ALBANY — The decision Wednesday by the New York State Siting Board to allow Invenergy to proceed with its proposed Alle-Catt Wind Farm in northern Cattaraugus and Allegany counties was met with dismay by opponents.
The 340-megawatt, 117-turbine wind farm would feature 600-foot turbines and cost more than $550 million. It would power up to 134,000 homes.
The Siting Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment followed recommendations by examiners, who chose to ignore any evidence that was presented after the close of a hearing on Dec. 5, 2019.
That meant new local laws approved this year by new town board majorities in Freedom and Farmersville were not considered.
In addition, the examiners recommended using a 2018 Freedom wind law that was overturned in state Supreme Court rather than the 2007 law the court said was in effect.
The siting board voted unanimously to allow Alle-Catt Wind LLC to build and operate the largest wind farm in New York state in the towns of Freedom and Farmersville in Cattaraugus County, Rushford and Centerville in Allegany County and Arcade in Wyoming County.
“Our decision today to approve the largest wind farm to date will help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and demonstrates that renewable energy works in New York and helps move us toward a clean energy future,” siting board chair John B. Rhodes said.
Farmersville Supervisor Francis “Pete” Lounsbury called the decision “a severe injustice.”
“Today the state of New York has turned a blind eye on its citizens,” he said. “Our government is based on being ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’
“New York has once again proven that it is NOT about what the people want but about pleasing a lunatic, power hungry, liberal governor and his big cities,” he added.
Lounsbury said the citizens of Farmersville, Freedom and Cattaraugus County stood up in opposition to a “disgusting blight” that was being proposed for the area.
“Today the board on energy siting for the state of New York ignored our citizens and ignored many of the recommendations of the panel of judges that they put in place,” he added. “Today the Alle-Catt wind farm by Invenergy was granted a certificate to proceed with development of the largest blight on the landscape ever inflicted on Cattaraugus County.”
Lounsbury insisted the matter was not closed, saying, “This storm has only begun to get bad.”
Environmental attorney Gary Abraham, who worked for a group of organizations formed to oppose Alle-Catt as it was proposed, was deeply disappointed.
“The fix is in,” he said after the decision was made about 20 minutes after the beginning of the remote meeting.
Abraham, who represented Freedom United, Farmersville United, Rushford United, Centerville Concerned Citizens, Concerned Citizens of Cattaraugus County and the Old Order Amish of Farmerville, said the board’s disregard of the 2007 Freedom wind law was “illegal.”
Abraham said the siting board’s arbitrary Dec. 5 deadline is also illegal.
“There is nothing in Article 10 that allows them to do that,” he said. “The siting board is not in a position to decide what the local law is. They were given the (new) Farmersville law. There is no rhyme or reason to what they did. They ran roughshod over the wishes of two towns.”
Abraham said he was talking to the coalition of groups as to what action to take next.
“We have 30 days to file a motion asking for reconsideration by the siting board,” Abraham told the Olean Times Herald after the decision was announced. “The same 30 days applies to filing a suit in civil court.”
Abraham said, “We’ve gone further than anybody. We had the best experts in the country on noise,” yet the siting board adopted the Cassadaga wind project in Chautauqua County as a model. Residents in that area are suing the developer over sleeplessness complaints, he noted.
The siting board also ignored evidence that the wind farm was not designed to withstand a potential earthquake along the Clarenden-Linden fault system which crosses its 30,000-acre footprint, Abraham said.
Invenergy spokesman Marguerite Wells said in a statement: “Alle-Catt Wind Farm will serve as a major economic generator for Western New York communities, all while delivering clean, locally-made energy to power the state.”
She said the project will provide $9.1 million in annual direct revenue to towns, schools, fire departments and landowners that can be used to improve schools, infrastructure, healthcare and public safety.
“We are proud to have reached this significant milestone, and we look forward to reviewing the recently approved certificate and continuing to work with local communities and state agencies to deliver on our commitments made to Western New York,” Wells said.
Construction will create 182 jobs with a $15 million payroll, Invenergy said, while 13 permanent jobs will be created to maintain the wind farm. Municipalities will receive about $3.2 million a year in host community agreements and payments in lieu of taxes and landowners will get $2.7 million in annual lease payments.
Stephanie Milks, the former president of Freedom United, also expressed bitter disappointment in the Siting Board’s decision.
“I would like to express my deep disgust for the siting board’s complete disregard for the residents that will be severely impacted by the negative impacts of 600-foot tall turbines,” she said. “The shadow flicker reaches nearly 1 mile.”
She said the board’s disregard of the Freedom and Farmersville local laws is outside of its jurisdiction and they have forced the residents of the area to enter into lawsuits.
“An unrealistic energy policy imposed by (Gov. Andrew) Cuomo is no reason to neglect the health, welfare and safety of the population being subjected to the turbine’s harmful impacts,” she said. “There were no protections for property values, bats, endangered species, state lands, noise limits or shadow flicker.”