The state's surging industrial windmill developers may be becalmed for 18 months, if state Sen. Jim Alesi has his way.
The state legislator from Perinton, a suburb of Rochester, introduced a bill Wednesday, April 18, calling for an 18-month moratorium on wind projects while New York State works out a comprehensive policy to regulate the newly arrived, fast-growing, but increasingly resisted energy-production option.
State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, has signed on as a co-sponsor.
Meanwhile, opposition to 69 turbines planned between Van Hornesville and Jordanville in southern Herkimer County continues to mount in the Russian Orthodox community. In recent days, the Community of St. Elizabeth has joined Holy Trinity Monastery, center of that faith outside of Russia, with Mother Barbara, a member of the small group of nuns there, calling the towers "monstrous."
The goal of Alesi's bill, the senator said while en route home from the state Capitol after introducing his proposal, is "to give a working group an opportunity for a broad-based approach, well-thought-out across the board, not piecemeal."
The Town of Cherry Valley imposed a 90-day moratorium while it developed and then adopted among the most stringent regulations in the state government wind project. Since that decision, Reunion Power of Manchester, Vt., which had been seeking to building 24 400-foot-tall wind turbines in the town's East Hill section, seems to have disappeared.
Between Van Hornesville and Jordanville, however, plans have appeared to be moving forward on a proposal by Community Energy, a subsidiary of the Spanish multi-national corporation, Iberdola. Those turbines, in the towns of Warren and Stark, would be visible from parts of Otsego County, perhaps from as far away as the docks at Cooperstown, particularly at night.
This is exactly the situation - similar to one in Town of Hamlin in Alesi's district - that the senator hopes to remedy. The Town of Hamlin was approched by Competive Power Ventures Inc. of Massachusetts but - aftr 100 people protested - adopted a one-year moratorium on March 12.
"In a lot of these small towns," he said, "a few thousand bucks is very attractive to them."
But neighboring towns, Alesi continued, would have to cope with the impacts - the noise, possible health threats, visual pollution, and environmental threats - without any of the benefits.
If the moratorium is adopted, the idea would be to convene representatives of all interested parties - the energy agencies, business groups, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, preservationists and local-government representatives - to determine how the state should regulate wind-power development. Some 3,200 turbines are now on the drawing boards statewide.
Among the ideas to be considered, Alesi said, is whether the siting of turbines should have to meet state criteria, or perhaps they could be regulated by region. Certainly, he said, all communities that are impacted by the placement of turbines should have a say in the final decision.
He likened his proposal to what happened with cellphones: The state Legislature adopted a statewide ban on driving while talking on a cell phone because, absent state law, county legislatures started passing local laws. It got to the point where drivers didn't know if they were in a
county that allowed it or not.
His proposal, Alesi said, is not anti-wind harvesting, although he said questions continue to arise about the benefits of windpower. For instance, it's turning out not to be as inexpensive an alternative as people thought it would be originally.
For his part, Andy Minnig of Advocates for Cherry Valley, called the Alesi-Seward bill "a splendid idea."
In her letter to the Town of Warren, lead agency in the Van Hornesville-Jordanville project, Mother Barbara begged town residents and leaders to consider the psychological effect of the 69 turbines.
"These towers are monstrous," she said in a phone interview. "The constant movement and the noise will have a profound effect psychologically on everyone in the area. And flying ice from the blades is a concern in winter. I don't know why people aren't concerned."
Mother Barbara has been visiting Jordanville since she was a child growing up in Toronto. Her parents took annual pilgrimages to the monastery from the time she was 5.
"The drive up the mountain is something that was always with me - and the beauty of the area and the hills," she said. Now she sees that experience reflected in the faces and comments from visitors who come to the monstery seeking respite from the noise and hustle of modern life.
"You can go into even the smallest Orthodox church anywhere in the world, and they'll know about Jordanville," said the nun, who has lived at the community for 11 years. "I don't think local residents here understand is that Jordanville is on the world map. It's a world center. As humble as it is, it's known worldwide. Churches all look to the monastery for guidance and answers."
She fears the turbines will destroy a place that is not only central to her faith, but also her own home.