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Ruth Matilisky on the Need for Legislative Oversight in NY

The legislature needs to be involved in the RPS process. It is a crime to raise hundreds of millions of dollars and then fritter it away on projects that in the end will not reduce emissions.

Julia Mallalieu
Legislative Counsel
Assembly Committee on Energy
Room 520 - Capitol
Albany, New York 12248

Dear Julia Mallalieu,

My main reason for writing this letter is to draw attention to the fact that the taxes used to support the renewables have been levied by the PSC – not by elected officials. Our legislators have no say in how this money is spent and no say in the way the RPS program is being coordinated – or not coordinated. There is no state agency involved in the overall planning of the 3000-5000 wind towers that may soon dot the hills of western New York. Even if NYSERDA were doing a fantastic job of designing a program that reduced emissions while respecting the environment, it would be questionable whether they should have such wide powers. But the truth is that they are doing a terrible job.

The RPS and SBC fees raise money that goes directly to NYSERDA. NYSERDA then uses this money as "incentives" to persuade private industry to build wind stations. When the private investors plan their projects they are subject only to local zoning, so most of them choose places where there is no zoning. Then they must go through a SEQR and once their SEQR is approved they are ready to build.

There are no state regulations for wind projects -- no size regulations -- no setbacks -- no noise regulations -- all this is being left to local municipalities. Even in the... [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Julia Mallalieu
Legislative Counsel
Assembly Committee on Energy
Room 520 - Capitol
Albany, New York 12248

Dear Julia Mallalieu,

My main reason for writing this letter is to draw attention to the fact that the taxes used to support the renewables have been levied by the PSC – not by elected officials.  Our legislators have no say in how this money is spent and no say in the way the RPS program is being coordinated – or not  coordinated.  There is no state agency involved in the overall planning of the 3000-5000 wind towers that may soon dot the hills of western New York.  Even if NYSERDA were doing a fantastic job of designing a program that reduced emissions while respecting the environment, it would be questionable whether they should have such wide powers.  But the truth is that they are doing a terrible job.

The RPS and SBC fees raise money that goes directly to NYSERDA.  NYSERDA then uses this money as "incentives" to persuade private industry to build wind stations.  When the private investors plan their projects they are subject only to local zoning, so most of them choose places where there is no zoning.  Then they must go through a SEQR and once their SEQR is approved they are ready to build.

There are no state regulations for wind projects -- no size regulations -- no setbacks -- no noise regulations -- all this is being left to local municipalities.  Even in the places where there is zoning, the local officials are usually not people who are well versed in what they need to know to oversee a wind project.

We’ve been told that SEQR would protect our interests, but the sad truth is that the intent of SEQR has been lost.  The lead agent for the Ecogen project,, theSteuben County Industrial Development Agency (SCIDA) has a vested interest in approving the SEQR because they receive $275,000 when they arrange the PILOT.  No PILOT, no fee for them.  SCIDA has repeatedly ignored the pleas of area landowners to protect our health and safety.

The Ecogen wind project recently submitted their FGEIS – a 3000 page document filled with flaws.  We were allowed to comment on the DGEIS last summer and we did.  SCIDA received 900 pages of comments on the DGEIS from interested agencies and the public, and nearly all of them were highly critical.   When the FGEIS came out there was a ten day review period and we were told that the lead (SCIDA) agent was not obligated to accept comments on the document.  In any case, they did not make the document available outside the SCIDA office until one week of the ten day period had passed

Last  summer the Fish and Wildlife agency wrote a long criticism of the DGEIS.  Jim Sherron announced to the SCIDA Board at their meeting this month that he hadn’t heard from Fish and Wildlife in response to the FGEIS. Well, perhaps if Fish and Wildlife had had more than 3 days to respond to a 3000 page document he might have heard from them in time for his meeting.

The document is a joke, filled with inaccuracies, lies and faulty studies. For example, the bird studies were criticized in comments to the DGEIS by the very people whose studies were referenced by Ecogen in the DGEIS.  In the FGEIS SCIDA ignored the criticisms or glossed over them.   The only appeal is a costly Article 78 lawsuit and most Article 78s fail because judges do not wish to second guess lead agents.  Because of the way the RPS is set up there is only the SEQR to protect the environment and the people who will be impacted by the projects and there is no one overseeing SCIDA.

The biggest farce of the Ecogen project is that they aren’t even required to show the wind conditions that they have recorded at their meteorological stations – so there is not even any proof that their project will produce enough electricity to make the project worthwhile.

There is no appeal for this.  When I pointed out to Ecogen owner Tom Hagner that without wind data no one can even know that his project will reduce emissions, he told me that he doesn’t have to prove under SEQR that his project is economically viable. When I asked him about public benefit he pointed to the RPS and said that the existence of the RPS justifies his project And now I ask, who in state government is making sure that the RPS achieves the goals it has spelled out?  The answer is:  NOBODY.

The statewide wind map shows that the wind conditions in Prattsburgh are mediocre.  Shouldn’t someone somewhere care whether these wind projects are going to do what they say they will do?  Shouldn’t someone care what the overall impact to western New York will be from 3000 wind turbines placed along the most beautiful ridges in the state?  Shouldn’t someone care about the health and safety of the people who will be forced to live as close as 750 feet away from the towers?

Evidently not, because the way it is set up, our legislators have no power to protect our  interests and the PSC says it is a local issue and NYSERDA just gives the money out and says that we can offer our input during the SEQR hearings.

The legislature needs to be involved in the RPS process.  It is a crime to raise hundreds of millions of dollars and then fritter it away on projects that in the end will not reduce emissions.

Very truly yours,

RUTH MATILSKY


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DEC 15 2005
http://www.windaction.org/posts/733-ruth-matilisky-on-the-need-for-legislative-oversight-in-ny
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