ALBANY — After a process that began in November of 2014, the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment (Siting Board) has approved the construction of 48 high-capacity, 500-foot tall wind turbines to be located in Cherry Creek, Charlotte, Stockton and Arkwright.
The approval of the Cassadaga Wind LLC application came on the heels of a public meeting that took place in Albany Wednesday morning.
A NY Department of Public Services (DPS) press release quoted the Siting Board as saying, “In keeping with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s goal to develop clean energy resources in New York state, we are proud to approve construction of this appropriately sited wind farm.”
Intervenors opposing the project, Concerned Citizens of the Cassadaga Wind Project, expressed disappointment in the ruling.
“One clear takeway is that local laws imposing reasonably stringent standards on wind projects will be applied under Article 10, notwithstanding the apparent erosion of home rule,” said environmental lawyer Gary Abraham. “Unfortunately, the host towns in this case failed to adopt such standards and were (as is common) most interested in the project sponsor’s money.”
Abraham, representing Concerned Citizens, had filed a 25-page brief in December explaining why the Siting Board should reject the project application.
Abraham argued that the project didn’t make adequate assurances for the safety of the bat population, noise reduction/protection to area residents or adequate assurances against negative environmental impacts.
Despite these objections, according to the DPS, the Siting Board “studied the environmental impacts of the construction and operation of the facility, including impacts on ecology, air, ground and surface water, wildlife, and habitat, as well as public health and safety, along with other criteria.”
While approving the project, the Siting Board acknowledged that negative environmental impacts aren’t entirely avoidable.
“The Siting Board determined that impacts to the environment largely consisted of the temporary and permanent disturbance to plants, vegetation, and forests for construction of turbine locations, access roads, collection lines, the 115 kV generator lead line, and substations. Post-construction impacts to vegetation are expected to be limited, consisting mostly of disturbances to vegetation resulting from routine maintenance and occasional repairs.”
Over all, the Siting Board lauded the project and all its alleged environmental and economic implications.
“Wind energy is a clean fuel source,” said Board Chair John Rhodes. “It doesn’t pollute the air like power plants that rely on fossil fuels and it’s renewable. Our decision today demonstrates once again that New York is a national leader in creating a clean-energy economy in New York.”
According to DPS “The majority of facility components will be located on private land, except a portion of the collection lines located on State-owned land. The developer, EverPower Wind Holdings, Inc., had proposed installing up to 62 turbines, but scaled back the number during the public review process. Once built, the project would occupy about 77 acres.”
EverPower claimed in it application that the project will have a significant positive economic impact on the host communities, “creating nearly 470 construction and full-time jobs with an annual payroll of more than $80 million, while paying more than $10 million to local governments and school districts over a 20-year period.”
The DPS commended the project as a “testament to how New York is working to achieve its Clean Energy Standard (CES)” which is requiring that 50 percent of New York’s electricity come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030.
The goal of the CES is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent (by 2030) and by 80 percent by 2050.
Members of Concerned Citizens have argued that the economic impact of the wind project will be detrimental rather than advantageous.
“The project represents millions of dollars net loss for the townships involved due to devaluations of property and environmental amenities,” said area resident Mark Twichell. “The PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of-taxes) for this project will not nearly approach the value of real taxable sales of generated electricity.”
Twichell, along with other Concerned Citizens, has voiced his misgivings that this project represents only one of many more to come.
“(The project approval) represents precedent in the permitting of all future wind farms in New York state.”