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Friday, December 16, 2011


The PSC approved this (over 80 Mw) project yesterday (see below and the attached document). The developer, Invenergy, was in a big rush to get this done. They are going to begin doing some excavating immediately and will thereby qualify for the Treasury Section 1603 Direct Cash Grant. All they really need to do is move some dirt around before January 1 in order to qualify for this very lucrative grant – courtesy of your tax dollars.

It was no secret that this approval was coming. But when you look at the facts you can understand why it would have been a fairly easy project to site. If you were a wind developer you couldn't pick a better town to target than Orangeville, N Y in Wyoming County.

Consider some of the characteristics of Orangeville:

o It is a very rural community. Only 1200 people live there.
o There are only 35 people per square mile in Orangeville and there are only 602 residential housing units in the town
o It has some relatively high elevations. The highest point in the town is almost 2000 feet above sea level.
o Wyoming County is located one County inland from the Eastern shore of Lake Erie. The prevailing winds from Lake Erie blow directly across Orangeville.
o There is no incorporated village in the town -- just a couple of wide spots in some roads.
o There is no significant body of water in the town. Very small brooks and some man-made farm ponds are all the water there is.
o There are no campgrounds. There is no significant number of seasonal residents.
o There are only a handful of part-time residents and retirees. There are some owners of "gentlemen farms" who have retired to the town or who spend weekends there. But not very many.
o The per capita income in Orangeville is well below the national average.
o The nearest newspaper, The Hornell Evening News, is published in Steuben County.

But Orangeville does have a zoning law. The town enacted a zoning law in mid-2009 well before the local elections of November 2009. The town zoning law is rather extensive and includes many of the typical restrictions and prohibitions found in many municipal zoning laws in New York State – – including restrictions on “cabarets and adult entertainment.”

And Orangeville has a provision in their 2009 zoning law that is very receptive to Big Wind development. You can only conclude that the majority of the electorate in the town of Orangeburg is getting exactly what it has asked for. The voters of the town had an opportunity to elect town council members who would repeal the wind friendly provision in the town zoning law – but they did not. You can probably assume that this provision of the zoning law was provided to the town, word for word, by the developer. The provision reads as follows:

A. Goal - Allow development of alternative energy sources to take place within the Town but direct it to those areas that are most appropriate.
B. Policies
1. The availability of solar power, wind power, geothermal power and bioenergy has created a need for local governments to address these issues in their municipal planning. These natural resources create new kinds of working land uses which, if not properly planned for, renders a community with missed opportunities to direct changes according to a larger community vision, or in the very least, consider potentially viable options to fossil fuel.
2. Identify and inventory the Town’s natural resource capabilities and constraints to help in guiding local development, management and protection efforts. These resources represent a mix of working landscapes with economic, cultural or scenic benefits to the community.
3. Pinpoint the sites with the greatest potential for development with the lowest potential for adverse environmental or other impacts.
4. Analyze sites in the context of other natural and cultural resources, existing and adjacent land uses and other relevant factors. Planning should involve balancing a variety of needs and priorities, proposed future land uses and activities must be analyzed and evaluated for their respective advantages and drawbacks.
5. Eliminate or reduce dependency on fossil fuel and foreign energy.

The whole spirit of this section of the Orangeville zoning law is "Come on in, Big Wind! We love you…we are going to help you save the planet… and we are looking forward to our lease checks ASAP!” A small resistance group was formed called, "Clear Skies Over Orangeville." But that resistance group was not large enough. The majority should have the say in these things and the majority did in Orangeville.

You can feel sorry for those handful of retirees and weekenders who bought land in Orangeville hoping to truly get away from it all – and, among other things, enjoy a still and dark star filled night sky undiminished by the ground light of civilization. Trouble is – there just weren't enough of them to create a counterforce to the large landowners who control the local government and who have an entirely different idea of what the town should be about, and for whom.

Towns along the St. Lawrence River and Eastern Lake Ontario are qualitatively different than Orangeville in many important respects. I believe those differences will save the River and Lake towns from a similar fate.


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