Sunday, February 21, 2010

Municipalities Countersue Wind Farm

(Lewis County, NY and the involved taxing municipalities deserve the screwing they're getting from the wind companies for ever getting involved in wind energy to begin with! Not only are the taxing municipalities getting ripped - so are the land owners that have had liens put against their properties as a result of wind developers not paying their contractors for the work they did.)

Credit: By STEVE VIRKLER, TIMES STAFF WRITER, Watertown Daily Times, 18 February 2010

LOWVILLE — Maple Ridge Wind Farm municipalities are countersuing the wind company, claiming it is in default for failure to make its full annual payment in December.

“Plaintiff has no valid excuse or defense for its failure to pay,” states a recent legal filing from Kevin R. McAuliffe and David G. Burch of Syracuse law firm Hiscock & Barclay.

The firm is representing the involved taxing jurisdictions — Lewis County, the towns of Martinsburg, Harrisburg, Lowville and Watson and the Lowville, Copenhagen and South Lewis school districts — in a state Supreme Court lawsuit filed in late December by Flat Rock Windpower, the company under which the 195-turbine wind farm was developed.

The municipalities’ counterclaim asks the judge to dismiss the complaint, declare that Flat Rock was not entitled to make a lesser payment and is, therefore, in default of its 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement and order the payment of $6.7 million plus interest, penalties and legal fees.

Lewis County Attorney Richard J. Graham earlier this month sent a notice of default to the company, according to legal filings.

Flat Rock was billed in December for an $8.99 million annual payment but paid only $2.29 million and filed a lawsuit to justify the payment. Flat Rock claims it should pay only the so-called “fallback amount,” since it was decertified in June from the state Empire Zone program.

The company is appealing the state ruling but also seeking court approval of its PILOT interpretation, just in case its appeal is denied.

The attorneys for the municipalities dispute Flat Rock’s interpretation of the PILOT agreement.

They state that the fallback clause should only be invoked if the company’s property tax credits were “eliminated, reduced or capped through a change in law or regulation, but not as a result of Flat Rock’s failure to comply with the requirement of the Empire Zone Act.” That section of the PILOT specifically refers to Section 15 of state Tax Law, which has not been amended since Dec. 1, 2007, the counterclaim adds.

The filing also lays out a number of legal defenses the municipalities may employ, including failure to state a cause of action or act in good faith.

According to the Flat Rock lawsuit, the company has put $6.7 million into an escrow account with U.S. Bank that will be given to local taxing jurisdictions upon Empire Zone recertification.

The countersuit refers to the escrow as “an entirely self-serving act that allegedly permitted the Plaintiff to claim a tax deduction for the amount of deposit, but at the same time, deprived the Defendants of the benefits of the monies deposited.”

Flat Rock was one of 363 businesses that appealed their zone decertifications statewide. So far, the state Empire Zone Designation Board has recertified 10 companies and upheld the decertification of 93.

The board is slated to meet again at 9 a.m. Friday in Albany, but there is no indication which appeals will be acted upon.

Most of the companies awaiting decision on their appeals — including Flat Rock — were targeted as “shirt-changers,” or companies reincorporated as different entities that claimed they created jobs when, in reality, they transferred employees from one entity to the other.

While Flat Rock doesn’t seem to fit that definition, it was apparently lumped into the category based on the company’s response to a question in its 2006 financial report to Empire State Development, Mr. Graham has said.

A Dose of Raw Hipocrisy

Credit: Watertown Daily Times, 17 February 2010

For raw, undisguised political pandering, you’re going to have to search for awhile before you can top the Jefferson County Legislature, which will consider a resolution at its next meeting to oppose the New York Power Authority’s proposal to seek wind developers for offshore locations in a wide strip roughly from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to Mexico Bay.

This is the legislature, led by Ken Blankenbush’s public salivation over a 20-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement, that bent over backwards (some would say they bent the other way) to get the Galloo Island Wind Farm on the way to reality. Apparently that project, which will be visible from shore, will be much prettier than any as yet unproposed projects in the lake – since one of the Legislature’s objections to the NYPA proposal is the aesthetics of the projects and the potential adverse effects on property values.

Wow. Belleville Legislator Barry Ormsby’s absurd contention that the NYPA proposals and Galloo Island are nothing alike aside, both are wind farms out in the lake. That the NYPA plan has towers planted on the state’s lake bottom, while Galloo Island towers will be on ground taxed by the town of Hounsfield and Jefferson County, seems to be the only real distinction between the proposals.

And there is the rub: like just about everyone else who has had cash carried by wind project developers rubbed under their nose, the county Legislature can’t resist the bitter but alluring smell of lucre.

In fact, I’ve got a tip for NYPA chief Richie Kessel: all you’ll have to do to make this opposition melt away is to propose a PILOT payment agreement for any offshore wind farm that is proposed. That will make the project pretty once again – even if it is little more than lipstick on a pig.

The Legislature’s action plays to the group of activists trying to keep wind farms out of the Golden Crescent. Blankenbush, Ormsby and others seem to think those folks will easily distinguish between the Galloo Island project and any other offshore project that comes along. I suspect, however, the folks united to oppose all wind farm development along the stretch from Oswego to Cape Vincent will see the raw hypocrisy of the Legislature’s action, as I suspect everyone else will, too.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Jefferson Co. Says NO to Offshore Wind

Legislature opposed to wind farms in the lake





A wind power project on an island is OK, but turbines in the lake are not.

The Jefferson County Board of Legislators' Planning and Development Committee passed on Tuesday night a resolution opposing the New York Power Authority's plan to put a wind farm in Lake Ontario.

NYPA has asked for developers to submit proposals on building towers for up to 500 megawatts of wind power in possible sites in Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

This action came two weeks after the legislators approved a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for the proposed 252-megawatt Galloo Island Wind Farm.

"While I certainly intend to support it at the full board, my concern is our inconsistency in our message," Legislator Scott A. Gray, R-Watertown, said. Mr. Gray is not a member of the committee. "We're opposing a project with some of the very same things we approved a few weeks ago with the Galloo Island project."

The resolution included language that the NYPA project would hurt landowners, "including potential effects on real estate values, scenic vistas, and quality of life."

Chairman Barry M. Ormsby, R-Belleville, disagreed.

"The two projects, when compared side-by-side, are apples and oranges," he said. "One project is on a 2,200-acre island six-and-a-half miles offshore where 84 turbines will be confined."

He acknowledged that a certain section of the shoreline will see the turbines.

"But compared to the possible NYPA sites on the maps, you see a total littering of the Eastern basin from Tibbets Point to Mexico Bay," he said.

The six members of the committee at the meeting approved the resolution, which the full board will consider on March 2

Dear Mr. President - from Congressman Massa

February 15, 2010

President Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500-0005

Dear Mr. President:

In recent months, I have learned of some very troubling news regarding the use of stimulus funds for supporting wind industry jobs abroad. I do not believe this use of U.S. taxpayer dollars is in accordance with the purposes of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and I request that your Administration refrain from giving any awards to wind companies tunneling money to foreign corporations. Sending money abroad to support jobs in other countries while continuing to ignore problems facing the American wind industry is simply bad policy.

To date, I do not believe the use of stimulus funds to support wind projects in the U.S. has met the promises of substantial job creation and clean renewable energy. With these and other federal funds, we must make wise investments in the American people by weighing the job and energy creation prospects of each proposal. Quite simply, the potential benefits offered by a project should be commensurate with the size of the investment. I am not convinced that this is the case right now.

While it is true that these funds are used only to support American-based projects, the development corporations and the suppliers involved are, more often than not, headquartered outside of the U.S. This means that ultimately, a large portion of the nearly $2 billion invested in wind projects through the ARRA will go directly to supporting foreign businesses that compete with American workers. The stimulus package was meant to bolster American productivity, not hand over control of an entire industry to other countries, including China.

Instead of dumping billions of dollars into so many wind projects that support very few domestic jobs and produce limited energy benefits, while propping-up foreign industries at the expense of U.S. taxpayers, I believe your Administration should focus on addressing the underlying problems of the American wind industry. If we are to have successful American wind energy development, we must have an industry built by American workers that supply real energy to American homes and reduce our dependence on dirty fossil fuels. I believe it is necessary to slow down the wildly haphazard "progress" in wind power development which is having a destructive impact on many small communities. We need to address these and many other concerns because frankly, the current policy is not working.

As it stands now and as it has been proven by stimulus investments in wind power, our nation is dangerously reliant on foreign wind corporations. As with so many other industries, we have been surpassed by our foreign competitors in the wind sector. Even worse, now we are funding them. This is entirely wrong.

Moving forward, we must take a critical look into the American wind industry that we see today and develop comprehensive, long-term plans that address the many serious issues facing wind power in this country. The goal must be to use wise investments in this energy source to safely, responsibly, and effectively create clean energy while also establishing strong manufacturing and construction sectors that will build a truly American industry supported by American jobs.

Eric JJ. Massa Member of Congress

Cc: Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More Opposition to NYS Offshore Wind Turbines

The following published in the 2/9/2010 Watertown Daily Times

Opponents organizing to fight wind plans

Credit: By Nancy Madsen, Times Staff Writer, Watertown Daily Times,

Legislators and other officials from Jefferson and Oswego counties will begin mounting opposition to New York Power Authority’s proposal to put 500 megawatts of wind energy development in Lake Ontario.

Jefferson County Legislature Chairman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, said they first will find out more about the proposal and then organize to oppose a widespread project.

The Board of Legislators voted to approve the Galloo Island Wind Farm payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement Feb. 2, which helped pave the way for that 252-megawatt project.

“Having them on an island is one thing, but scattered along the shoreline is totally different,” Mr. Blankenbush said.

NYPA asked developers in December to submit proposals to build up to 500 megawatts of wind power, possibly spread out over several potential sites, including 10 sites in Lake Ontario and 13 sites in Lake Erie. Those sites were chosen in part because they have average wind speeds of at least 16.8 mph, have water depths of less than 150 feet and lie 2.3 miles or farther offshore.

One site spreads from Galloo Island north to Grenadier Island and another stretches from Galloo Island south along the eastern shore in Oswego County.

“We’ll figure out what we can do and listen to what is the project they’re talking about,” Mr. Blankenbush said. “But what I’ve heard, I don’t like.”

NYPA’s proposal energized local opposition to wind power and helped the Coalition for the Preservation of the Golden Crescent and Thousand Islands Region to coalesce. Legislator Barry M. Ormsby, R-Belleville, organized the first meeting for Thursday night in Henderson Harbor.

“We will get something organized,” Mr. Ormsby said. “We’ll know how to strategize moving forward.”

He expects another meeting with NYPA officials soon. The deadline for a project proposal from a developer is June 1. NYPA will contract with the operator to buy all of the power from the wind farm or farms through long-term power purchase agreements.