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BP holds open house in Cape Vincent

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CAPE VINCENT — New York state is broke and it is now up to municipalities to find new sources of revenue to stay afloat — such as hosting a wind farm, according to a town of Eagle official.

“This state is dead. Towns, they’ve got to find new money sources,” Eagle Supervisor Joseph Kushner said Saturday at BP Wind Energy’s open house at the Cape Vincent Recreation Park, where dozens of residents streamed through to learn about the large wind farm proposed for the town. “I’m not telling Cape Vincent what to do because our circumstances are different, but if the project moves ahead, try to get the best deal out of it.”

Eagle, in Wyoming County, is home to 93 turbines that generate 1.5 megawatts each. Noble Environmental Power’s 67-turbine Bliss Wind Farm project was completed at the end of 2008 and an additional 26 turbines were built in Eagle as part of an even larger Noble wind project in 2009.

“Our town is nothing like it was before the wind farms,” Mr. Kushner said.

The town of Eagle received $968,000 in revenue from the wind farms in 2011, which was more than enough to offset its $450,000 tax levy and pay for various other services — such as paving, trash removal, capital projects and youth and senior programs, Mr. Kushner said.

After setting aside $250,000 for future use, the rest remains in the town’s fund balance.

However, the supervisor pointed out that his town had much more political influence over Wyoming County’s Industrial Development Agency board — which sets the terms of payment-in-lieu-of taxes agreements, or PILOTS — and thus ensured the town got the majority of the revenue from the wind project.

In Cape Vincent, BP Wind Energy has proposed erecting 124 turbines to generate a up to 285 megawatts, enough to power a city the size of Syracuse, according to the company.

BP projects that 50 percent of the PILOT it hopes to get will go to the Thousand Islands School District, which serves Cape Vincent and neighboring Clayton; 35 percent to Jefferson County; and 15 percent to the town of Cape Vincent. That would give the town an estimated $255,000 in the first year of the proposed wind farm’s operation.

This is drastically different from Eagle, which gets more than 80 percent of the pie.

Cape Vincent town councilmen also have long criticized what they consider a “backdoor approach” by BP and unethical votes by past town officials with financial conflicts of interest to push the project forward without majority consent from the community.

In a recent letter to Katrina Landis, CEO of BP Alternative Energy, Cape Vincent officials slammed the company for proposing a project they called “incompatible” with the community’s vision.

The letter also criticized Cape Vincent Wind Farm project manager Richard F. Chandler for his “unwillingness” to respond to questions at an Oct. 23 meeting.

“Mr. Chandler simply refused to have that conversation, answering our questions only in the narrowest fashion possible often to the point of being completely unresponsive and patently evasive. To say this was a frustrating evening for the government of the Town of Cape Vincent would be an understatement,” the letter stated. “Cape Vincent values its small-town roots and does not want what we consider the industrial blight that will accompany your project.”

But Mr. Chandler, director of business development for the project, said at the open house Saturday that BP is being “responsible” and has been taking into consideration the concerns of residents and local municipal leaders.

From the original 135-turbine layout, BP removed 11 that were largely along the St. Lawrence River because it recognized Cape Vincent’s waterfront as a valuable resource to the community, he said.

Under the new layout, no turbines will be placed in the town of Lyme, and while the final turbine specifications have not been determined, the structures will not exceed 500 feet in height, BP said.

The proposed project is estimated to cost $300 million. The developer is seeking an expedited approval process under the state’s Article X energy law, which would also allow a state siting board to overrule what it deems unreasonable local laws.

Article X of the 2011 Power NY Act imposes a 12-month deadline for the consideration of electric-generating facilities of 25 megawatts or higher.

Mr. Chandler said BP will submit its revised public involvement program plan for community outreach to the state Public Service Commission by the end of this week.

The PSC recently rejected as “inadequate” BP’s involvement plan, the first step in the Article X process, recommending that the company broaden its outreach efforts among other things.

In February, the developer plans to submit to the state a preliminary scoping statement with a description of its facility and proposed impact studies, among other items, as part of the pre-application process.

For more information, visit BP’s new project website: www.capevincentwindfarm.com.

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