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October 24, 2012

 

Wind farm review further delayed

County says it needs more time to complete environmental review of turbine project

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

Despite urging from the United Kingdom-based wind farm developer TCI Renewables, Cortland County officials do not expect to deem its draft environmental impact statement adequate for public review by month’s end.
Legislators on the county Agriculture, Planning and Environment Committee and Judiciary and Public Safety Committee say there is not enough time to review the revised document between Tuesday, when TCI submitted its revisions, and Oct. 31.
TCI plans to build 48 wind turbines in Solon, Homer, Cortlandville and Truxton by 2014. But the company has hit hurdles along the way and the future of the project is in question.
Some residents and legislators have been opposed to the plans, citing potential environmental impacts and the possibility of interference with the county’s planned $14 million emergency communications system upgrade that is scheduled to be completed in early 2013.
County officials have not yet deemed the draft EIS ready for public review, a milestone TCI is eager to achieve.
TCI Project Manager Gareth McDonald said Tuesday that because the project missed its Oct. 8 deadline for the draft EIS to be declared ready for public review, it has been removed from the state Independent System Operator’s interconnection queue. The queue allows TCI to connect the project to the electrical transmission system in New York.
McDonald said this sets the project back and TCI is still exploring how to regain standing on the queue. In the meantime, he says, it is imperative that the Legislature allow the public to review the document as soon as possible.
He did not say why there is the urgency for the document to be reviewed by the public, except to reference the State Environmental Quality Review time frame of 45 days for the county to hand the document to the public — that period would end Oct. 31.
But this time frame was reset Tuesday, according to the county. The county now has 30 days to review the document from the time that TCI submitted the revised draft EIS, according to the county’s attorney for the project, Pat Snyder.
McDonald expressed frustration with what he sees as “roadblocks” to the project.
He stressed that the draft EIS is not the final document and does not need to be perfected before it is given to the public.
“The public comment period allows public communication on the EIS and every comment must be addressed,” McDonald said.
Any problems with the document raised by the public, as well as existing concerns, will be addressed when TCI prepares the final EIS, he said.
But the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee’s chair, Kevin Whitney (R-Cortlandville), said Tuesday he does not think the draft EIS should be handed to the public until the county and its consultants for the $14 million radio upgrade project and Motorola “speak extensively” about all aspects of the planned wind project.
He is hoping for a meeting with these agencies and TCI sometime in November.
Whitney is concerned the planned wind farm could interfere with radio frequencies, either through the turbines themselves or by disrupting the land units associated with the county’s eight planned radio towers.
On Oct. 10 the county’s Communications Advisory Board, which Whitney chairs, recommended the county not accept the draft EIS until a third-party independent study is done to ensure the wind project will not interfere with the new radio system.
But McDonald said this study has already been done by TCI’s independent consultant, Comsearch, and showed that there will be no impact to the project. Whitney says the proper frequencies and channels were not studied. He wants the meeting to determine what exactly needs to be studied to ensure there will be no interference.
But McDonald says this is not necessary because TCI will work with the county to resolve any problems with the radio system, adding there is time to mitigate concerns.
Legislator Kathie Arnold (D-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton) agrees with Whitney that the questions should be clarified now.
“Because if it is going to interfere with our emergency communications system, I think it just doesn’t make sense to proceed,” she said. “Our emergency communication system working 100 percent effectively is what is of paramount importance.”

 

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