Siting Board meeting for Cassadaga Wind Farm application set for Wednesday

OBSERVER File Photo The New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment (Siting Board) will hold a public meeting in Albany on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

ALBANY — If all goes as many have predicted, another wind farm project in Chautauqua County — this one from Cassadaga Wind LLC — will be approved by the end of the week. According to the application, Cassadaga Wind is seeking a major electric generating facility in the towns of Charlotte, Cherry Creek, Stockton and Arkwright.

As announced at the end of December, and as the final stage of the Article 10 process, the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment (Siting Board) will hold a public meeting in Albany on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. “in order to consider the application filed” by Cassadaga Wind.

For those interested in attending the meeting, but unable to travel all the way to Albany, the meeting will be webcast live on the internet at http://www.dps.ny.gov/Webcasts.html.

James Denn of the Department of Public Services (DPS) told the OBSERVER that, although “the public is welcome to attend…this is not a public statement hearing.”

Public comment on the issue had officially ended Nov. 28.

Denn added that the meeting “will include a presentation to the Siting Board by the two administrative law judges (ALJs) who oversaw the proceeding. DPS senior staff will be on-hand to answer questions from Siting Board members, if needed.”

Article 10, adopted in 2011 through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Power NY Act is, among other things, designed to streamline the state’s decision-making process regarding renewable electric generation.

According to a Cornell University report authored by Adam Blair, Article 10 “effectively centralizes energy siting decisions by removing a certain amount of land use authority granted to local governments under home rule.”

This usurping of home rule is one of the central issues local activists such as Concerned Citizens of Cassadaga Wind Farm have raised against the Article 10 process.

If the DPS approves the application, Joni Riggle of Concerned Citizens argues, “It will establish a precedent of state-controlled policy instead of ‘home rule.’ No longer will communities be able to determine whether to allow or prevent wind turbines to be constructed in their midst.”

Proponents of Article 10 argue that the process is transparent as it requires a public hearing “during which (time) concerns can be aired by members of the community that live nearby the proposed facility as well as the state agencies and the municipality in which the facility is to be located,” wrote Blair.

Article 10 also requires applicants like Cassadaga Wind to provide funds to support “intervenor-participation in the siting process,” according to the act, both during the pre-application and hearing phases of the committee hearing.

Concerned Citizens, retaining the services of Environmental Attorney Gary Abraham, have been acting as intervenors in the Cassadaga Wind case.

Despite these measures of transparency, opponents of Article 10 argue that such hearings are little more than smoke screens, citing the fact that the seven-member board making the decisions isn’t voted in by the public, but rather appointed by the state legislature.

As explained by Blair, “Opponents (of Article 10) see nothing more than state intervention in what should be a local issue.”

Local proponents of the application process and of wind farm construction in general argue that there has been considerable opportunity for feedback and, in the case of Arkwright, Town Supervisor Fred Norton said in a recent board meeting, “We took two public surveys and we found that there was an 80 percent favorable rating for the project in the beginning.”

At least five long-time Arkwright residents have questioned the veracity of the survey results as they claim that they never received a survey.

“This is a deliberate and calculated effort to render the depreciated land and cultural heritage of a minority rural population as ‘useful’ to the dominion of an overwhelmingly urban and electricity dependent industrialized society,” said local resident Mark Twichell. “Already you can see the beginning of a forced migration of people from the wind-ravaged neighborhoods as evidenced by ‘For Sale’ signs in Arkwright. While their properties are not condemned, these folks in some cases are abandoning the multi-generational stewardship of their land.”

An agenda outlining Wednesday’s Siting Board meeting is due to be available by 6 p.m. on Tuesday at http://www3.dps.ny.gov/W/PSCWeb.nsf/SN/DraftOrders.

The DPS said that the meeting could possibly be extended to Friday, Jan. 19 if needed.

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