Monica L. Abreu, Esq.
Environmental Justice Coordinator
625 Broadway, 14th Floor
Dear Ms. Abreu:
I am writing
about the SEQRA review for the Windfarm Prattsburgh LLC (also referred to as Global Winds
Harvest) power project planned for the towns of
On the first page it says that “this policy will promote the fair involvement of all people in the DEC environmental permit process……to enable community groups in potential environmental justice areas to more effectively participate in the environmental permit review process.”
has been in the planning stages for more than three years, yet it is only in
the past few months that most of the people in Prattsburgh
have learned about it. As we try to
understand the ramifications of such a project we are aware that the SEQR
process may be drawing to a close for Global Winds. We have been told that there will be public
meetings, but at the same time we’ve been told that Global Winds plans to start
implementation of its project in early 2004.
They want to have their approvals finished by
Under definitions in CP-29 it says that “environmental justice means the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people….with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. Fair treatment means that no group of people, including a racial, ethnic or socioeconomic group, should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local and tribal programs and policies.”
There are many serious questions as to the suitability of placing 50 wind turbines (the size of the Statue of Liberty) in the beautiful rural landscape that is Prattsburgh. There are ethical questions concerning a Town Board that has declined to take a regulatory role and rejected a petition with 470 names (in a town of 2200) asking the Board to declare a six month moratorium on wind projects. Two Board members have close family members who have signed leases with the wind companies.
There are also questions about the
way information has been disseminated.
For example, this past weekend Global Winds Harvest sponsored a bus trip
to the Town of Fenner in Madison County so interested
Prattsburgh residents could see an example of a wind
farm. What Global did not mention to the
participants was that the Town of Fenner (which has
only 18 turbines) carefully regulated the project, and made decisions
concerning setbacks, noise levels, lights, safety precautions and many other
things. These ordinances by the Town of
and I have a home in Prattsburgh
At the time we did not know a lot about wind energy or wind turbines. We assumed it was good for the environment and felt uncomfortable objecting to a project that would reduce pollutants in the air. We did not know anything about the permitting process. We had never heard of SEQRA. We did not know that the public is supposed to be included in the permitting process as early as possible. As far as we knew, this project was a fait accompli.
This past summer a petition was circulated asking the Town Board to declare a moratorium on wind projects for six months until the public and town officials could study the situation. At that time my husband and I learned that the town had known about the Windfarm Prattsburgh project for three years. We learned that during that time there had been informational meetings about the project. Yet we, and most of the rest of the people in Prattsburgh had known nothing about the meetings and nothing about the details of the Windfarm Prattsburgh project. The town board had done nothing to let people know what was going on.
July we have spent much time researching wind turbines in general, and the
situation in Prattsburgh in particular. Unlike traditional power plants that take up
a few acres all in one place, the Global project will spread out over thousands
of acres of land. Unlike wind projects
The Town of Prattsburgh has declined to take a regulatory role in this project, which means that after Global passes the SEQRA review, the company, which has as its bottom line its own economic interests, will be free to site its towers wherever it chooses to do so. Global has obtained leases from local people, many of whom were not fully aware when they signed those leases just how extensive this project would be. I have spoken to at least one lease signer who did not understand the legalities when she signed and now wishes she hadn’t.
While the SEQRA review is currently concerned
with the Global project, it must not be seen in a vacuum. Global is planning to put up about 50 towers
and so is Ecogen, a real estate developer based in
The wind company representative waves aside all of our concerns, but this is consistent with the attitude of wind companies around the world. For example, the representative told us not to worry about noise because there is new technology that will take care of that. This is exactly what people have been told for the past 15 years in other locations. Then the towers are built, the neighbors can’t stand the noise and there is nothing anyone can do. We are concerned about the noise, bird kill, the lights, the flicker effect from the blades, ice throw, blade throw and the potential problems to our well water from the cement foundations. (Global still does not know how deep they will be, but we have been told that they could go as deep as fifty feet).
We are concerned about lightening strikes, especially since the towers are in the woods. The clear cutting will disturb the woods and streams and the wildlife in this area. The degradation of the scenic views from as far as twenty miles away will affect neighboring counties and towns, as well as interfere with the beauty of scenic trails and nature preserves. We’ve been told not to worry about a decline in property values, but it’s hard to believe that huge noisy turbines with their flashing lights will not detract from our homes’ values in an area where people come to vacation.
I and others are writing to NYSERDA, urging them to conduct an environmental impact study on each and every site where Global plans to build. Each site will have its own unique characteristics that should be taken into account before Global is given state money. Since the town is taking no responsibility to protect the environment, it falls to NYSERDA, as lead agent for SEQRA, to be as thorough as possible.
This project should be regulated. The size of each turbine, the number of combined turbines from two projects in excess of 100, the land involved, the noninvolvement of the public, the noncompliance to suggested NYSERDA guidelines by NYSERDA, and the announcement by Governor Pataki as to Windfarm Prattsburgh’s existence prior to informing the people of the town have left the residents of the economically challenged Town of Prattsburgh without representation.
Very truly yours,