, LaBella Associates, P.C
Doug Hastings, LaBella Associates, P-C.
Todd M. Mathes, Whiteman Osterman & Hanna LLP
Cathy Hill, Whiteman Osterman & Hanna LLP
Douglas Perte, C.E.O, Clipper Windpower
Patrick Caramante., First Wind

Steve Dombert, Town of Hartsville Supervisor

Click to listen to the WLEA report on lower real estate values from industrial wind projects.

Wind power is a complete disaster

There is no evidence that industrial wind power is likely to have a significant impact on carbon emissions. The European experience is instructive. Denmark, the world’s most wind-intensive nation, with more than 6,000 turbines generating 19% of its electricity, has yet to close a single fossil-fuel plant. It requires 50% more coal-generated electricity to cover wind power’s unpredictability, and pollution and carbon dioxide emissions have risen (by 36% in 2006 alone).

Flemming Nissen, the head of development at West Danish generating company ELSAM (one of Denmark’s largest energy utilities) tells us that “wind turbines do not reduce carbon dioxide emissions.” The German experience is no different. Der Spiegel reports that “Germany’s CO2 emissions haven’t been reduced by even a single gram,” and additional coal- and gas-fired plants have been constructed to ensure reliable delivery.

Indeed, recent academic research shows that wind power may actually increase greenhouse gas emissions in some cases, depending on the carbon-intensity of back-up generation required because of its intermittent character. On the negative side of the environmental ledger are adverse impacts of industrial wind turbines on birdlife and other forms of wildlife, farm animals, wetlands and viewsheds.

Industrial wind power is not a viable economic alternative to other energy conservation options. Again, the Danish experience is instructive. Its electricity generation costs are the highest in Europe (15¢/kwh compared to Ontario’s current rate of about 6¢). Niels Gram of the Danish Federation of Industries says, “windmills are a mistake and economically make no sense.” Aase Madsen , the Chair of Energy Policy in the Danish Parliament, calls it “a terribly expensive disaster.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported in 2008, on a dollar per MWh basis, the U.S. government subsidizes wind at $23.34 — compared to reliable energy sources: natural gas at 25¢; coal at 44¢; hydro at 67¢; and nuclear at $1.59, leading to what some U.S. commentators call “a huge corporate welfare feeding frenzy.” The Wall Street Journal advises that “wind generation is the prime example of what can go wrong when the government decides to pick winners.”

The Economist magazine notes in a recent editorial, “Wasting Money on Climate Change,” that each tonne of emissions avoided due to subsidies to renewable energy such as wind power would cost somewhere between $69 and $137, whereas under a cap-and-trade scheme the price would be less than $15.

Either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system creates incentives for consumers and producers on a myriad of margins to reduce energy use and emissions that, as these numbers show, completely overwhelm subsidies to renewables in terms of cost effectiveness.

The Ontario Power Authority advises that wind producers will be paid 13.5¢/kwh (more than twice what consumers are currently paying), even without accounting for the additional costs of interconnection, transmission and back-up generation. As the European experience confirms, this will inevitably lead to a dramatic increase in electricity costs with consequent detrimental effects on business and employment. From this perspective, the government’s promise of 55,000 new jobs is a cruel delusion.

A recent detailed analysis (focusing mainly on Spain) finds that for every job created by state-funded support of renewables, particularly wind energy, 2.2 jobs are lost. Each wind industry job created cost almost $2-million in subsidies. Why will the Ontario experience be different?

In debates over climate change, and in particular subsidies to renewable energy, there are two kinds of green. First there are some environmental greens who view the problem as so urgent that all measures that may have some impact on greenhouse gas emissions, whatever their cost or their impact on the economy and employment, should be undertaken immediately.

Then there are the fiscal greens, who, being cool to carbon taxes and cap-and-trade systems that make polluters pay, favour massive public subsidies to themselves for renewable energy projects, whatever their relative impact on greenhouse gas emissions. These two groups are motivated by different kinds of green. The only point of convergence between them is their support for massive subsidies to renewable energy (such as wind turbines).

This unholy alliance of these two kinds of greens (doomsdayers and rent seekers) makes for very effective, if opportunistic, politics (as reflected in the Ontario government’s Green Energy Act), just as it makes for lousy public policy: Politicians attempt to pick winners at our expense in a fast-moving technological landscape, instead of creating a socially efficient set of incentives to which we can all respond.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Moratorium on Wind Energy Development in Northern NY

Click to sign the following petition.

Dear Governor Paterson,

During a visit to Watertown, NY a few months ago you expressed concerns that we must be very careful when it involves the placement of industrial wind complexes near New York State’s environmental treasures. Myself and the people included on this letter share your concerns and are asking you to take immediate action that will preserve these special places, and forever protect them from the rampant Klondike like wind rush that is overtaking our state, and is poisoned with unethical behavior.

It would be terribly unfortunate if the legacy that followed you was one of allowing the uncontrolled industrialization of our most treasure places. Consider this quote from a Draft Environmental Impact Study done by British Petroleum in Cape Vincent at the 1000 Islands.

“The cumulative effect of the adjacent St. Lawrence and Cape Vincent Projects would be very much the same as if either project were essentially doubled in size. On a regional level, the effect of the four wind projects will be to create a continuous swath approximately 25-30 miles east to west, from Evans Mill all the way onto mainland Canada, where wind turbines will be ubiquitous.”

This is the future BP sees for an area that has traditionally been one of NY’s prime environmental and recreational resources. Is this the future you envision for the 1000 Island region or the rest of NY? This amounts to an unacceptable sudden and uncontrolled environmental transformation of an entire region of New York State driven by corporate greed and questionable ethics.

Your idea is for wind energy to play and important role in NY’s energy future. However, it will be increasingly difficult to site wind energy projects when town’s and expanding anti-wind groups see these actions as the prime example of wind company behavior, and the perception becomes that state officials have the inability to control it.

Sadly the decisions being made in Cape Vincent by town officials, who should be the stewards of these sensitive resources, is poisoned with conflicts of interest with two wind developers. Neither developer at this writing has signed onto Attorney General Cuomo’s Wind Energy Ethics Code. Six out of ten officers hold wind energy leases in violation of their own town ethics code. The very people who should be protecting this area have deep financial incentives to do otherwise. There exists a clear blatant trend of actions that show their financial incentives have precluded them from carrying out their sacred oath to protect both citizens and the environment. Cape Vincent is the worst example, but other local town’s suffer from similar symptoms as well.

The entire atmosphere that surrounds wind energy development in Northern NY has become unacceptable and intolerable by any reasonable standard, unless you are a wind developer or a wind lease holder. Your office or the Attorney General can no longer ignore this situation for political expediency.

We, the undersigned,

• Request that an immediate moratorium be placed on wind energy development for two years to sort out all the evolving and constantly changing issues surrounding this new technology which carries so many potential negative impacts.

• Request that you direct the Attorney General to modify his wind ethics code to mandatory from the current voluntary participation, and be unyielding in its enforcement.

• Request that you direct the Attorney General to immediately investigate the Cape Vincent ethics situation to ensure that this beautiful and precious area gets the protection it deserves, and that these officers are held accountable for their actions.

• Request that you be aggressive in the protection of New York’s treasured places by banning this questionable high impact use from such areas and those areas immediate adjacent so they receive the protections they deserve for future generations.

• Many of N.NY citizens have been intimately involved on these issues in their respective towns for some time. We are requesting a meeting with you and your staff with a representative group to discuss these matters and bring clarity to the threats that face our communities and environment.

Thank you for your consideration of this extremely urgent matter.

Wind Development: Studies try to determine if an ill wind blows

Bath, N.Y.

Attention over the sound made by wind turbines recently erected in Cohocton has alerted those in nearby towns considering wind projects to the potential effects of noise.

But questions remain about what action – if any – towns affected by the turbines should take to protect their citizens. One wind farm has been completed in Cohocton while projects are being considered in the towns of Prattsburgh, Hartsville and Howard.

Sound experts say noise falls into two general categories – what is heard, and what cannot be heard, but is felt.

While some Cohocton residents have complained the turbine noise is highly disturbing, other residents and visitors say they are not bothered or don’t hear the same sounds.

Background – or ambient – sound plays an important role in noise, as do weather conditions and the time of day, according to Richard James, an acoustical engineer.

James said there can be dramatic changes at night even when the atmosphere is defined as “stable.” Wind velocities at the turbine hubs can be two to four times greater than the speed recorded at 30 feet while the air is calm at the ground level, he said.

“The result is the wind turbines can be operating at or close to full capacity while it is very quiet outside the nearby dwellings,” James said.

Studies by Dr. Nina Pierpont, a resident of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, raise concerns about the effect of the noise that can be heard, including sleep deprivation, dizziness, nausea and tinnitus.

But sounds absorbed by the body could have a dramatic impact years later, with suspected damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys and trachea, Pierpont said in a recent report.

Those studies have gained an ear from other medical professionals, including Rumford Hospital in Maine, which recently requested the state enact a year-long moratorium on wind farm construction because of the potential long-term health effects.

The World Health Organization has also warned about the effect of noise on childrens’ nervous systems, which are more sensitive to noise.

What appears to be the simplest solution is changing the distances wind turbines have to be away from homes. The current minimum setback, set by the Steuben Count Industrial Development Agency, is 1,200 feet and 1,375 feet depending on the background noise of the turbine site.
Across the country, setbacks vary widely. In Port Alma, Ont., Canada, setbacks keep wind turbines roughly 2,300 feet from residences along the Lake Erie shoreline.

The Medical Academy of Medicine in France recommends setbacks of 0.9 miles due to health concerns. Pierpont recommends 1-mile setbacks.

But siting turbines is a science, with each location determined by a number of factors, including wind and the proximity of other turbines, according to John Cogan of the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency.

The financial stakes are high for Cohocton and Prattsburgh, both of which have limited tax bases.
The First Wind energy company is paying Cohocton nearly $11.5 million over the next 20 years for the 50 turbines it built along the hill tops there.

Prattsburgh would receive $3 million over the next 20 years from EcoGen if that company is allowed to build 17 wind turbines in town.

Both towns will also receive annual payments for tax breaks the developers will receive.
In Cohocton, town officials say they are working with First Wind to find solutions to noise complaints.

In Prattsburgh, town board members are negotiating with developer EcoGen, while considering a moratorium on construction.

Town supervisors in Howard and Hartsville are divided on the impact the turbines could have on their communities.

Howard Town Supervisor Don Evia said the town won’t totally ignore the concerns, but added there is a process to resolve noise issues.

“I don’t believe you go back and say you restudy the thing,” he said.

The town has confidence in its wind company EverPower and wind consultant LaBella. LaBella is also the primary consultant for the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency.

But in Hartsville, which declared a moratorium stopping construction so more study can be done, town Supervisor Steve Dombert said noise is an important issue.

“Obviously, they have problem in Cohocton and they’re trying to determine the extent of it,” Dombert said. “It seems it’s very annoying and even intolerable. And there may be no remedy.”
The energy industry itself is showing signs of trying to address the problem of noise.

At a recent meeting of the American Wind Energy Association, Mark Bastasch, of the engineering firm CH2M Hill, said the industry must “provide clarity once and for all” on the sound question.

Bastasch recommended assembling an advisory panel to determine whether more research is needed.

“Turbines can be heard,” he said.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Windmills a sound investment?

Bath, N.Y.

Editor’s note | This is the first part of a two-part look at developing concerns over wind farms in parts of Steuben County.

In early January, the blades in the 53-turbine First Wind project in the town of Cohocton began to spin. It was the first project in Steuben County to generate renewable energy and one of five under consideration in the county.

Within weeks, dozens of Cohocton residents went to the town board in neighboring Prattsburgh to warn that the machines were proving to be noisy and harmful.

“Don’t let (the developers) buffalo you,” Cohocton resident Hal Graham told the Prattsburgh Town Board in late February. “You know, I wanted to do something for the environment. And now I can’t sleep at night.”

Graham initially supported wind farm development.

Prattsburgh is the site of two wind farms planned by developers First Wind and EcoGen. Other projects have been proposed in the towns of Hartsville and Howard.

Since wind farms in Steuben County were first proposed in 2002, developers have admitted it’s hard to miss seeing the 400-foot-high turbines, but insisted they sound no louder than a refrigerator’s hum.

The projects have been promoted throughout the largely rural county as a quiet, inexpensive and environmentally-friendly way to provide renewable energy.

Environmental studies for Cohocton and Steuben County led to restrictions of the turbines’ sound to a maximum comfort level of 50 decibels. Setbacks were established to assure both noise and other potential dangers such as shadow flicker and flying debris were lessened.

Yet the promised “refrigerator hum” of the turbines was a falsity as residents began to compare the sound to the roar of a jet engine, according to Graham.

The Cohocton residents are among a growing number of people across the nation complaining the noise made by wind turbines is intrusive and disturbing. Medical professionals have compiled studies showing the noise can pose health hazards.

And the wind industry is beginning to take notice.

In Maine, where the state welcomed renewable energy, the Mars Hill project has been widely criticized for being noisy.

According to a March 26, 2008 report by the Daily News in Bangor, Maine, UPC Wind president and CEO Paul Gaynor said the company would do a better job in the future about letting local residents know what to expect from wind farms.

“I know there was an expectation (in Mars Hill) about what these were going to sound like,” Gaynor told the Daily News. “These are big structures and they do make sound.”

Shortly after Gaynor spoke to the Maine newspaper, the firm changed its name to First Wind. It was formerly known as Global Winds Harvest/UPC.

Local officials said they have relied on the best information available and worked to ensure the safety of residents.

Steuben County Industrial Development Agency Exec-utive Director James Sherron said the agency has regulatory standards based on data from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and state Energy Research Development Agency.

The Steuben County IDA has established minimum distances that wind turbines can be to a residence, called a setback. There are also limits on decibel levels.

But Sherron said he has heard reports of 110 decibels in Cohocton -- twice the accepted limit – and added any violations would go through a process of sound studies to decide the best way to solve the issue.

“We have a responsibility with the developers, they have to meet the criteria,” Sherron said. “They could be asked to slow down the turbines, find alternatives. It could mean the unit would be removed.”

Sherron said another factor in the noise may be the model of machine used in Cohocton.

While SCIDA initially reviewed 1.5 megawatt turbines, the five wind farm developers looking to do business in the county indicated they would be installing 2.3 megawatt turbines. The larger turbines were approved because SCIDA’s consultants said there was no significant difference in their impact, Sherron said.

But all models under consideration are capable of exceeding 100 decibels at a maximum speed of 30 feet per second, according to a report to SCIDA by developer EverPower.

Typically, the blade rotation is reduced to lower speeds.

Yet some sound experts charge the current “acceptable” range of 45-50 decibels is excessive, and twice as loud as some background rural noise recorded at 20-25 decibels.

Acoustical engineer Richard James warned the noise is not only nerve-wracking, but poses health risks now being studied in the U.S. and in Europe, where wind farms have operated for nearly 20 years.

James likened the potential long-term effect of wind farms to the now-notorious region near Buffalo, where officials paved over the toxic waste which later poisoned residents.
“This is like Love Canal,” he said.

Saturday, April 04, 2009



Cohocton not dealing with leaseholder noise complaints

Cohocton, N.Y.

The Town of Cohocton announced Monday it will no longer be dealing with any noise complaints generated by residents who lease property with wind energy developer First Wind.

The town board sent an open letter to the media Monday afternoon outlining its intentions on monitoring noise generated by the 50 wind turbines erected in the town in 2008 following complaints by residents and leaseholders involved with the project.

“Over the past few weeks, a resident of the Town of Cohocton, Hal Graham, has been lodging complaints with First Wind, the owner of the Town of Cohocton’s two wind farms, members of the Town Board, other State and local elected officials, and the Town’s Code Enforcement Officer concerning noise levels at his home,” the letter states.

Under the town’s wind law, the letter states, there is a distinction between participating landowners — like Graham, who has a lease with First Wind for a turbine placed on his property — and non-participating landowners.

“The town wanted to allow those persons in the town signing leases or setback waivers to make their own decisions about the use of their land, without constraining any particular landowners’ ability to negotiate with First Wind,” the letter states. “Participating landowners are viewed under the Town’s local laws as, in essence, First Wind’s co-applicants.”

The board heard complaints on noise generated from the 50 turbines on top of Pine, Lent, Dutch and Brown hills around Cohocton at its Feb. 23 meeting. At the meeting, Graham — a Lent Hill resident — addressed the board and asked if there was anything the town could do about the turbines on his property.

“They (First Wind) told us we wouldn’t hear anything at 900 feet,” he said at the meeting. “The noise is so great that my windows are vibrating.”

The letter Monday said it will not be dealing with Graham’s problems.

“While we are hopeful that First Wind will be responsive to Hal’s concerns and the concerns of any other ‘participating’ landowners, the Town will not compromise its ability to address legitimate complaints received from the owners of ‘non-participating’ parcels by taking on a ‘participating’ parcel owner’s problems,” the letter states, continuing to explain that the town’s laws on wind noise do not apply to participating landowners and they must file their complaints with First Wind.

Non-participating residents’ complaints will receive the town’s attention, though.

The current procedure for complaints is to call a toll-free number belonging to First Wind, which rings into the office located on Main Street in Cohocton. From there, First Wind officials will schedule a time for the town’s and the company’s wind turbine noise consultants to test the property and determine if there are violations of the wind law.

“If First Wind does not adequately respond to your complaint, then follow up with the Town’s Code Enforcement Officer,” the letter states.

Calls to Cohocton town Supervisor Jack Zigenfus, who sent the letter to The Evening Tribune, and Graham were not immediately returned.