February 10, 2012
Proposed wind farm lease faulted
Legislators say payments too low, confidentiality and land-use clauses too restrictive
Cortland County legislators Thursday criticized a lease agreement proposed by United Kingdom-based wind energy firm TCI Renewables, for being seriously restrictive.
TCI is proposing a 70-megawatt wind farm that would situate 29 to 44 wind turbines on land in Solon, Truxton, Cortlandville and Homer and land surrounding the county landfill.
Legislature Chairman Mike Park (R-Homer) said he wants to review the terms of the agreement with the towns and meet in public with TCI before deciding whether the county would favor proceeding with the project.
Legislators say the document restricts their ability to criticize the project publicly or determine where turbines are located and provides inadequate liability coverage and yearly payments to the county and towns.
Legislator Kathie Arnold (D-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton) said Thursday at the Agriculture, Planning and Environment Committee meeting that she would not support the agreement.
“There are just so many provisions to me that are a no-go,” she said.
The leasing agreement was provided to the county at the end of 2011, Arnold said, but the committee waited to discuss it until Thursday’s meeting after the newly seated legislators had a chance to review the proposal.
One example of a provision Arnold disagrees with is the lease agreement’s confidentiality clause, which would prohibit the lease from being filed with the County Clerk’s Office and becoming a public document.
Arnold also faults the agreement for restricting the use of land on which a turbine is built. Under the proposed lease, landowners could not build on their land without permission from TCI.
A clause requiring the county to cooperate with TCI in obtaining state and federal permits and forbidding the county from objecting to any such applications, also strikes Arnold as unacceptable. As does a covenant prohibiting the county from objecting to the proposal in any public forum.
“We can only say good things, we can’t state any concerns,” Arnold said.
Additionally, the contract does not provide adequate compensation for the proposed turbines, Arnold said. Under a payment in lieu of taxes agreement, TCI would pay the county $2,500 per megawatt, amounting to about $175,000 a year to be shared among the towns, county and school districts.
That would only amount to about $100,000 yearly in county income “for a massive project that is going to greatly limit development in the whole area,” Arnold said.
TCI Project Manager Gareth McDonald stated in an e-mail Thursday that “TCI will continue to work with the county on the language of the lease option to achieve a satisfactory result for both parties.”
McDonald said the PILOT agreement and Host Community Agreement payments have not yet been finalized.
Park said he still favors renewable energy.
“But it has to make economic sense for the county and landowners and not cause more harm than good,” Park said.
He expects a public meeting with TCI to be set toward the end of February. It will allow county legislators to get input from towns and their constituents, he said, to determine how to proceed.
The county is the lead agency for the project which means it will be reviewing the environmental statement TCI is preparing and submitting it to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for final approval.
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