Friday, March 12, 2010
A Tale of NYPA Folly, Richie, and Upstate New York
After attending a crowded community meeting in Pulaski, NY on the evening of March 3, 2010 in the Oswego County courthouse hosted by the newly formed Joint Commission for the Preservation of Lake Ontario Communities – this writer realized how well focused and strong people in this upstate area had become organized against New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) plans for the Great Lakes Offshore Wind Project (GLOW). The Joint Commission is non-partison and composed of people (including legislators) from both Jefferson and Oswego Counties opposed to NYPA’s repulsive GLOW project. Another major player in this mix opposed to the GLOW project is the Coalition for the Preservation of the Golden Crescent and the 1000 Islands Region based in the Jefferson/Oswego counties area.
At about 7pm March 9, 2010, Tuesday evening, Richie Kessel, CEO & President of the New York Power Authority, and his entourage , appeared at the Jefferson Co. historic courthouse in Watertown, NY (seen in the above photo postulating at the podium) with their dog and pony show to promote the dreaded NYPA GLOW project in Jefferson County. Kessel and his down state minions were greeted with numerous anti-wind signs posted about the courthouse façade same as they were in Pulaski the week before for the Joint Commission meeting. Kessel did nearly all the preaching for NYPA and began by attempting to intimate there essentially was no project - yet. (This is like telling a condemned man not to worry about his execution – that it hasn’t been decided yet if the method will be by hanging, shooting, chemical injection, gas or electricity or who will deliver final blow & when) Kessel stated numerous times that if an offshore wind farm was unwanted in the Jefferson Co. area - it would not happen there. Kessel stated that many NYS counties wanted a project like this and mentioned Erie and Niagara counties as among them. He also promised thousands of jobs (manufacturing parts and assembling them) would be created for upstaters near wherever the offshore wind project was located. In NYPA’s Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) and Request For Proposals (RFP) there is no mention or guarantee of jobs for upstaters whatsoever as Kessel verbally promised! There is no guarantee that the turbines used would be USA made - its not required in either the RFEI or RFP. No guarantee that most workers would be US citizens – read the documents on the NYPA web site.
When a legislator asked who would pay for this offshore project Kessel answered that NYPA would not pay for it nor would taxpayers. Kessel said the developer would pay the whole cost of the wind project and that NYPA would buy all the power produced through a Power Purchase Agreement with NYPA. Now read what NYPA has in their RFEI that contradicts what Kessel stated:
220.127.116.11 Federal and State Incentives
NYPA is seeking information related to the expected federal and state incentives potentially available for a Great Lakes Offshore Wind Project, such as the Production Tax Credit and other government incentives, and the impacts of such incentives on pricing. NYPA is also seeking an analysis of potential grants that might be available from the Department of Energy pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for feasibility studies of wind sites and offshore wind projects.
Keeping in mind what Kessel said about who pays for the offshore wind project - not taxpayers - his RFEI clearly tells a different story -that DOE grants and ARRA monies will subsidize the wind farm. Now - can you trust Kessel?
Several questions were asked of Kessel by legislators demonstrating the main issue against an offshore wind project would be objections the legislators had concerning the GLOW impact on tourism – a major industry in this upstate area. Long into his talk Kessel had the nerve to state that people would actually travel to see an offshore wind farm in their area. This comment literally jolted spectators in their seats from an otherwise quiet crowd of about 60 people. Their shock & reaction at Kessel's outrageous statement surprised even Kessel himself.
Richie – lie to us if you wish - but DON’T insult us!
Kessel attempted several times to suggest that the legislators not vote on the project so soon (that night) and wait until developers submitted plans and then vote but the legislators would have none of this delay. Kessel and NYPA have an extremely aggressive timeline for this GLOW project. Kessel attempted to answer several more questions put forth by the legislators. When asked about a community benefits package he told legislators that there would be a benefits package for the area where the wind project was located but there is no mention or guarantee of this in either the RFEI or RFP – it’s simply not mentioned and something that would need to be provided by the developer not NYPA rate payers – simply more Kessel pandering. Kessel was asked about the output of the turbines and his NYPA associate stepped up and said the turbines would each develop 3 mw of power. Her answer is questionable as the NYPA RFEI says:
NYPA’s concept of a utility scale project suggests that the largest commercially available turbine may be required. As such, this RFEI requests information concerning the largest lake-based wind turbine that is currently available (or is expected to be available) on the market as well as the prospects and timing for larger turbines.
Does this all sound like a 3 mw turbine for GLOW? No it doesn’t! Believe what’s in writing – that’s what the developers are basing their proposals on. Ten megawatt turbines are now being developed. Turbines wouldn't be placed in the lake for maybe 2 years and all the while newer more powerful, larger, noiser units will be available and used.
Questions were not entertained from concerned citizens and area residents, probably a great relief to Kessel, and he and his NYPA cortege of several - left the building about 8:45pm. Jefferson Co. Legislature Chairman Ken Blankenbush then asked if any legislator had comments. Legislator Kent Burto asked that the resolution on the floor against an offshore wind project be amended to support Niagara County’s efforts to get an offshore wind project in their area and this comment brought laughter to the great unwashed and legislators too. Legislator Chairman Blankenbush asked if Burto was serious about his amendment and Burto said he was serious. Then another legislator seconded Burto’s amendment and the amendment passed unanimously. Chairman Blankenbush then asked if any legislator had questions on the resolution opposing the NYPA offshore wind project and hearing none he called for a vote on the resolution. The vote was 14 to 0 against the NYPA offshore wind project. Following the vote Chairman Blankenbush took comments from several concerned people that attended the session – none of which spoke in favor of the GLOW project. Its unfortunate Kessel didn’t stay another 10 minutes to witness the defeating blow to his fallacious plans. Later, word outside the meeting room was that Kessel & NYPA cannot be trusted and could very well pursue locating a wind farm in eastern Lake Ontario anyway - regardless of the vote since the offshore project is within NYS but not within the jurisdiction of a municipality.
As an aside – this writer emailed the chairman of the Niagara County Legislature the following day to ask if they supported NYPA’s plans for an GLOW project in Lake Ontario off Niagara County and an answer was received a few hours later. It reads:
Niagara County is interested in economic development that will create jobs. Yes, the county supports the proposed offshore wind farm by NYPA.
Niagara County wants the megawatts generated by the proposed offshore wind farm to stay in Niagara County for economic development and / or reduction in energy rates for our county.
One cannot help but wonder what the Niagara County legislature’s attitude would be if NYPA could not or would not agree to the second part of Mr. Ross’ statement? One cannot help but wonder how the many boaters & fishermen using the Niagara River will react to NYPA’s plans off the Niagara County shoreline? NYPA would need to bias the GLOW project from the river centerline to the east since the Canadian border is also the river centerline. One cannot help but wonder how the Canadians will respond to an NYPA offshore wind project well within their view. Turbines anywhere in the lake offshore from Niagara County would easily be seen from Toronto. The area where the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario is extremely historic and no doubt there will be significant resistance to offshore wind when people in this area, both Canadians and New Yorkers, hear of the impending NYPA GLOW debacle near the mouth of the Niagara River. This area also lacks a staging area in US waters.
But old Richie didn’t tell the Jefferson Co. Legislature about his little tiff going on with the Niagara County Legislature. It should be mentioned that Niagara County is in a bitter lawsuit against NYPA and NYS over NYPA’s sweep of $544M in NYPA surplus ratepayer monies that were “donated” last year by NYPA to Gov. Paterson’s General Fund to help balance the NYS budget. When the Niagara County legislature discovered this deal between NYPA and NYS - the Niagara Co. Legislature demanded the monies be returned to NYPA for the benefit of ratepayers and when this didn’t happen the Niagara Co. Legislature sued and the matter is now going through the court system. Sad thing is that Niagara County has spent $171,000 (as of March 2010) since last summer funding lawyers to pursue the lawsuit – money that could have done taxpayers in Niagara County some good if Richie Kessel and NYPA hadn’t done this little favor for the man who appointed him. Do the readers sense a minor conflict of interest here? And more taxpayer money will be squandered on this lawsuit in the future thanks to Kessel and his cheerleader Paterson before everything is settled. This whole scenario reeks of abject Albany corruption – nothing new for New Yorkers!
On Thursday March 11, 2010 at a long afternoon meeting of the Oswego County legislature, county officials voted 20 to 4 against NYPA’s offshore wind project. Many Oswego Co. legislators had already observed Kessel during his Nov. 13, 2009 visitation to Oswego city hall promoting offshore wind. Word was that several people came to this week’s legislature meeting from SUNY Oswego College supporting the offshore wind project. After meeting for several hours - the legislature voted opposing NYPA’s offshore wind project. This is an especially bitter blow to Kessel’s GLOW project since Oswego has a fairly large harbor area that may have been a great staging, lay down, assembly area for wind turbine assembly prior to them being placed in the lake. There are few harbor areas within NYS in Lake Ontario - capable of hosting an area large enough to handle projects of this magnitude making this writer wonder if ports in Ontario, Canada may be used should the project move forward.
This writer is concerned that Kessel’s potential location choices for his GLOW project are diminishing and Wayne County residents should be concerned that the project may be driven in their direction and end up offshore from Wayne County. Virtually no Wayne County residents (lakeshore property owners and others) know about NYPA’s horrible plans to trash & industrialize Lakes Ontario and Erie. The Wayne County Board of Supervisors is well aware of NYPA’s plans but made no effort yet to deliver the NO message to Kessel like Jefferson County and Oswego County have. Three Wayne County town supervisors – Hoffman (Williamson), Leroy (Sodus) and Crane (Huron) – have publicly stated they are opposed to NYPA’s offshore wind factory. It should be mentioned that the town of Huron in Wayne County is the only NYS town that DID take action when last December the town board voted and passed a resolution unanimously opposed to NYPA’s plans for a GLOW project. Fortunately the Huron supervisor observed Kessel firsthand at the Oswego city hall NYPA presentation in November 2009 and considered the many pitfalls a GLOW project would bring her town. Wayne County, like Oswego County, currently has the very best source of electrical generating power on earth – nuclear power via the Robert Ginna plant – hence wind power in the lakes isn’t needed or wanted. Let Kessel and his lackeys erect the wind turbines on Long Island and around Manhattan where the power is needed. But that would be a difficult sell since Kessel and his offshore project were already kicked out of Long Island a few years ago and Kessel was shortly thereafter fired as head on Long Island Power Authority by former Gov. Spitzer. Wayne County needs to act soon opposing the NYPA GLOW project before Kessel's foot blocks the door.
NYPA’s deadline for wind developers to submit a Notice of Intent to Submit Proposal is March 20, 2010. NYPA’s web site says they will keep the names of any developer confidential that submits a Notice of Intent of Submit Proposal. This is, of course, to keep curious anti-GLOW people from knowing that mainly foreign companies will submit GLOW proposals and NYPA doesn’t want those concerned to know about this. This writer believes it is absolutely illegal for NYPA to withhold this information from the public on a FOIL request but getting the NYS AG’s office or NYS Dept. of State to enforce the FOIL is nearly impossible. This demonstrates NYPA’s attitude toward due diligence on transparency – we should be worried! Could this be why Jefferson County wouldn’t wait on voting in opposition to the GLOW project? Would you like a neighbor like NYPA running the show?
What also must be kept in mind is that controversial Kessel’s biggest advocate is none other than the man who appointed him – Governor Paterson. And we all know that Paterson, the most unpopular governor in NYS history in the most corrupt state, has less than a year on the job before his replacement inherits the scandals. This situation should make Kessel just a bit nervous about his employment future and his $240k/year salary. Ditto the NYSDEC chief – Pete Grannis - another offshore wind supporter and loathed NYS official.
Lake Erie town and county elected officials and populace - may be totally oblivious to the GLOW project.
One can only hope that with the departure of the most scorned Governor in NYS history that Kessel will soon follow Paterson and the final result will be the permanent termination of any GLOW project in the Great Lakes within NYS waters. Maybe the Jefferson County legislator’s vote wouldn’t have been so one-sided if Kessel hadn’t personally appeared before the legislature?