Freedom residents sue town board over wind turbine law

December 15, 2018 | Rick Miller |Olean Times Herald
FREEDOM — Town of Freedom residents opposed to the proposed Alle-Catt Wind Farm filed a lawsuit Thursday against the town board in state Supreme Court in Cattaraugus County for approving a new wind law without considering adverse effects.

Environmental attorney Gary Abraham and Ginger Schroder, a Buffalo attorney who lives in Farmersville, said the lawsuit seeks to overturn the town’s new wind law and reinstate the town’s 2007 wind law.

Freedom Supervisor Randy Lester told the Times Herald Friday that he was unaware of the lawsuit and that the town had not been served.

“Invenergy has no comment,” said project manager Valessa Souter-Kline in response to a request for comment on the lawsuit. “We have not seen any documents referring to a lawsuit and so it is hard for us to comment at this time.”

The Freedom Town Board approved the wind law earlier this year after first receiving an OK from the Cattaraugus County Planning Board.

After it was pointed out in August that the environmental assessment form had not been completely filled out, the county Planning Board rescinded the approval. The board directed the town to rescind its wind law and re-submit a completed environmental assessment form.

Lester said last month the Freedom Town Board had not decided whether rescinding the wind law and submitting a complete environmental assessment form was necessary. The law was filed with the New York secretary of state on Aug. 27.

Abraham, a Great Valley attorney, said, “The Freedom Town Board changed the allowable height of commercial wind turbines from 450 feet to 600 feet but without any consideration of the potential adverse impacts on the environmental or the community. This violates at least two laws, the State Environmental Quality Review Law, and General Municipal Law which requires such a review.

Schroder added, “Actions like these by cash-strapped towns seeking to cultivate intrusive industrial wind farms without any concern for the impact of what they’re doing are understandable, but illegal. We are concerned that this is becoming the industry standard for how to deal with a skeptical public — just ignore them.”

Abraham said the town board made no effort to look at what would happen to its town if 600-foot-high turbines were installed “all over.”

“Among other things, Freedom could become an industrial noise zone within which few people would want to live,” he said.

Abraham said that wind turbine manufacturers test sound levels at about 300 feet from their turbines and all current models make more than 100 decibels of noise.

“The World Health Organization advises that sound levels be below 30 decibels in bedrooms for a good night’s sleep, because chronic sleep disturbance causes ill health,” he said.

As commercial wind turbines get larger — those in Sheldon and Orangeville (in Wyoming County), for example, are less than 450 feet tall — they get louder, and more of their noise is very low frequency, which travels farther, Abraham said.

“These facts were brought to the Freedom Town Board’s attention, but most of them apparently looked the other way,” he said.

The five-town Alle-Catt Wind Farm’s footprint is 102 square miles. In addition to Freedom, the town of Farmersville in Cattaraugus County is also included in the Alle-Catt Wind Farm, as are the Allegany County towns of Rushford and Centerville and the town of Arcade in Wyoming County.

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