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Local residents go public with Ball Hill Wind concerns

OBSERVER Photos by Mary Heyl John D. Robinson addressed Administrative Law Judge Dakin D. Lecakes to share his concerns about trespass zoning at the Ball Hill Wind public hearing on Wednesday.

SILVER CREEK — The purpose of Wednesday night’s Ball Hill Wind public hearing – to provide Administrative Law Judge Dakin D. Lecakes with public comment on Ball Hill Wind’s request for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) – appeared to give Lecakes plenty to consider on Wednesday. Between 50 and 60 members of the public turned out on Wednesday for the hearing in the Silver Creek Central School auditorium, and approximately a dozen voiced their concerns about health and safety impacts, alleged inappropriate actions of the Villenova Town Board and effectiveness of the proposed project.

Unlike Cassadaga Wind, LLC, the state Public Service Commission does not require Ball Hill Wind to undergo review under Article 10 of the Public Service Law or require a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need, as the project was initiated in 2008, three years before Article 10 was enacted. This allowed the project to seek local siting authorities instead of the state’s and requires a different type of certificate, a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, which must be granted by the Public Service Commission (Lecakes), not the Siting Board.

Villenova Town Board actions

The Public Service Commission’s Feb. 13 announcement of the public hearing states that “the Commission’s main role is to determine whether the correct procedures were followed for that approval,” a matter that appeared to be of great concern to many in attendance on Wednesday.

Forestville resident Tina Graziano provided Lecakes with a detailed list of the unethical actions she attributes to the town of Villenova. Not only are town board members related, but several have relatives with contracts with wind company RES.

She pointed out that the planning board, which was comprised of only two members, one of which has family members with wind contracts in a neighboring town, made their recommendation to the town board to approve the wind project–a violation of municipal law.

Fredonia resident Mark Twichell referenced an unadjudicated Article 78 lawsuit against the town in which residents allege the following missteps:

The town did not request a revised environmental impact statement to account for the taller wind turbines (from 495 feet up to 599 feet).

The town board made decisions based on an outdated local noise law from 2007, which failed to include updates from the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2009.

Health and safety impacts

An Arkwright resident spoke out against the granting of the certificate, saying he is currently experiencing negative impacts of the Arkwright Wind Summit turbines that went online this fall. “Our health and our homes have been destroyed,” he said. The Arkwright resident went on to describe the noise in his home as sounding like a jet engine at times, and that he and his wife have experienced headaches, nausea and insomnia.

In her statement to Lecakes, town of Charlotte resident Joni Riggle expressed concern over the noise limits allowed by the Ball Hill Wind project. “Villenova’s dBA noise limits exceed the updated WHO 2018 noise guidelines. WHO limits turbine noise to 45 dBA,” she pointed out. Riggle went on to cite a recent DPS review of another New York wind turbine project, which resulted in an order of 42 dBA be adopted so that WHO guidelines are met. “Laws regulating health and safety in New York state cannot be arbitrary and capricious, but should be protective for all citizens,” Riggle stated.

Public interest

Fredonia resident Mark Twichell, who also owns property in Dayton, which borders the proposed wind project, questioned the idea that the construction of Ball Hill Wind is in the public’s best interest. “Is it in the public’s interest to construct a wind energy facility which has the effect of reducing New York state’s power generation carbon emission by a factor of 0.05 percent?” he asked. Twichell supported his statement by referencing the report of a Lewis County wind project, which he said had a megawatt rating nearly identical to the proposed Ball Hill project.

Dollars and cents

Regarding the economic feasibility of the project, Riggle questioned Ball Hill’s decommissioning plan, should turbines need to be taken down in the future. She stated that the decommissioning estimate of $22,705 per turbine was outdated, as the estimate is based on 2016 data that includes the original height of the turbines (495 feet) instead of the recently approved maximum height of 599 feet in Villenova.

Former Villenova resident John Conway, now a Sinclairville resident, questioned the benefit of the wind project to local tax payers. Speaking of the wind companies, “They wine and dine our town boards…it’s a total scam at the expense of our taxpayers.” He added that the town of Charlotte and the town of Arkwright are now planning to build new town halls with their host payments from the wind companies. However, he said this appears to be a waste of money and resources for town halls that only host meetings once or twice a month, are open limited hours to the public and primarily serve to house the offices of the municipal leaders who voted in the wind projects.

Although no audience members came forward to voice their support of a certificate, Villenova resident Yvonne Park filed a statement with the DPS by mail last week. “As a current Town Board Member and former Supervisor, I am fully familiar with the facts of the Ball Hill Wind Tower Project. All of the required procedures have been followed and approved,” she wrote. In voicing her full support of wind company RES and their financial stability, Park emphasized “the Project has been modified several times, each time leading to a reduction of identified impacts and implementation of updated technology to increase the efficiency of the Project.”

Following the public hearing, Lecakes held a procedural conference during which party members to the case could explain any procedures they believe should be followed. No decision was made regarding the certificate on Wednesday, as Lecakes must now review all public comments, as well as comments submitted to the DPS by mail, email and phone. Until March 8, comments can be submitted on Case 18-E-0654 online at www.dps.ny.gov. or by email to Hon. Kathleen H. Burgess, New York State Public Commission secretary at secretary.dps.ny.gov. Comments may be mailed to Burgess at Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223-1350. There is also a toll-free opinion line for individuals to submit comment by phone: 1-800-335-2120.

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