Opinion: Keep wind turbines in mind when voting this November, says Parishville resident
Thursday, June 20, 2019 - 9:03 am

Do you recall in January, 2018, when Channel 7 broke the story that Iberdrola (aka Avangrid, aka Atlantic Wind) was canceling plans to include Parishville in their proposed industrial North Ridge Wind Project? An Avangrid spokesman was quoted as saying the company "plans to end its leases in Parishville by year's end."

Hundreds of people were jubilant -- but extremely cautious since we would have to wait until the end of the year to find out if Iberdrola would keep its word.

Avangrid representatives also stated they would be able to build the project in Hopkinton with fewer turbines and still produce the same amount of electricity. Luke Martin responded, “It would seem like they would have to be bigger mills, which would mean noisier mills." Also part of this broadcast, "Avangrid says it will use different wind turbines than originally planned. But blade tips at their highest will still be 500 feet off the ground as promised."

On 4/26/18, the Hopkinton Town Board voted to approve the draft wind law with stipulations that the turbines could not be taller than 500' at highest point of blades, setbacks must be 2,500' from property lines, and decibel levels could not be more than 40 dBA day or night.

Fast forward to a NCTW article published 5/26/18: "Hopkinton supervisor: 600-foot wind turbines 'not an option'." "Lawyers from the wind farm company last month requested that Hopkinton town officials allow the turbine tip height to increase from 500 feet to 600 feet. Robert A. Panasci, a lawyer for Avangrid, emailed town officials asking to discuss changing the allowable height of wind towers to increase from 500 to 600 feet in height at the highest point of the blade." [http://northcountrynow.com/news/hopkinton-supervisor-600-foot-wind-turbi... So, Iberdrola went from being quoted as promising the tip of the blades at their highest point would never be more than 500 feet to now stating they needed to increase the height to 600 feet.

Days later, a headline read "Avangrid loses interest in Hopkinton." "'The vote taken a few weeks ago effectively zones out wind in Hopkinton,' wrote Paul Copleman, communications manager for Avangrid."

So we waited, patiently, for wind leases in both towns to be terminated at the end of the year. We checked over and over again and guess what? Absolutely no leases have been canceled to date. Why would a company continue to pay out thousands of dollars in annual lease payments (many since 2010) when they publicly stated they were dropping the project?

Are we surprised? No. Are we disappointed? Yes. Do we have an idea why they have gone back on their word, once again? Could it have anything to do with the upcoming November election? Due to the fact that the developer retains signed leases filed with St. Lawrence County, they could resume the development process at will. We should look to the Town of Burke as an example of what could happen here next.

"Burke Town Board approves amended wind tower regulations despite continued opposition." "Three members of the Town Board re-approved the amended wind law, which increases the maximum height for wind turbines from 500 feet to 725 feet with a corresponding increase in road setbacks." "Town Supervisor Bill Wood and Town Board member Arnold Lobdell once again abstained from voting due to a conflict of interest; before the vote, [Bill] Wood ceded control of the meeting to Deputy Supervisor James Otis to further avoid conflict." [Malone Telegram, 4/25/19]

Gee, I wonder what kind of conflict it could be that would prevent them from voting on such an important issue? Could it be like Gilbert Sochia who isn't allowed to vote on anything regarding industrial energy development on the Hopkinton Board because his father holds large leases? Could it be that they were employed by the wind developer in some capacity like one of this year's candidates running for Hopkinton Town Council?

Will Hopkinton go down the same path as Burke this November?

After the years of turmoil and anxiety that Hopkinton and Parishville residents have gone through in order to preserve and protect their rights to health, safety, and the quiet enjoyment of their own property, I certainly hope that residents, not only in Hopkinton but also throughout the North Country, will think about the consequences of not exercising their right to vote.

Vote for candidates who will represent you and not a handful of leaseholders and their multi-billion dollar industrial wind developer that can't wait to come in and destroy everything you have worked for your entire lives.

Make sure you ask candidates the hard questions.

Lori Witherell