Meeting 7PM, Monday night, July 19, on proposed Extension of the Industrial Wind Energies Facilities Moratorium Law
There will be a public meeting this coming Monday night, July 19, on the proposed Extension of the Industrial Wind Energies Facilities Moratorium Law of 2010. The Hearing by the Prrattsburgh Town Board will be held at the Prattsburgh Town Hall, 19 North Main Street, Prattsburgh, New York at 7PM.
The purpose of the hearing is for public comment on the proposed extension of the Industrial Wind Energy Facilities Moratorium Law. The intent of the law is to impose a further six (6) month moratorium on construction of and/or receipt and processing of applications for Industrial Wind Energy Facilities, their infrastructure and their support facilities in the Town of Prattsburgh.
All citizens concerned about adequate setbacks from their property lines to address noise and threats to health, safety and property values should attend this very important meeting. You can get a copy of the proposed Industrial Wind Energy Facilities Moratorium Law at the Office of the Town Clerk during regular business hours.
Please make every effort to attend.
Prattsburgh Town Board Special Meeting on the Ecogen Lawsuit
Tuesday Night, March 2, Prattsburgh Town Hall
NOW IS THE TIME FOR ACTION
The following letter and critical information was sent to us by a concerned citizen
I hate to sound dramatic, but we have a CRUCIAL situation here, and we need you to tell the Prattsburgh Board to fight Ecogen's ridiculous and frivolous bullying lawsuit. Please contact your neighbors and ask them to attend.
If we can't get huge numbers of you to attend, then our fight against Ecogen is over and they will build turbines with unsafe setbacks and Prattsburgh receiving a fraction of the payment that should be required. Prattsburgh will have no control over the placement of the project. We will be victims of what appears to be the limitless greed of the developers.
The special meeting is at the Town Hall, 19 North Main Street, Prattsburgh at 6:00 Tuesday March 2, 2010 and ONLY if the majority of people tell the Board to FIGHT THE LAWSUIT will they vote to fight.
PLEASE SHOW UP! If you can't be there, then send an email to:
and copy it to
In the past we've sent out letters and had people sign their names. THAT WON'T WORK THIS TIME. You must send your own email or letter and every member of your family must send their own email or letter. You can be brief or you can be lengthy. Tell the Board how much you care about protecting our land. Make sure to write your name and Prattsburgh address and tell the Board to vote in favor of fighting the lawsuit.
Short summary of events: After the election, Ecogen sued the town for holding up their project. THIS WAS A TOTALLY BOGUS LAWSUIT. Instead of fighting it, the old Board signed a resolution basically saying Ecogen could do whatever they want, wherever they want. As soon as the new Board was elected they rescinded the resolution and took steps for a moratorium.
Now Ecogen is suing the town for rescinding the resolution. The Board is taking public comments on Tuesday and if most people tell them to give in to Ecogen, then the Board will feel they have no choice but to drop the whole thing and let Ecogen do whatever they want. Board member Stacy Bottoni – who voted for the sell-out to Ecogen – is getting her cohorts to come and WE MUSTN'T BE OUTNUMBERED.
I know you can do this. You've been doing it for seven years. First Wind is gone. Let's not let Ecogen bully our town!
Prattsburgh Wind Moratorium Public Meeting
February 15, 2010
Prattsburgh Wind Moratorium Public Meeting
Monday’s regularly scheduled monthly Town Board Meeting was preceded by a 6:00 PM Public Meeting at which Town Supervisor Al Wordingham invited public input on whether the Town should enact a local law establishing a six (6) month moratorium on the construction and/or submission of applications for industrial wind energy facilities within the Town of Prattsburgh.
Twenty seven (27) townspeople and area residents spoke. One individual who lives within the village itself said that, while some residents would undoubtedly be negatively impacted by wind turbines near their homes, in light of the state’s fiscal woes and the national need for thinking ‘green’, she felt the Town had a responsibility to fully support wind projects. Another speaker asked that whatever law the Town enacted be written in such a manner that it would not prevent him from being able to move ahead with a personal wind turbine on his property.
Each of the remaining 25 residents and interested parties, 93% of those who signed up to speak, strongly urged the Board to move ahead with a moratorium. Their reasons for supporting the Town’s taking the necessary steps to put wind programs on hold in order that the potential risks can be adequately studied included: setbacks, health and safety considerations, noise and low frequency sound, shadow flicker, property values, decommissioning, and the rights of non-participating land owners – as well as the heavy handed and unethical manner in which the foreign-owned wind companies are trying to steamroller residents as individuals and the Town as a whole.
Crucial Public Hearing
Dear Friends of Prattsburgh,
On Monday, February 15 at 6:00 at the Fire Hall is the crucial public hearing for the Moratorium on Wind Construction in Prattsburgh. We can't stress enough how important it is for a large turnout. After seven years, we finally have a Board that is prepared to listen and to act, and they must have your support. Remember – this meeting is to gather information from "YOU", the public on "Going ahead with a moratorium on Wind Farms." The more of us speak, the easier it will be for the Town Board that you elected to carry out your wishes.
Talking will be limited to two minutes, so you don't have to make a speech. All you have to do is sign in when you get there, and when called upon, say that you are in favor of a moratorium. What follows are examples of what others have said. You can pick one or all, or say something entirely different. You can get as simple or complex as possible with your comments. .
• Simple: Hi my name is ______, I am a (resident, taxpayer, landowner) and I support the moratorium..
• A bit more: Hi my name is ______, I am a (resident, taxpayer, landowner) and I support the moratorium on Wind Farms for these reasons...(see samples and choose)
1. I want to make sure that everyone's health and well being is considered before we do any deal, then do it right..
2. The Board should study turbine noise and its effects on residents..
3. The Board should establish setback distances so the turbines have no negative impact on properties, residences, and the health of our citizens..
4. Please make sure that the benefits and amenities of the project are worth the potential negative impacts..
5. I am concerned about the negative impact on the value of my property. I'm also concerned about the impact on our tax base, which could make my taxes go up..
6. The problems right next door in Cohocton show us that we need to avoid the same mistakes they did..
7. I am concerned about the permanent change in the rural character of Prattsburgh. .
8. The previous Town Board did a deal with the developer for millions less what Italy was offered for roughly the same number of towers in the same project. That stinks and the Town shouldn't get ripped off..
9. Our town voted in November and I am here to support the democratic process and the new town board in their decisions. (I support the board's decisions).
For those who do not have any problem speaking your mind, just express yourself as you have in any letters to judges, papers, or other statements that you have made at other meetings. Remember, "We support the moratorium to make sure the health and well being of the town's citizens are protected, and not negatively effected by bad wind turbine siting"..
The passion expressed in so many of the comments we have heard over the years is in our favor. The Town Board is one that is fair and will listen. Let's all speak in some way regardless of the simplicity or the complexity, and the passion will show through..
If you absolutely cannot be in attendance then please send short letters to:.
Prattsburgh Town Hall
19 North Main Street
Prattsburgh, NY 14873 .
We've come a long way. Let's make sure we have proper wind turbine siting in Prattsburgh and protect our citizens. And if we do a deal with a windfarm developer, that it is a deal worth the price..
Advocates for Prattsburgh
Emergency Meeting Friday, December 18th
Defeated Town Board Majority Plans to Capitulate to Ecogen – Their Last Gift to Prattsburgh
Outgoing (defeated) Harold McConnell has called a special Prattsburgh Town Board meeting for this Friday, December 18th in the Prattsburgh Town Hall to review and discuss a possible settlement agreement in the Ecogen vs. Town of Prattsburgh lawsuit. We hope we can once again crowd the meeting. The final monthly meeting of the current town board was held Tuesday the 15th, and since (defeated) councilwoman Sharon Quigley was not in attendance, the current "Gang of Three" could not pass a settlement with Ecogen. They also failed to pass the comprehensive plan. Harold and (SCIDA and town attorney) John Leyden stated they needed to call an “emergency” special meeting for this Friday the 18th. Councilmen Steve Kula and Chuck Shick both questioned the “emergency”, as the court date is in January.
To recap events, newly-elected town supervisor Al Wordingham and councilwoman Anneke Radin-Snaith, and re-elected councilman Chuck Shick, will be sworn in January 1. Al and Anneke haven't been able to participate in closed Town Board meetings regarding the Ecogen lawsuit against the town because the lame-duck town supervisor, Harold McConnell, won't allow it.
In their lawsuit, Ecogen claims that the town has prevented their project from moving forward. Of course, Ecogen couldn't move forward anyway, as it has 1) no road agreement, 2) no transport route, 3) no contiguous line to the substation, 4) no permit for a substation and 5) no variance for 18 turbines in Italy. The lawsuit was filed immediately after the election, and Ecogen makes it no secret that they hope to settle with the present administration before Al Wordingham and Anneke Radin-Snaith join the Prattsburgh Town Board in January. With current town board members Chuck Shick and Steve Kula in favor of responsible wind turbine siting – and opposed to the Ecogen project as currently planned – after January 1st the Prattsburgh Town Board will have a 4-to-1 majority which, we hope, will put in place adequate protections for the town and its citizens.
The present Board Majority is ready to settle with Ecogen (exempt Ecogen from any future windmill laws), and the Board majority voted for John Leyden (who is also the attorney for SCIDA, the lead agent for the Ecogen project) to represent them. However, Chuck Shick and Steve Kula are protesting this decision, and if the Town Board resolves on Friday to accede to Ecogen's demands, a judge in Monroe County, will rule on it before the resolution becomes law.
The current 3-to-2 Prattsburgh town board majority wants another chance to sell our town to the lowest bidder, before they leave office! Please attend this critical meeting this coming Friday, December 18th. Tell "the Gang of Three" what you think of this parting "knife in the back" to the town they had sworn to serve.
Tax Assessment Lowered 60% due to Adjacent Wind Turbine Site
My house and land is in Prattsburgh, across from turbine sites for the Ecogen wind project, and my wife owns adjacent property in Naples. I've heard some people say "what's happening in the hills with the wind turbines won't affect me". What these folks may not yet realize is that, if these turbines are allowed to damage the value of adjacent properties, THEIR taxes will go up. And the first step in this one-two process has just started.
Last month, I appealed the property assessment for a 25-acre parcel owned by my wife in Naples. This property is located close to Ecogen turbine sites, across the line in Steuben County. This appeal for a lower assessment was based upon a re-appraisal, which considered the proximity of the proposed wind turbines, impact on the selling price of comparable properties across from turbine sites in Cohocton, and our resulting inability to build on the property. Last week the Naples assessor lowered the assessment by 60%.
Why did we get 60% lopped off our tax bill? The reason is starkly clear: the value was sucked out of the property. When wind turbines are built and sited near this property, the land will be bathed in constant industrial noise. It is not only unwise to build there, it would be virtually impossible for any sensible bank to give us a mortgage were we foolish enough to do so. I believe the Naples assessor did a fair and honest job. And while lowering taxes is good, this victory is like ashes in our mouths. What do we really want? Give us back the higher taxes, along with the ability to build on our property!
There are two issues which the citizens of Prattsburgh – and any town considering wind turbines – need to consider. Yes, adjacent non-participating landowners will be ruined, hosed by the developers big-time. The 60% lowering of our assessment is peanuts compared to what will happen to the value of homes in the shadow of noise-making, health-threatening industrial wind turbines. What the rest of our fellow property owners in town need to realize is this: they will have to help foot the bill.
Let's think it through. Assume our Town's budget stays the same. When the many negatively-impacted property and home owners have their assessments justifiably LOWERED, all the other taxpayers will have to take up the slack – and pay HIGHER taxes. Welcome to the new reality of life in Prattsburgh.
Welcome to the "benefits" of hosting a wind project with horrendous, damagingly-short setbacks. And this doesn't even begin to address an even more immediate impact on the Town – that these negatively-impacted landowners will be forced to sue their Town for the damage the Town Board majority decided to stick to us for some perverted vision of "the greater good". The only ones who make out in this mess are the developer, their foreign financiers, and whoever helped "grease the wheels of progress" – leaving Prattsburgh to sort out the damage and find a way to pay for it.
4/21/09 Prattsburgh Town Board Meeting Recap
Arnold Palmer, Advocates for Prattsburgh
Each time it appears that a Prattsburgh Town Board Meeting couldn’t possibly become more heated, more contentious, more raucous, more issue-partisan than last month’s; the next Meeting trumps the last. If it weren’t so tragic, it would be humorous to watch the spirited sparring – but the last thing the Tuesday, April 21, 2009 Prattsburgh Town Board Meeting wasn't even remotely funny.
The tenor was set in the first 30 seconds of the Meeting. While attendees were greeted by not one, but 2 armed Steuben County Sherriff’s Department officers, there was no ‘wanding’ this month. As has been the case now for every meeting of consequence for now the past several years, every of the ± 45 visitors seats was taken by shortly after 6:30 pm. The hallway and lobby was standing room only with at least another 25-30 people trying to hear; more people stood in the rain under umbrellas at the open side door. Others were standing on the porch, out in the driveway, and could be seen driving away because they couldn’t get in.
Immediately after the Supervisor gaveled the Meeting to order, Steve Kula introduced a motion, seconded by Chuck Schick, to move the session to the Fire Hall to accommodate the overflow crowd of those interested in both sides of the issues on the agenda. After a brief attempt by Harold McConnell to characterize moving the meeting as difficult “at this late hour” because he’d had no forewarning that the meeting would be “well attended”, a 3-2 vote – Steve and Chuck voting Yes, Staci, Sharon and Harold voting No – ended any discussion of whether the meeting should be moved to another venue just because doing so would be in the best interests of the taxpayers.
The meeting was, as the saying goes, all down hill from there.
The battle lines are drawn.
Staci Bottoni and Sharon Quigley want whatever Ecogen wants. They want wind turbines now, wherever and however Ecogen wants them – taxpayers, scientific data and public opinion be damned. Who cares if the people in Europe and other parts of the world with many, many years more first-hand experience with wind power have dramatically rethought siting regulations and now understand that the low frequency noise generated by the turbines really does cause serious health problems? Who cares if almost all the initial impressions of those who live near the Cohocton sites are bad? Who cares if Hal Graham’s windows rattle and he and his neighbors near the turbine can’t sleep from the noise? Who cares if Ecogen’s financial backer Babcock and Brown appears on the brink of bankruptcy?
Staci said she was not personally going to be impacted by turbine noise anyway because she could not afford the expensive land “up in the hills” where “those people” live and the turbines will be placed. Sharon said she paid “a lot of taxes.”
Steve Kula and Chuck Schick are not yet sold. Steve Kula, a self-avowed wind power advocate who still supports the concept and feels a wind project might be good for Prattsburgh, is not willing to proceed without solid assurances that both participating and non-participating landowners would be equally protected. Charles Schick has been skeptical from the offset, cautiously optimistic but still skeptical – not opposed, but firm in his position that it would be inappropriate to proceed without more facts backed by solid scientific data.
And, so far at least, Harold’s position has been to vote with the developers.
Time and again, the discussion became way beyond heated – hostile would be a more accurate description.
Steve Kula went after John Leyden and Harold like a rat terrier. John didn’t like having Steve question his billing and whether it was appropriate for him to represent the Town, SCIDA (in effect, the developers). Steve asked Harold for a copy of the letter he’d written apparently supporting the Ecogen project. Some landowners have said the developers appear to be using this letter to convince landowners to sign up. There also seem to be questions about whether the developers have been billed by the Town for all the expenses and costs they had agreed to pay.
Steve and Chuck made a valiant effort to turn the Board’s attention back to the need for developing a Wind Law. Staci and Sharon – after accepting Ecogen’s invitation to visit a wind farm in Canada sporting the Siemens 2.3 MW turbine at the Town’s expense – are convinced that Ecogen is prepared to respond positively to all the issues that came up last month – noise, safety & liability, and local jobs – and that a Prattsburgh Wind Law or a moratorium is not necessary.
The Board’s on-going position and next steps regarding how they intend to address the fact that Italy is getting a hugely ‘better deal’ in their PILOT agreement was less clear.
The mystery stenographer was there again but was sporadic in what discussion topics she fully transcribed.
Many from the audience spoke when afforded the opportunity.
Many expressed outrage that the Board was so aloof and unencumbered by the interests of those who elected them that the idea of moving the meeting to a location where the at least 75-100 members of the public could all hear and participate was dismissed out-of-hand. Several questioned whether the Town should consider a new attorney with clearer allegiance – as John Leyden is also the attorney for SCIDA, the lead agent for the Ecogen project. Al Wordingham presented detailed siting, blade throw and noise data from other parts of the world that should be incorporated in a Wind Law.
John Servo spoke eloquently about some of the legal, liability and mechanics lien issues that rendered participating landowners unable to protect themselves or even sell their properties once a wind turbine had been erected on their land. (The letter presented to the Town Board is printed below).
Rick James of E-Coustic Solutions, a nationally recognized licensed noise engineer, described in detail that – allowed to proceed as planned – the noise from turbines for Prattsburgh residents is going to be a serious issue and that considerable uncontroversial data proved that the low frequency noise from the turbines, in fact, presents health hazards. Mr. James has been contracted by Cohocton citizens to do a noise study, and also did background noise tests on John Servo's property in Prattsburgh. The daytime background noise on Mr. Servo's property was found to be 21dB at his home and 23dB at his property line. Using the DEC's recommendation that noise from wind turbines not exceed 6dB above current background noise, these guidelines show that the ceiling for turbine noise should be about 30dB at non-participating landowners property. Mr. James stated that the 50dB noise levels the developers typically seek is far too great, and often 30dB higher than background. When Chuck Schick asked him to explain this dB difference, he mentioned that 30dB represents a sound pressure level 1000 times louder. This high level of noise is why windows rattle, people can't sleep at night, and why there are health concerns for children, the elderly and some people with special health issues.
Terry Drake repeated what he presented in a recent letter to the Naples Record – that although Ecogen had told him that the lease he’d signed with them would not stand in the way of his agreement to sell John Servo an easement across his land for a power line – today, several years after he and John had reached their agreement, Ecogen had successfully stopped them from moving ahead. Quoting Terry Drake's letter to the Town Board, "There are a few things you should do before you agree to anything with this man. First, find out everyone he’s made promises to, and hold him to what he gave as his word, and make sure people aren’t going to be hurt. And don’t give him whatever he wants until all of us are protected. And when he promises you the earth, you better have it looked at by three lawyers, and after that, figure out what you’re going to do if he changes his mind anyway."
Other speakers said that Ecogen had trespassed on their property, used harassment to them get them to sign up, and told them things that did not appear to be true as an inducement to proceed.
Prattsburgh residents and landowners are missing a real spectacle – small town politics at their best and their worst – if they don’t attend these meetings.
In truth, if this month’s meeting was typical, you may not be able to get in unless you arrive early or call Harold McConnell in advance so he can anticipate how many people may come, but by coming and complaining if you cannot get in, you’ll send a clear message that the Board represents you and you want to be able to watch while they do so.
There will be two important meetings next month. Tuesday, May 19th at 7:00 pm, the Prattsburgh Town Board meeting will be held downstairs at the Ingleside Christian Church in Ingleside. Then just two days later – 6:30 pm on Thursday, May 21st at either the Fire Hall or the Prattsburgh School Cafetorium – there will be a Public Meeting at which Ecogen will make a presentation and answer questions on their project. Town Supervisor Harold McConnell mentioned that at Ecogen's meeting (unlike the First Wind meeting last year), the public will be allowed to speak. This meeting should be highly informative, and anyone with an interest in this issue and relevant information to share should attend.
4/21/09 Prattsburgh Town Board Meeting, AFP Presentation
We Need a Wind Law: Noise Problems for Non-participating Landowners,
Financial Exposure for Leasing Landowners
John Servo, Advocates for Prattsburgh
As you know, I and my family have homes directly across from Eocogen turbine sites, and I'm a member of Advocates for Prattsburgh. We and many of our fellow citizens throughout the Town are concerned about the high level of noise these turbines will make.
We hope the Prattsburgh Town Board will implement a three-month moratorium, and that during this moratorium, the Town Board will draft a Wind Law mandating guidelines which will protect both non-participating landowners and leasing landowners. A key issue is the critical need for greater setbacks to protect adjacent and nearby landowners from noise, health and safety issues, as shown by the noise problems suffered by Cohocton residents.
To start, I have a letter from Jack Zigenfus, Supervisor for the Town of Cohocton, to First Wind, which I'd like to excerpt.
I'm sure you remember that Mr. Zigenfus has been a strong backer for the First Wind project, and accepted – like Hal Graham and so many others – that these industrial machines were quiet and not a problem.
He starts, "... noise from First Wind's installation and operation of the Clipper Windpower 2.5MW Wind Turbines in the Town of Cohocton has been and continues to be the subject of extensive scrutiny by the Town, including the Town's Code Enforcement Office and its technical consultants, and extensive complaint by the Town's residents. As the Town's Supervisor, and as a non-participating resident of the Town, I can tell you that many of the complaints ... were merited.
"It is my understanding...actual noise levels at and near non-participating residences and other property lines may be exceeding the levels which were modeled by First Wind's consultants during the Planning Board's review and consideration of the project applications."
Now, I'd like to point out that Cohocton enacted a Wind Law virtually written by the developer to ALLOW a high threshold of noise, and their turbines exceeding even THIS "pro-noise" ordinance.
Continuing, "The Town will not stand idle during operation of the projects if the projects are not in total compliance with all of the Town's local laws, the conditions of the special use permits issued to First Wind's subsidiaries, or the terms of the agreements between First Wind's subsidiaries and the Town."
I'd like to point out that, even though Cohocton bent over backwards to give First Wind what they wanted, they still had a Wind Law, Special Use Permits, and other agreements in place BEFORE the Town OK'd the developer moving forward. We in Prattsburgh have essentially NOTHING – the Wind Law never got started. And while the Town COULD have done this without a moratorium, the ONLY way to take care of this NOW is to put a three month moratorium in place.
Supervisor Zigenfus then says, "First Wind should immediately contact the Town and its consultants to explain why noise from operation ... is exceeding the levels modeled during review of the projects, and whether, when and how First Wind and/or Clipper Windpower, anticipate remedying the situation."
As happens again and again, the developer MODELS how LITTLE noise the project MIGHT make, rather than determining how MUCH noise the turbines DO make, through testing at a comparable project. And we have a comparable project, in Cohocton, which uses turbines rated at 106.4dB of noise, just like the Siemens turbines Ecogen claims are so quiet.
Continuing, Supervisor Zigenfus states, "The current state of affairs in Cohocton, insofar as the wind projects are concerned, is unfortunate for Cohocton, and should be UNACCEPTABLE...".
Again, unless we have the Wind Law in place, Prattsburgh will be even more defenseless than Cohocton.
Now, I have with me Rick James of E-Coustic Solutions, a nationally recognized noise expert, who is conducting a noise study at various sites in the Cohocton project, to present what he's found. As a reference, the L90 noise level at my property line is 23dB, 21dB at the house. Following the DEC guidelines, the maximum allowable noise at my house should be 6 dB higher – 27dB.
As you know, at Ecogen's invitation, Sharron Quigley and Stacy Bottoni visited the Kruger Energy Port Alma Wind Power Project in Chatham Kent, Ontario, Canada. This windfarm uses the same 2.3MW Siemens wind turbines chosen for the Ecogen project. The stated purpose of this visit was to show these Town Board members how "quiet" these turbines are. Ecogen claims these Siemens turbines are quieter than the 2.5MW Clipper turbines causing noise problems in Cohocton, even though industry experts classify both turbines at 106.4dB of noise.
Please note the Ontario Ministry of Environment currently mandates 600 meters – 1968 feet – as setbacks from "any residential zone" at the Port Alma project. In comparison, Ecogen's current setbacks are only 1200 feet from residences – at least 768 feet closer than this Ontario project, the same project Ecogen "showcased" for Sharon and Stacy.
But this additional 768 foot setback – which Ecogen doesn't mention – isn't the best part of the story. This past month a representative from the Ontario Ministry of Environment indicated that the current setbacks for this Ontario project inadequate, due to louder noise than presented in the developer's "projections" – Big Surprise – and new setbacks would be greater still during Phase II of the Project.
There you have it. The very Siemens turbines Ecogen would have us believe are quieter than Cohocton's, have noise levels the Ontario government considers TOO LOUD at even 1968 feet away. Ecogen's current setbacks offer adjacent and nearby landowners woefully inadequate protection from potential serious harm. We could be ruined by turbines sited too close to our properties and homes, and the Town needs to enact a good "Wind Law" to protect us.
A good Wind Law would also protect leasing landowners. Let's not forget about them. The developer or project owner should be required to indemnify the leasing landowners and adjacent landowners from all legal liability arising from the operation of these wind turbines. Right now, if anything goes wrong – as it sometimes does – they're on the hook. And currently, it appears virtually impossible for leasing landowners to get adequate liability insurance for wind turbine related accidents. In addition, escrow provisions should be implemented to protect leasing landowners from potential mechanics liens, which can destroy the landowner's credit. These liens are a proliferating problem arising from deadbeat developers not paying their contractors. And as the Town Board should already know, Ecogen's Australian financial backer, Babcock and Brown, is in serious financial trouble. You don't need to take my word for it. Just search the Internet. In 30 seconds you'll find out that Babcock and Brown is as financially flush as a bad bank without a bailout. The Town Board needs to explicitly and adequately address these clear financial dangers. Our landowners need protection, not just promises, and Prattsburgh leasing landowners shouldn't be stuck paying the tab in what might amount to that "bad bank" bailout.
All of these issues can be effectively addressed during a moratorium period. I can only see one downside to having a brief moratorium and putting in place the protections we need. Ecogen and their foreign investors – good neighbors that they are – have threatened to immediately sue Prattsburgh for many times our annual revenues if you, our Town Board, don't cave in and give them what they want. And let's get this straight. The reason they don't want a moratorium is not any "hardship" of a three-month delay. The real reason is they don't want a good Wind Law, which would protect us from noise, protect leasing landowners from financial exposure, and may even cut into their huge, taxpayer-subsidized profits.
So the Town Board is now at the point of decision. All we need is three months. So, which would you rather have?
• Would the Town rather be sued by a carpetbagger and his foreign backers, who don't want you to even take a deep breadth to make sure we do this right?
• Or would you rather force Prattsburgh citizens to dip into their life savings to fight the Town – something they DON'T want to do – to protect themselves and their friends and neighbors from ruin?
This is the most momentous decision in the history of the Town. Don't surrender to Ecogen's threats. Pass the moratorium, embrace the work, write a good Wind Law, protect all of us, including the leasing landowners, THEN build the project right. It's easier than you think, and if you want it, you'll have our help.
4/21/09 Prattsburgh Town Board Meeting
Town Board Member Promoting "Gag Order" Deals
Prattsburgh Board's $8,000,000 "Mistake"
At the Prattsburgh Board meeting, it was revealed that Ecogen is offering payments to non-participating landowners – $10,000 in the example raised in the citizen's complaint last night – on the condition that they NOT COMPLAIN about the noise. This "gag order", a condition for receiving "compensation" in exchange what has been forcibly taken (not freely negotiated and given) is disgusting, and takes away the citizen's freedom of speech. It appears that targeted landowners are being "incentivized" to live with what will be constant industrial noise, and in some cases – as in Cohocton – perhaps not be able to sleep at night, and then have to "forever hold their peace" or face lawsuit. As was shown at the Tug Hill project near the Adirondacks, one-time payments and gag orders are standard operating procedure for wind project developers. But what was particularly shocking was that Board Member Stacy Bottoni admitted that she was directly involved with this effort to buy off and gag local citizens during this period leading up to the Town Board then deciding to "approve" the Ecogen project.
Analyzing this bizarre state of affairs in Prattsburgh, if you want to see what's REALLY going on, FOLLOW THE MONEY. Following this straightforward approach, I brought up during the comment period a critical point many citizens may not know about. While the Town of Italy is scheduled to receive $12,000,000 from Ecogen for siting 18 turbines in their Town, Prattsburgh is currently scheduled to receive only $3,000,000 under its payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement – $9,000,000 LESS – for siting 16 turbines in our town. Please note this is virtually the same number of turbines. For whatever reason, John Leyden, Prattsburgh's attorney (and ALSO the attorney for SCIDA, the lead agent for the Ecogen project), told the Town Board a few months back that the Board had to approve the Ecogen PILOT at the same time they approved a new split of PILOT monies for the First Wind project renegotiated with the school districts. Well, accepting this "deal" – the extraordinarily bad Ecogen PILOT – cost the Town $8,000,000 to $9,000,000 in LOST income, compared to the deal Italy negotiated. And since then, Leyden has repeatedly stated, including Tuesday night, that the Town of Prattsburgh couldn't re-negotiate the bad PILOT, because the deal was done, and the Town couldn't use other issues (such as noise) to sweeten the bad deal.
But what we heard Stacy Bottoni say last night was that Ecogen had "offered" to consider providing funds for civic improvements as a "good neighbor". And we're supposed to believe there's no "quid pro quo", no trade-off. Is the Ecogen-backing Town Board majority going to sell out the citizens who live "in the hills" – those Stacy calls "you people" – who would be harmed, and potentially ruined, by turbine noise, in exchange for, perhaps, some sidewalks in the Village and a new truck for the Highway Department? And all this when the Town SHOULD have received MILLIONS of dollars more if it hadn't been suckered into a bad deal in the first place?
This leads to the comment made by John Servo Tuesday night. He said that, if he made a half million dollar or a one million dollar mistake, his partners would kick him out – and rightly so. But when John Leyden (remember, he's also SCIDA's attorney) makes an at least eight million dollar "mistake" – MANY times the annual budget for the Town – Leyden STILL has his job. WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON HERE? Perhaps, if there is an investigation, this will all come out during discovery. To be fair, there is another possible interpretation: it could just be that attorney John Leyden and the Prattsburgh Town Board majority backing the Ecogen project are simply the worst negotiators in New York State history.
It will be interesting to see if the NY State Attorney General, who initially investigated several wind developers with much fanfare, is interested in protecting Western NY citizens. Or whether we are considered residents of the equivalent of a Third World country, complete with local officials who are easy pickings for foreign financiers and their "development" projects.
By the way, this development is virtually "job-free". When you take the 6 to 8 jobs permanent jobs the Ecogen project claims it will generate – over two towns – and factor in the exclusions for skill staff and remote monitoring, each town will be lucky if they get more than one security guard. And the project's lead agent – Steuben County IDA – claims to be a "development" agency! To make matters worse, at the Tuesday Town Board meeting Stacy Bottoni made a big deal out of the local jobs we'd get when the Town Board approves – meaning "rubber stamps" – this project. What jobs? One job? Maybe two? Do they think our citizens really that stupid that we'd fall for this?
We live in "interesting times". Two hundred years ago, during the Constitutional Convention, Ben Franklin was asked by a woman on the street "what they were doing in there". He answered, "creating a new country, if you can keep it." Defend your Town and your personal freedom. Come to the two critical meetings next month: the Prattsburgh Town Board meeting 7PM Tuesday, May 19 at the Prattsburgh Town Hall, and the Ecogen Project meeting 6:30PM Thursday, May 21 at either the Fire Hall or the Prattsburgh School Cafetorium. We will alert you to this meeting location as soon as we are informed. See you next month and keep the faith.
Prattsburgh Town Board Hears Concerns for a Moratorium, 3/3/09
The Prattsburgh Town Board Meeting on Tuesday, March 3, which lasted until after 9:00 PM, was long and interesting. Among the issues discussed was the content needed for a Town 'Wind Law'. Stacy Bottoni, who did not say "you people" once at the meeting, insisted on and got agreement that the Board hire outside counsel familiar with the issues relative to a wind law to advise them as they craft this key legislation. Sharon Quigley stated that she had visited Hal Graham's home and while, yes, his windows did rattle and the turbines did make noise, she personally did not find either objectionable. We're guessing there are no turbines in the Ecogen plan anywhere near Sharon's home.
Chuck Schick raised the need for clear and specific 'rules' on noise and suggested that a moratorium on wind farm progress/development would give the Town adequate time to craft a law. There was a mixed discussion regarding the noise studies underway in Cohocton to document citizens' complaints that they can't sleep at night. Some Board members thought it was prudent to wait for the results that engineer Rick Bolton was gathering, while others didn't want to wait to begin drafting the law, citing that it is well understood that the noise level is objectionable, and that, while these studies are important, they will merely provide data proving that the people in Cohocton are being subjected to objectionable noise levels – higher than what was promised.
According to the Town's attorney John Leyden (coincidently, also the attorney for SCIDA, the lead agent for th Ecogen project), Ecogen wants the Town to immediately either issue them a building permit identical to what was issued to First Wind and/or to confirm that, because the NYS building code does not apply to wind turbines, that they (Ecogen) do not need a building permit . . . and Ecogen will sue immediately if they don't get one or the other. Ecogen needs this issue clarified so that they can secure their financing and break ground in Prattsburgh during 2009. Leyden stated that Ecogen has placed a $40M order with a turbine manufacturer in Brazil for 'immediate' delivery of 34 2.3 MW turbines.
Chuck Schick is preparing a letter for the Board's approval that will go out to all interested parties acknowledging missing the deadline for comment on the SEQR, but detailing the Town's strong concerns about whether Prattsburgh's long-term interests have all been adequately addressed.
The bulk of the meeting centered abound Steve Kula's position that the Town would be well served, and most capable of protecting itself against an (inevitable) Ecogen lawsuit, if it immediately passed a moratorium, even though it would be several weeks or even months before a comprehensive wind law could be drafted. Steve Kula kept seeking attorney Leyden's legal opinions, asking good questions and offering motions to take steps to protect Prattsburgh. The answers provided by John Leyden appeared indistinguishable from positions one would expect from Ecogen or from the project lead agent, SCIDA (attorney Leyden's other client).
The position stated by Steve Kula and Chuck Schick is that
1) the Town must take steps to protect all it's residents with road mitigation expectations, setbacks and noise rules to protect non-participating landowners, as well as those who have signed a lease to allow turbines on their land, and
2) the Town's deal with Ecogen has to be upgraded, so that Prattsburgh ends up with a deal at least as good as the one Italy has gotten for siting 18 turbines – which, for the moment, is four times larger than Prattsburgh's deal for siting 16 turbines in the Town.
A motion to implement a moratorium was voted down. As yet, it does not appear that the Town Board understands what should comprise a comprehensive wind law, as differentiated from it's regulations for building permits, the Comprehensive Plan, and other Town laws. It is hoped that a moratorium will be enacted, and the assistance required can be provided during this moratorium period.
Prattsburgh Town Board Votes Against Moratorium, Favors "Accommodation" with Ecogen – 3/24/09
The Prattsburgh Town Board met in special session at 7:30 PM Tuesday, March 24, with the avowed intention of considering whether it should enact a three to six month moratorium on wind turbines. Based upon discussion and a presentation by attorney Gary Abraham at the regular town board meeting March 17 a week earlier, citizens were led to believe that the moratorium period would be used to determine appropriate setbacks from houses and property lines to address concerns regarding noise, health and safety.
Supervisor Harold McConnell defined a moratorium as a period in which no wind turbine physical activity – construction of any sort – would take place. At the March 24 special meeting, Harold advised those attending that no comments would be accepted other than from the Board members and the town attorney.
Beyond a particularly acrimonious and contentious flavor where those for and against a moratorium did everything but wear opposing jerseys, this particular meeting had three (3) decidedly unusual aspects.
The first was the presence of a representative from the Ontario County Sheriff Department who ‘wanded’ everyone who came in the door for weapons. In response to a question as to what prompted searching all attendees – or at least those in the ‘audience’ – a second officer said that it was his understanding “threats had been made” against Tom Hagner of Ecogen, who was there with an attorney.
The second unusual aspect was the presence of a woman with a state-of-the-art legal courtroom stenography outfit seated next to the Town attorney. While those of us who are not members of the Board and/or ‘seated at the table’ have often asked why a full, formal transcript is not made of every session, the interesting part was that no one we asked, including two Board members, knew for whom the transcript was being taken.
A third fascinating aspect was that the newly-hired, outside, wind-knowledgeable attorney, Mr. Abraham, was asked a series of extremely detailed and specific questions by Town Board member Stacy Bottoni, but prevented by Harold from saying a word. Stacy, who was the prime mover at the March 3rd Board meeting in her adamant insistence that an attorney with specific experience representing NY State communities on both sides of the issue should be hired, then attacked the poor fellow so strongly that he undoubtedly wondered why he had not spent the evening home with his family.
Harold announced that several days after the Town Board voted to have a special meeting to consider a moratorium, two Board members – Stacy Bottoni and Sharon Quigley – had met directly with Ecogen without other Board members present. Stacy was asked to report on that meeting. Stacy, with input and clear support from Sharon, then read a several page statement which centered on six issues:
1. That “all this” had been going on now for eight (8) years and that she, for one, simply wanted to get on with the process of putting up wind turbines.
2. She suggested a period of effort for working toward a “settlement” rather than taking steps which would “undoubtedly” lead to litigation – a moratorium. Stacy frequently stated throughout her presentation that the Town "would be sued (by Ecogen)" if it declared a moratorium, giving the impression that Ecogen's threats against the Town needed to be avoided at all costs.
3. The Town should move forward in recognition of the fact that people in Cohocton were unhappy with the noise being generated, but the project should not be delayed just because “some people” were unhappy with the noise level. Stacy also reiterated that she and Sharon had been assured by Ecogen that the noise in Cohocton was the result of a design flaw in the Clipper turbine, which the manufacturer had committed to address. This noise problem would not be an issue with the Siemens 2.3 MW turbines which Ecogen plans to use. (Not mentioned was the fact this particular turbine had been designed for use off-shore, while Ecogen wants to place them in-between the homes and properties of non-participating landowners). Stacy indicated she wanted to accept Ecogen’s invitation to visit a wind farm outside Detroit to see first-hand what noise levels were being generated by the Siemens 2.3 MW turbine. Chuck Schick pointed out that, now that Winter had passed, a Detroit visit would not merit much return because the Spring/Summer wind level was less, but Staci wasn’t buying. (It would be interesting to see a map of the turbine locations for the Ecogen project, with the homes of the Board members called out to see if they would be negatively affected.)
4. Ecogen should offer a response to how the Town would be protected from potential liability issues connected with tower collapses (such as the recent event in Altona, NY).
5. Ecogen must guarantee local jobs. (Please recall that this project, which spans two towns, claims to generate at most six to eight jobs. Some of these jobs can be handled through remote [out-of-town] monitoring, and others require specialized skill staff [also not local]. It is unclear whether "guarantee local jobs" means more than one or two unskilled positions.)
6. The Board must understand why Italy is getting a better deal. (Does this mean that Stacy and a majority of the Board is willing to "trade off" [sell out] the safety and high-noise concerns of adjacent landowners to get more money for the Town – additional money the Town could have gotten had it actually "negotiated" a PILOT? Unfortunately, the Town's attorney – coincidently, also the attorney for SCIDA, the lead agent for the project – had previously convinced the Town Board they had to accept a bad PILOT deal – for only one-quarter the money Italy negotiated.)
Much of Stacy’s statement was framed in the form of specific questions to Mr. Abraham who, while present, was – for whatever reasons – not allowed to respond even when he was requested to do so. Stacy spoke glowingly of the Town’s “long term” attorney, whose advice she said she was far more inclined to follow than Abraham’s which – at least at this meeting – he was not allowed to present.
After Stacy finished her statement, Steve Kula and Chuck Schick attempted to ask questions and clarify aspects of the issues Stacy raised, but were prevented from doing so by Harold. Harold asked then for and got a motion for a vote on a short period to work toward a settlement, rather than to consider a moratorium. Only Steve Kula and Chuck Schick voted Nay. The meeting lasted about 20 minutes, and with the "gag rule" in play, no one from the overflow crowd could say a word. The meeting was definitely short, but not sweet.
Critically Important Prattsburgh Town Board Meeting Tuesday, April 21
At this upcoming meeting, the Prattsburgh Town Board will decide whether to impose a three-month moratorium for the Ecogen Wind project. It is hoped that during this moratorium, the Town Board would draft a Wind Law mandating guidelines which would protect both non-participating landowners and leasing landowners. A key issue is the critical need for greater setbacks to protect adjacent non-participating landowners from noise, health and safety problems, as shown by the noise problems suffered by Cohocton residents. Leasing landowners also need to be indemnified by the developer from legal liability and protected from the thereat of mechanics liens. Another issue is the incredibly bad PILOT deal previously accepted by the Town at the recommendation of the Town's attorney, John Leyden (who is, coincidentally, also the attorney for SCIDA, the lead agent for the Ecogen project). At the previous meeting, it was voted to give Ecogen two weeks to come up with a better deal, and to address the noise concerns.
Ecogen's response was to invite two Board members – Stacy Bottoni and Sharron Quigley – to visit the Kruger Energy Port Alma Wind Power Project in Chatham Kent, Ontario, Canada. This windfarm uses the 2.3MW Siemens wind turbines chosen for the Ecogen project. The object was to shown these Town Board members how "quiet" these turbines are. The developer claims these Siemens turbines are quieter than the 2.5MW Clipper turbines causing noise problems in Cohocton, even though industry experts classify both turbines at 106dB of noise.
Please note that the Ontario Ministry of Environment currently mandates 600 meters (1968 feet) setbacks from "any residential zone". In comparison, Ecogen's current setbacks are only 1200 feet from residences – at least 768 feet closer to houses than residential zone homes in this Ontario project, which Ecogen "showcased" to these Town Board members. It can also be assumed that the closest home in this residential zone is greater than 1968 feet away from these wind turbines, as the residential zone boundary is at the property lines, not the home itself, as Ecogen would like.
Ecogen should also tell the whole story. For example, this past month a representative from the Ontario Ministry of Environment indicated that the current setbacks for this Ontario project (setbacks which are far greater than what Ecogen is currently offering) were inadequate, due to louder noise than originally presented in the developer's "projections", and new setbacks would be greater still during Phase II of the Project. Our concern is that a Town Board majority will give Ecogen whatever it wants, even though current setbacks offer adjacent and nearby landowners and homeowners inadequate protection from potential serious harm.
The Town should also enact a "Wind Law", to protect not only non-participating landowners, who could be ruined by turbines sited close to their properties and homes. A good Wind Law would protect leasing landowners as well. Ecogen and First Wind should be required to indemnify their leaseholders and adjacent landowners from all legal liability arising from the operation of these wind turbines. Currently, it appears virtually impossible for leasing landowners to get adequate liability insurance. In addition, escrow provisions should be implemented to protect leasing landowners from potential mechanics liens, a proliferating problem arising from deadbeat developers not paying their contractors. And as the Town Board knows, Ecogen's Australian financial backer, Babcock and Brown, is in serious financial trouble. The Town Board needs to explicitly and adequately address these clear dangers. Our landowners need protection, not just promises, and Prattsburgh leasing landowners shouldn't be stuck paying the tab in what would amount to a "bad bank" bailout.
All of these issues can be effectively addressed during a brief moratorium period. The Town Board needs to vote for a moratorium – rather than caving in to the developer's threats to immediately sue the Town if they don't get what they want. An effective Wind Law will be essential for protecting all our citizens. Please attend this critically important meeting this coming Tuesday, April 21 at 7:00PM.
Letter to the SCIDA Board
To: SCIDA Board
RE: Financial Assistance to the Ecogen LLC project
FROM: Ruth Matilsky
Date: November 16, 2008
This letter is being written in response to the public hearing which was held at 10:00 A.M. on November 13 at the Prattsburgh Town Hall. The result of the public hearing will impact two towns, and it is unfortunate that the SCIDA chose to hold the hearing at a time when most people would be at work. It is not the first time that the SCIDA has held a meeting of this nature in the morning, and it appears it was not held at a convenient time for the SCIDA Board members, since not a single one attended the meeting. A copy of this memorandum is being sent to the recently established Attorney General’s Task Force, which was set up to ensure compliance with the Wind Industry Ethics Code.
It is approximately five years since the SCIDA became lead agent for the Ecogen project. Since that time much new information has emerged concerning the environmental impact of wind towers – The SCIDA has systematically ignored any and all evidence of harm, in its embrace of this and other wind projects.
The Ecogen project should not receive financial assistance from SCIDA in the form of a PILOT (or in any form for that matter) for the following reasons:
1. The SCIDA, as was mentioned numerous times in response to the DGEIS, does not have a legal right to be involved in financing for a project that is outside of Steuben County. More than half of the towers are proposed to be built in the Town of Italy, which is in Yates County.
2. In addition, by acting as lead agent as well as the instrument for arranging financial assistance, the SCIDA has a conflict of interest, since the SCIDA stands to gain $275,000 by arranging the PILOT. The Board of SCIDA knew that if they had rejected the GEIS that the SCIDA would have received no payment because there would have been no PILOT to arrange. Perhaps this is why the Board of SCIDA rubber stamped this project as well as the Windfarm Prattsburgh project. I personally sat at meetings when the SCIDA accepted 3000 page documents pertaining to the GEIS without hearing one SCIDA Board Member raise a single question.
3. Never once has the Ecogen project proved its cost benefit. Many times in the GEIS, the project sponsors referred to the Renewable Portfolio Standard, but never have the project sponsors revealed the results of their meteorological studies. The wind maps produced by AWS Truewind (referred to by the project sponsor) clearly show that the wind conditions in Prattsburgh and Italy are either less than or barely in line with NYSERDA guidelines.
4. It was announced at the public hearing that the Ecogen project will use 2.3 mw turbines instead of the GE 1.5’s they originally proposed in the GEIS. This alone should call for a new SEQR. The original studies based on 1.5s were not sufficient, comprised as they were of missing data and other flaws. The setbacks for the 1.5s were not sufficient. Now Ecogen is going to use more powerful turbines and SCIDA is rubber stamping that decision.
5. Ecogen does not have the leases it requires to make a contiguous path from the turbines to the substation or for a delivery path. The company has hired surveyors and directed them to trespass on the land of non participating landowners. People have been pressured, bullied and told that their land will be condemned, and still many of them have not signed. Yet SCIDA is about to grant financial assistance to a project whose plans were supposed to be completed during the SEQR and are, in fact, not yet complete.
6. Once again it must be pointed out that it was completely inappropriate for the SCIDA to allow Ecogen to carry out a generic EIS in the first place. Because each wind site varies so much, it is absolutely impossible to make models that will be accurate unless each and every turbine site is studied for noise impact and ice throw, not to mention visual impact and shadow flicker. The impact to well water has never been taken seriously by Ecogen or by the SCIDA.
7. Six to eight full time jobs have been projected by the project sponsor and not once have these jobs been defined. It is not known whether local people will qualify for these jobs and whether they will be jobs with benefits, etc. Surely a project that is going to reap windfall profits because of financial assistance, should be providing many more jobs than that.
Ruth Matilsky, 6724 Baker Road, Prattsburgh, NY 14873
SCIDA Public Hearing 10AM Thursday, November 13 on Ecogen Project
There will be an important Public Hearing on the Ecogen Project – the second windfarm project planned for the in the Town of Prattsburgh – on Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 10:00 AM at the Prattsburgh Town Hall. The Steuben County Industrial Development Agency (SCIDA), lead agent for the Ecogen project, will be informing the Town Board and the public regarding regarding the status of the project and changes they wish to implement. Advocates for Prattsburgh has learned that Ecogen is seeking to install 2.3MW turbines, instead of the 1.5MW turbines which were part of the plan which went through the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process. These larger turbines had been restricted to off-shore applications in Denmark because of their higher noise level. SCIDA should require Ecogen to conduct a new SEQR study to assess the increased impact of installing these 50% larger wind turbine generators near the homes and properties of non-participating landowners.
As you may recall, SCIDA had also allowed Ecogen to develop and present a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS). This generic study allowed Ecogen to avoid assessing environmental impact for specific sites, and the assessment of potential site-specific negative impacts was deferred until the selection of sites had been determined. Now that Ecogen has selected its sites, citizens at the hearing should insist that SCIDA require Ecogen to 1) conduct a SEQR for these selected sites, and 2) conduct a SEQR to assess the potential negative impact which would result from close proximity to the larger, 2.3MW turbines.
The time for this hearing was clearly selected during a weekday morning to discourage public participation. Don’t let them get away with it. Please get the word out to those who are available to attend. We need to insist that SCIDA require the thorough SEQR assessments which these changes and the site selections warrant.
Let there be no misunderstanding. Protecting the rights of each of us to live in our homes and enjoy our property in peace, quiet and safety will reduce developer profits. Don’t let SCIDA throw us under the bus to chalk up a win for their scorecard (and for the direct payment they will receive). If at all possible, please attend this critical meeting and make your voice heard.
Naples Town Board Seeks Attorney General Action
Naples Town Board (Ontario County) Seeks Attorney General Action On Turbine Siting in Nearby Cohocton and Prattsburgh (Steuben County) Wind Projects
A former Prattsburgh resident drove down from Rochester recently, saw the Cohocton towers...and wept. Now that the Cohocton project is visible, people in surrounding towns are noticing that the towers are a blot on their own landscapes. How many people realized that Ingleside would be surrounded by towers? And the impact of this overwhelming visual dominance is nothing compared with the noise, health and safety concerns of adjacent property owners, who face the threat of finding their homes unlivable and their property devalued.
Last week's Naples Record reported that the Naples Town Board passed a resolution opposing the siting of wind towers in Cohocton nearby and within clear site of Naples, and sent a letter to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo seeking action. In this letter, the Naples Town Board also sought to prohibit Prattburgh wind turbines within 1500 feet of Naples town line. The Naples Town Board stated that the action by Steuben County Industrial Development Agency (SCIDA), lead agent for the Ecogen project, to allow siting of 389' turbines as close as 489' from the Naples town line constitutes reverse zoning of Naples, even though Naples is both outside the Ecogen project area and not part of Steuben County. If SCIDA’s action is allowed to stand, the close proximity of these turbines will functionally decrease property values and damage the tax base for the Town of Naples, as it will functionally prohibit adjacent Naples property owners from building homes on their properties.
The legal battle continues, but we need your continued financial support. Please send what you can to Advocates for Prattsburgh, Box 221, Prattsburgh, NY 14873.
Breaking News 8/19/08
Steuben County Judge Grants Stay on Prattsburgh Land Condemnations
This morning Steuben County Judge Marianne Furfure granted a temporary stay on the Prattsburgh condemnations. John Leyden, attorney for the Prattburgh Town Board, had gone to court in Bath, asking the judge to give the final approval on the procedures followed by the town for acquiring the easements through condemnation. Attorney Leyden also happens to be the attorney for the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency, which is the lead agent for both Prattsburgh windfarm projects. The lawyer for the condemnees, Derek Brocklebank, asked the judge to stay the condemnations pending the ruling of the appellate court.
As you know, the condemnees have filed an appeal of the condemnations.The appellate court will be hearing the appeal of the condemnees in mid to late fall and only if the appellate court rules against the condemnees will the stay be lifted.
This is excellent news for us, because if Judge Furfure had not granted the stay, it would have meant that the windfarm developer First Wind could have filed the papers and maps and started work immediately. And it's always harder to undo a project once it has begun.
It was high drama in the courtroom as John Leyden made an impassioned plea to the judge to ignore the request for a stay. But the judge appeared to really understand that if she ignored the request for a stay, it would allow the company to start work on the project before the Appellate Court hears the condemnees' appeal.
It's been a good week in the press, too. The New York Times has begun to pay attention to this issue. Please see the article “In Rural New York, Windmills Can Bring Whiff of Corruption”, which can be accessed by clicking here Though overdue, the article was highly gratifying.
We know we sound like a broken record, but please, if you can donate money to the legal fund, or you know someone who you think might donate, or even if there's someone that you don't know personally but you think he/she would care about this issue – please ask for donations so that the legal battle can continue. Checks can be mailed to Advocates for Prattsburgh, Box 221, Prattsburgh, NY 14873. We greatly appreciate your support.
Latest News 7/30/08
Attorney General Investigating Windfarm Developers, Critical Lawsuit by Advocates for Prattsburgh Against Town Board’s Eminent Domain Action Needs Your Support
Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced last week "the launching of an investigation into two companies developing and operating wind farms across New York state amid allegations of improper dealings with public officials and anti-competitive practices."
Under investigation is our very own "First Wind", formerly known variously as "UPC" and "Global Winds Harvest". First Wind, as the developer of Windfarm Prattsburgh, has pressed the Prattsburgh Town Board to initiate condemnation proceedings and exercise eminent domain for their benefit. While we are hopeful that that the Attorney General's investigation will lead to proper regulation of windfarms across the state, it is still necessary for us to continue the legal strategies that are underway.
For this reason, Advocates for Prattsburgh is proceeding with its Article 78 to annul the decisions of the Town Board to proceed with eminent domain. As we mentioned earlier in Latest News, the tie-breaking vote was cast by Town Supervisor Harold McConnell, who refused to recues himself, even after admitting he receiving money from First Wind. We are doing as much as is humanly possible to get these projects properly regulated, and we need your financial support for legal fund. Please send your donations to Advocates for Prattsburgh, Box 221, Prattsburgh, NY 14873.
Another pressing concern is that, at the same time that First Wind – owner of Windfarm Prattsburgh – is under investigation, the other windfarm developer operating in Prattsburgh – Ecogen – seems to have stepped up its attempts to acquire easements for transmission lines as well as new sites for towers. People have reported finding four-wheeler tracks as well as surveyor's marks on their property when no permission was granted. In addition, we have been told that the leases that have been offered put significant restrictions on a landowners' use of his own property.
Ron and Lynn Iocono have filed an appeal of the condemnation of
their property by the Town to provide an easement for Windfarm Prattsburgh. Three other landowners have joined them in the appeal. Ron and Lynn live in Delaware and were planning to retire here in a few years. He is working overtime as an EMT to help pay for the appeal.
On September 5, our Article 78 will be heard in Bath. We are asking the judge to set aside the vote of the town supervisor on eminent domain because of conflict of interest. This is the second time our case will go to court and it has cost us additional funds. Many of you have been very generous in responding to our most recent appeals and we really wish that taxpayers didn't have to use their own money to see justice done, but that is the system we live with, and we continue to need donations. So please send what you can.
Latest News 7/19/08
ATTORNEY GENERAL CUOMO LAUNCHES INVESTIGATION INTO WIND POWER COMPANIES'CONDUCT ACROSS UPSTATE NEW YORK
Allegations of Improper Dealings with Public Officials and Anti-Competitive Practices Subpoenas Served on First Wind/UPC Wind and Noble Environmental Power, LLC ALBANY, NY (July 15, 2008) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced today the launching of an investigation into two companies developing and operating wind farms across New York state amid allegations of improper dealings with public officials and anti-competitive practices. Wind farms are clusters of large electricity-generating turbines powered by wind and connected to the electric grid. Subpoenas were served on Newton, Massachusetts-based First Wind (formerly known as UPC Wind) and Essex, Connecticut-based Noble Environmental Power, LLC. They are part of an investigation into whether companies developing wind farms improperly sought or obtained land-use agreements with citizens and public officials; whether improper benefits were given to public officials to influence their actions, and whether they entered into anti-competitive agreements or practices. In recent months, the Office of the Attorney General has received numerous complaints regarding the two companies from citizens, groups and public officials in eight counties alleging improper relations between the companies and local officials and other improper practices. "The use of wind power, like all renewable energy sources, should be encouraged to help clean our air and end our reliance on fossil fuels," said Attorney General Cuomo. "However, public integrity remains a top priority of my office and if dirty tricks are used to facilitate even clean-energy projects, my office will put a stop to it." The Attorney General's subpoenas seek, among other things: " All documents concerning any benefits conferred on any individual or entity in connection with wind farm activity." All agreements, easements or contracts with individuals regarding placement of wind turbines. " Agreements between wind companies that may indicate anti-competitive practices. " All documents pertaining to any payments or benefits received from local, state or federal agencies.
First Wind has three operational wind farms and 48 others in development across the country, according to its web site. First Wind developed the Steel Winds wind farm in Erie County and has wind farms in development in Steuben, Chautauqua, Genesee and Wyoming (GenWY Wind) counties. Noble Environmental Power, LLC, has three active wind farms and five in development in Allegany, Chautauqua, Clinton, Franklin and Wyoming Counties. The investigation is being led by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Heffner of the Syracuse Regional Office under the supervision of Special Deputy Attorney General Ellen Biben, who oversees the Attorney General's Public Integrity Bureau. Assisting in the case are Investigators Thomas Wolf, David Bruce and Andrea Burnham.
At a court hearing in Bath July 1, Advocates for Prattsburgh, through our attorney Derek Brockelbank, asked the court to annul the Decisions by the Town Board of Prattsburgh concerning eminent domain pursuant to CPLR Article
78 and General Municipal Law Article 18. The result to be brief is that we have to go back to court.
We asked the court to invalidate the vote of Prattsburgh Town Supervisor Harold McConnell due to conflict of interest, as he had taken money from the windfarm developer UPC, now also known as First Wind. If Mr. McConnell's vote is invalidated, this would mean that the condemnation proceedings would be stopped, because with McConnell's vote invalidated, there would be a 2-2 tie.
The judge chose not to hear the substance of the case as presented. Instead, she ruled that the developer must first be a named party to the suit. Our lawyer disagreed, saying that this was not about environmental matters or the project itself that this is about improprieties on the Town Board, but the judge was not swayed.
In response, our lawyer has refiled the petition, and has asked for an injunction stopping these eminent domain actions by the Town until the Article 78 is resolved. We have also asked for a speedy hearing.
We will keep you informed regarding our on-going efforts to fight the Town's condemnation/ eminent domain action on behalf of the developer UPC. As our court action and the legal expenses we will incur will be ongoing, please consider helping us with the critical fight.
Town Board Eminent Domain Vote, 6/24/08
Tuesday June 24, just a month after the public hearing, the Prattsburgh Town Board voted to continue on with eminent domain. The the wording of the resolution and the Board’s “findings” have not been made public at this time. Chuck Schick asked Town Supervisor Harold McConnell to recues himself from voting because of his professional (real estate) connection with First Wind/UPC, and John Leyden, Town attorney, spoke for Harold and said that Harold would see how the vote went. Stacy Battoni and Sharon Quigley voted in favor while Chuck Schick and Steve Kula voted against. Harold then broke the tie by voting in favor of the resolution to condemn land which First Wind/UPC is seeking for their right-of-way. The issue, however, is not nearly resolved, because July 1 there will be a motion in Bath to throw out Harold’s vote due to conflict of interest. And, should it be necessary, three of the “condemned” are prepared to appeal.
Our understanding is that the Town Board is now required to 1) publish their findings in the newspaper, 2) make an earnest effort to obtain the desired easements, and 3) if they are unsuccessful, then they will go before a judge to get permission to condemn the property. Once they serve condemnation papers on the landowners, the landowners have 30 days to appeal the condemnations. Judith Dudley, one of the “condemnees” was present for the meeting.
The vote came after nearly a two hour executive session to which the school boards of Naples and Prattsburgh were invited, along with UPC officials, in an attempt to work out the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) disagreements that have led to two lawsuits against the Town. According to Town attorney John Leyden, no settlement was reached other than an agreement to meet again.
During the executive session, thirty or more people who are opposed to the eminent domain issue waited outside. The pro-developer side had a change in strategy, asking school kids to wear green headbands, carry signs (“honk for wind power”), and make a lot of noise. The kids were fed pizza for their trouble. The same two cars and a truck drove back and forth honking, although very few landowners or residents in favor of the project showed up. While three TV stations sent camera crews, we don’t yet know the extent and nature of the coverage.
More details in the next few days.
June 17 Town Board Meeting
Town Supervisor Bad Behavior and Violence
The Prattsburgh Town Board meeting on June 17 was disturbing for several reasons. The information given by the town attorney, John Leyden, was so confusing that I am still trying to figure out whether I am missing something or he was being deliberately misleading. On a personal level the other disturbing event was the way Supervisor Harold McConnell behaved when an audience member lunged for my camera and nearly broke it.
The meeting started out like most meetings do – old business, new business, committee reports, etc. Then the board went into executive session to discuss lawsuits. Forty-five minutes later, when the public was allowed back in, we learned that the Board had decided to table voting on the Eminent Domain Resolution which Mr. Leyden had drawn up. We couldn’t actually find out what it was that the Board was going to be voting on because Town attorney John Leyden wouldn’t tell the public.
It is disturbing that a vote on eminent domain was on the agenda in the first place, considering that the majority of Board members had not read any of the public comments. Mr. Leyden maintained there isn’t much to read because most of the comments have nothing to do with eminent domain. When pressed, he said that comments had been written about windmills. I pointed out to him that the town has to prove public purpose in order to legally condemn property and that is why people were writing about windmills and their unproven public benefit. Nevertheless, he did not rescind his advice to the Board to just skip comments about windmills.
At around this time, the man two seats down from me became agitated and interrupted to say that the problem is with the seven people that won’t sign leases. He maintained that they have to sign leases. Mr. McConnell agreed with him. Then this guy, whose name we haven’t been able to find out, lunged for my video camera and said he didn’t want his picture taken.
When people in the room protested his action, Mr. McConnell took the opportunity to launch into a “You people” speech aimed, presumably, at the people in the room who have questioned the wind projects in general and eminent domain in particular. While admitting that I had the right to videotape the proceedings, Mr. McConnell said it was all right for the man to lunge at me.
I understand the man was angry and instead of using his words (as we tell the four year olds) and asking me to turn the camera away from him, he tried to break it. I am more upset with the Town Supervisor, who should have not allowed violence of any type to occur in the meeting room. The fact that his own actions appeared to condone the violence speaks to the atmosphere of fear and intimidation that has insinuated itself into politics in Prattsburgh for too long. People in Prattsburgh have learned that if they speak up there may well be consequences – in this case, the Supervisor allowed an audience member to assault me and told me it was my own fault. Mr. McConnell has an obligation to the people in Prattsburgh to make sure that intimidation is not a part of public proceedings. If he can’t do that, then he needs to be dismissed.
MYTH # 12: They can’t put these towers THAT CLOSE to my property. Fact: Prattsburgh has no zoning protection for non-participating landowners. The edge of the rotating blades for these towers can be sited as close as 374 FEET from your property line (489' from the tower base). The leasing landowners have a say regarding where their towers are placed on their property, you DON’T. Will they want these nearly 400’ noisemaking industrial towers near their house, or NEAR YOURS (or where you want to build your future home)?