Monica L. Abreu, Esq.

Environmental Justice Coordinator

625 Broadway, 14th Floor

Albany, New York 12233-1500


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 Italy and Prattsburgh. I have read CP-29 Environmental Justice and Permitting and believe that it applies to the situation in Prattsburgh.

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.”

          This project 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 December 31, 2003.  This does not leave much time for public input.

            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 Fenner made their wind project quite different from the one planned for Prattsburgh.

            My husband and I have a home in Prattsburgh New York.  Our neighbors have signed a lease with Windfarm Prattsburgh LLC, giving that company permission to build a wind turbine 500 feet from our property line.  We learned about this plan in January of 2003 when the wind company representative came knocking on our door.  He told us that they would begin construction in July of 2003.  When we told him that we objected to having the turbine so close to our land he told us that there was no other place to site it.

            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.

            Since last 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 in Minnesota, Texas and North Dakota, the Global project will not be on open plains or prairies, far from people’s homes.  Rather, this power plant will be in a beautiful area of the Finger Lakes, and the towers are sited to be close enough to residences to have an impact not only on the environment, but on the way people are able to utilize and enjoy their homes and property.  Unlike the projects out west, this one will involve the clear cutting of trees, because Global is siting the towers in the woods.  (When I mentioned this to a representative of Minnesota PIRG who is involved in that state’s wind energy program, his jaw dropped. He told me very clearly that wind turbines do not belong in the woods.)

            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 Buffalo.  Ecogen  also has plans to put up towers in Cohocton, Avoca and Wheeler.

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,