Opinions are heavily negative at public hearings about wind project

By Julia Green

They had lots to say and what they said was overwhelmingly negative.

The majority of comments made by area residents at two public hearings held by the Roxbury Planning Board regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Moresville Wind Project last week were given by those opposed to the project.

“The purpose of the hearings is to give people a chance to comment and raise concerns, and we feel like the comment period and hearings are clearly accomplishing that important step in the process,” said David Groberg, vice president of business development for Invenergy.

In addition to members of the planning board and representatives from Invenergy, those present at the Wednesday and Saturday hearings included town attorney Kevin Young, Mark Tayrien of LaBella Associates, and members of the Stamford Town Board.

Among those with professional affiliations who spoke were representatives from the Delaware County Electric Cooperative (DCEC), the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society, Plattekill Mountain, Riverkeeper, Schoharie Valley Watch, and the Western Catskill Preservation Alliance (WCPA).

Groberg pre-empted any comments regarding the removal of the “Safety Regulations for Operators and Technicians” manual from the project Web site by saying that the information was removed when the turbine manufacturer informed Invenergy that the documents were proprietary and as such were not for public consumption.

“There were discussions on whether or not we needed to take the manual off the Web site weeks before it was actually removed,” Groberg said in an interview. “The fact is that the only reason we removed it was because Vestas, the turbine manufacturer, told us to. We certainly don’t believe that by removing it from a Web site that it’s going to keep the information from being a part of the discussion about this project. But with respect to the issues in the document, they’re taking statements out of a professional document and using them out of context for their own purposes.”

One of the documents in question is the operating manual issued to technicians for the Vestas V90 wind turbine, which states, “Do not stay within a radius of 400m (1,300 ft) from the turbine unless it is necessary.” The 1,300-foot minimum has concerned some critics of the project, who point out that the setback requirement in Roxbury is only 615 feet and 1,000 feet in Stamford.

There were a host of other issues raised at the hearings, including those of environmental as well as economic importance.

James Simpson, an attorney with Riverkeeper, was on hand to convey the organization’s concern regarding the sufficiency of the storm water pollution prevention plan, which, he said, “by its own terms is woefully inadequate.”

Also present was Andrew Mason, conservation chair for the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society, who once again highlighted what the organization considers the “severely lacking” avian studies conducted by Invenergy. He stated that while the organization is in favor of wind power that does not threaten birds, “that is not the case with the Moresville Project,” and asked that the planning board require at least one more year of avian studies.

In response to the organization’s criticisms of the studies, Invenergy released a statement arguing that their studies “were designed in consultation with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC)… and are sufficient to evaluate the project’s threat to avian wildlife.”

WCPA President Ron Karam presented a number of arguments against claims made in the DEIS, including statements that the Vestas V90 turbines are suitable for this area.

“Nowhere in the world will you find this turbine up on a mountainside,” he said, citing elevation and incline as prohibitive.

“I’ll have to check if there are any up on mountains, but I know there are some at similar elevations to this,” Groberg said in an interview. “We have other Vestas turbines on mountains, though not this particular model, but we went out of our way to select this turbine because we believe it is suitable for this site. While we understand people may have concerns, we’re confident this is the right turbine for this location.”

Karam also argued that if the project were to proceed according to its current plans, there would be significant infringements on setback requirements. As a result, Karam said, the project as it is currently being proposed is “impossible.”

Groberg later voiced disagreement with such claims, stating that although they acknowledge that there are some turbines that will not get built, “based on agreements that are already signed and ongoing negotiations with landowners,” Invenergy anticipates being able to build the project more or less as planned.
Despite the negative feedback, there were those in attendance who voiced support, including residents and representatives from the DCEC, which has signed an agreement with Invenergy to purchase the electricity generated by the project.

Gilboa resident Todd Banks said at Wednesday’s hearing that, “Enough thought has been put into that statement to proceed,” adding that the DEIS should be viewed like a construction project: “You have a blueprint, and if you come across an obstacle, you work to mitigate it.”

Jim Moore, another Gilboa resident, argued that, “It’s not like a set of blueprints. It’s not like a house where you can just take a wall out.”

Hobart resident Ellen West commented that it is regrettable that it is up to citizens instead of elected officials to “do the critical ground work and blow whistles regarding the misinformation…Invenergy is telling our community.”

Other issues raised included: insufficiency of the decommissioning plan in the DEIS; claims that the DEIS did not take into account the Roxbury Comprehensive Plan and the economic issues relevant to Stamford and Roxbury; noise ordinances; inadequacy of the Property Value Study; interference with microwave beams, some of which are licensed by emergency management; impacts on nearby ski resorts; and potential human impacts, including “wind turbine syndrome.”

The Roxbury Planning Board will be accepting written comments on the DEIS through June 3 and will submit consolidated comments to Invenergy, who will then address the comments and submit a final Environmental Impact Statement. The planning board and other agencies will then decide whether or not to accept the EIS.