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Officials use forum to explain power projects

MILFORD — A forum Monday night was held to educate the masses — not get their opinions — on two proposed projects and the review processes surrounding them.

"The purpose tonight is to present the information about the government roles, and see the questions you have," Otsego County Planning Director Terry Bliss said before a question-and-answer session. "I’m not afraid of your opinions. Government people hear opinions all the time."

The forum, sponsored by the Otsego County Planning Department, and was designed to discuss a wind-turbine project proposed for Cherry Valley and a woodburning plant proposed for Oneonta.

About 10 representatives from several state, county and local agencies spoke at the forum. State departments included the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Local representatives included Oneonta Mayor John Nader, Carolyn Lewis from the Otsego County Economic Development Office, and Cherry Valley Town Planning Board Chairman Jeff Wait.

"We want to help you understand how this process will work," Bliss said.

An official from the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority was scheduled to speak but had a family emergency, Bliss said.

Both projects from Reunion Power — the corporation developing the wind farm — and Catalyst Renewables — the company... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
"The purpose tonight is to present the information about the government roles, and see the questions you have," Otsego County Planning Director Terry Bliss said before a question-and-answer session. "I’m not afraid of your opinions. Government people hear opinions all the time."

The forum, sponsored by the Otsego County Planning Department, and was designed to discuss a wind-turbine project proposed for Cherry Valley and a woodburning plant proposed for Oneonta.

About 10 representatives from several state, county and local agencies spoke at the forum. State departments included the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Local representatives included Oneonta Mayor John Nader, Carolyn Lewis from the Otsego County Economic Development Office, and Cherry Valley Town Planning Board Chairman Jeff Wait.

"We want to help you understand how this process will work," Bliss said.

An official from the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority was scheduled to speak but had a family emergency, Bliss said.

Both projects from Reunion Power — the corporation developing the wind farm — and Catalyst Renewables — the company developing the power plant — are dependent on NYSERDA funding.

"NYSERDA’s a very important player in the area of renewable energy," said Jack Nasca, chief of energy projects and management with the division of environmental permits at the DEC. "They use (tax money) to fund programs that look to solve some of the energy issues that are facing the state."

Most of the focus is on wind power, Nasca said, but some is on "biomass," which includes wood, and water and solar projects.

If Reunion Power and Catalyst Renewables decide to come to Cherry Valley and Oneonta, they will have to get various permits and go through site-plan review processes.

Catalyst Renewables’ proposed plant in Oneonta would have to get air permits and wetlands permits, Nasca said.

Nasca said the DEC will play a large role in the permits for air permits, brownfields development and the wetlands.

The DEC’s role in issuing permits for the wind-turbine project is less clear, Nasca said. That project would require some permits if it were near streams and wetlands.

"If you have a site that’s high and dry, DEC’s jurisdiction will be pretty limited," Nasca said. "DEC doesn’t have a wind-power permit."

Permits are issued after a State Environmental Quality Review is completed. That process is directed by a lead agency. The SEQR process doesn’t end until an environmental-impact statement has been accepted and public comment has been received.

"If you’re going to make comments on the draft EIS, make sure they’re substantive comments, that they’re raising real issues," Nasca said. "Deal with the significant and substantive issues."

"That part of the process is critical."

Not every agency has to agree with the statement, Nasca said.

"Everybody has their own, independent findings," Nasca said. "The lead agency doesn’t make everyone else toe the line."

The city of Oneonta will take the site-plan review seriously for the power plant, Nader said. Concerns include access to the plant and environmental issues.

"The city’s role is not to be an advocate of the project," Nader said, "nor an enemy of the project."

Between 50 and 60 people attended the forum, which was held at Milford Central School. Bliss had earlier estimated that about 100 people would attend.

Bliss took an informal poll, and about half of the people said they were there for information about the wind-turbine project and the other half wanted information about the power plant.

"We have clean air in Oneonta," resident Pete Christman said. "I don’t see any benefit (of the plant) to Oneonta."

Christman’s wife, Joanna, said she also was concerned about long-term health problems if the power plant came to the city.

"There’s a lot of questions to be answered," Pete Christman said.

Kathleen Minnig, a resident of Cherry Valley, said she and several others in the town were concerned not only about environmental effects from the turbines but also about aesthetics.

"We have been left out to dry," Minnig said. "We have no one to speak for us. We are here fighting for our homes."

Wait encouraged people to stop and ask him questions — and to send him information about their concerns regarding the wind- turbine project.

"Every day that goes by, I learn a lot about it," Wait said. "I expect to learn a lot more in the upcoming weeks."



Source: http://www.thedailystar.com...

APR 11 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/2110-officials-use-forum-to-explain-power-projects
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