Roxbury's Planning Board gets wind engineering input

By Julia Green
A capacity crowd turned out for Wednesday’s meeting of the Roxbury Planning Board, at which representatives for wind turbine company Invenergy and LaBella Associates were in attendance.
Roxbury Planning Board Chairman Joe Farleigh began the meeting by rebuking implications in an e-mail sent by the Western Catskill Preservation Alliance (WCPA) that LaBella Associates is “on Invenergy’s payroll.” Farleigh emphasized that payment is made to the town, which is then held in escrow, and suggested that comments implying otherwise were “offensive to the LaBella folks who have been working diligently” in the process.
WCPA President Ron Karam was in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting and responded, saying that WCPA supporters and other opponents of the project were simply looking for responses to the public comments to be “balanced and fair,” and that such fairness would serve as adequate in discrediting opinions suggesting otherwise.
“LaBella’s actions and advice to the board on how to proceed with Invenergy and the DEIS/FEIS will determine if LaBella is wind/Invenergy-biased or completely objective,” Karam added in a statement after the meeting.
“Based on LaBella’s ‘timid’ advice to the board on how to deal with some of the longer lead time studies that should be required to do a proper environmental assessment, it appears to the public that LaBella is hedging, suggesting alternate approaches to avoid the need for additional studies,” he added.
One instance in which critics of the project feel that the DEIS is sadly lacking is in its avian and bat studies – a sentiment echoed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which stated that it would like to see at least another fall migration observed.
LaBella representative John Collins and town attorney Kevin Young both indicated that a potential solution to the avian issues would be implementation of an adaptive management program, whereby post-construction mortality would be monitored and adverse effects would then be addressed.
Those in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting seemed unimpressed with such suggestions, and questions as to whose responsibility it would be to fulfill that management program were met with less than clear answers, though it was suggested that the DEC would be involved.
“Wind is weird,” was Young’s reply, adding that it remains one of the few unregulated areas, but said that, “the DEC in SEQR will require the applicant to do the adaptive management programs.”
Karam later responded, saying, “We need to understand as much as we can before this project is allowed to proceed. Discussing post-implementation adaptive management programs is ridiculous at this stage.”
There was also more than one suggestion made about the possibility of shutting the turbines down during peak migratory times – another sentiment that was met with a noticeable amount of derision from the public.
The next step in the SEQR process for the Roxbury Planning Board is the creation of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which is comprised of the DEIS, comments received during the public comment phase and the responses to those comments, and revisions or supplementary information to the DEIS. The FEIS is the informational basis upon which the planning board and other agencies must rely to make their decision to either approve the project, approve the project with modifications, or deny the project. The FEIS is compiled by the Roxbury Planning Board as the lead agency.
LaBella has submitted to the planning board a compilation of the comments received, and has indicated which comments, in the firm’s opinion, warrant further discussion and/or further study. However, Mark Tayrien of LaBella was quick to emphasize that the ultimate decision as to which comments merit further insight belongs to the board.
Young used the metaphor of the “kitchen sink,” saying that it was the responsibility of LaBella to bring the issues and the job of the planning board to decide what is important and relevant.
The Roxbury Planning Board is now in the process of reviewing the list submitted by LaBella. In addition to comments received by the public, the board also has the opportunity to add comments voicing its own concerns. Once the list is finalized to the board’s satisfaction, it will then be submitted to Invenergy.