Turbine debate on hold as board waits for guidance

By Julia Green
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) submitted by Invenergy in regard to the proposed wind-turbine farm along the Moresville Ridge between Stamford and Grand Gorge was the subject of scrutiny at public hearings held in May; the comments received by the Roxbury Planning Board in response to the DEIS are still being scrutinized in preparation to drafting a Final Environmental Impact Statement.
At its monthly meeting on Wednesday, the Roxbury Planning Board confirmed that they are still waiting on feedback from Labella Associates, the primary technical consultant hired by the planning board, as well as the stenographer’s report from the hearings.
The public comment phase of the SEQRA process ended June 3, and all comments have since been in the hands of Labella.
“There will be responses drafted to almost all of the written and oral comments that were submitted and then, at some point, they will be provided to the planning board and they’ll review those and ultimately all of those responses with the comments that generated them will be included in a document called the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS),” said Mark Tayrien of Labella Associates in a phone interview Monday.
Once the planning board receives feedback from Labella, Tayrien said, “It’s their determination what responses they find to be appropriate and what responses are included in the FEIS.”
Upon receipt of the comments, the planning board will review the responses and will get back to Invenergy, “I would expect within the month,” said Planning Board Chairman Joseph Farleigh. “Everything is present to some extent, it’s just a matter of how much detail.”
He emphasized that the planning board is required to respond to all public comments. A failure to properly respond to all submitted comments would be a violation of the SEQRA process.
As of the June 18 meeting, Farleigh said he did not know when to expect feedback from Labella regarding the public comments.
“I don’t have a target date… as quickly as possible, but it typically takes some time because we consider them very carefully and very closely,” Tayrien said.
Upon receipt of the responses drafted by Labella, the Roxbury Planning Board will then look at the comments and get back to Invenergy, “I imagine within the next month,” Farleigh said.
From there, the next step in the SEQRA process is the compilation of the FEIS by the planning board.
“I thought the public comments received were thorough, were on point, and covered most of the critical areas of the DEIS,” said Ron Karam, president of the Western Catskill Preservation Alliance (WCPA). “I was very satisfied with the overall comments and we’re quite interested to see how the town and the engineering firms are going to respond to what I think are overwhelming challenges and arguments to things in the DEIS.”
The WCPA is a citizens’ group contesting the proposed wind farm, and provided the planning board and Invenergy with comments challenging most of the document.
Karam also expressed some disappointment at the lack of progress as of the June 18 meeting.
“We were kind of hoping for a little more feedback in where things stand and when we’re going to start receiving some of the feedback from the engineering firm and Kevin Young on how they’re going to address the comments,” he said. “But they’re taking a deliberate approach and I think it’s good that they’re not rushing things. We’re all waiting with bated breath to see what kind of position they’re going to take on all this.”
During the comment phase, questions were also raised as to the viability and safety of the proposed model of turbine being erected at the proposed height; it was suggested that it would be necessary to contact Vestas, the turbine manufacturing company, to confirm that the 410-foot-high turbines proposed for the Moresville Ridge are certified for use at that elevation. Farleigh noted that he had placed the responsibility for contacting Vestas in the hands of Labella or Town Attorney Kevin Young.
“That’s on our list along with another list of things to look into,” Tayrien said. “This is a somewhat detailed process of investigating questions like that, as well as a number of other technical issues that either arise during review of the DEIS or are raised during the public comment period, so we have a number of items we will be looking into and that’s one of them.”
“Based on all the comments that were submitted, I just can’t see how Invenergy and the town could proceed without completely redefining the project in terms of the location of the turbines and in terms of the location of the substations and the roads,” Karam said. “We’ve demonstrated through documented declarations that the turbines are all in positions that can’t be assembled without variances, that the roads are going through private property where landowners have declared opposition and aren’t going to give permission.”
He also cited the locations of two substations, one of which is on property belonging to landowners who don’t want it on their property, and the other being in a location where it cannot be connected to other turbines.
“I don’t see how the project can proceed without a complete re-layout, at which point we would argue that we need another DEIS and another public comment period and more public hearings,” Karam said.
In addition to public comments, the board has received comments from relevant government agencies, including DEPand DEC. Those comments will eventually be posted to the project’s Web site.