Prattsburgh gag order
Ecogen tries to buy off residents to keep them quiet about excessive noise from towers
To the editor:
At the Prattsburgh Town Board meeting, it was revealed that Ecogen is offering payments to non-participating landowners - $10,000 in the example raised in the citizen's complaint last night - on the condition that they not complain about the noise.
This "gag order" - a condition for receiving "compensation" in exchange what has been forcibly taken (not freely negotiated and given) is disgusting, and takes away the citizen's freedom of speech. It appears that targeted landowners are being "incentivized" to live with what will be constant industrial noise, and in some cases - as in Cohocton - perhaps not be able to sleep at night, and then have to "forever hold their peace" or face lawsuit.
As was shown at the Tug Hill project near the Adirondacks, one-time payments and gag orders are standard operating procedure for wind project developers. But what I found particularly shocking was that board member Stacy Bottom admitted that she was directly involved with this effort to buy off and gag local citizens during this period leading up to the Town Board then deciding to "approve" the Ecogen project.
Analyzing this bizarre state of affairs in Prattsburgh, if you want to see what's really going on, follow the money. Following this straightforward approach, I brought up during the comment period a critical point many citizens may not know about. While the Town of Italy is scheduled to receive $12 million from Ecogen for siting 18 turbines while Prattsburgh is currently scheduled to receive only $3 million under its payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement - $9 million less - for siting 16 turbines in our town.
For whatever reason, John Leyden, Prattsburgh's attorney (and ALSO the attorney for SCIDA, the lead agent for the Ecogen project), told the Town Board a few months back that the Board had to approve the Ecogen PILOT at the same time they approved a new split of PILOT monies for the First Wind project renegotiated with the school districts. Well, accepting this "deal" - the extraordinarily bad Ecogen PILOT - cost the town $8 million to $9 million in lost income, compared to the deal Italy negotiated. And since then, Leyden has repeatedly stated, including Tuesday night, that the Town of Prattsburgh couldn't re-negotiate the bad PILOT, because the deal was done, and the town couldn't use other issues (such as noise) to sweeten the bad deal.
But what we heard Stacy Bottom say last night was that Ecogen had "offered" to consider providing funds for civic improvements as a "good neighbor." And we're supposed to believe there's no quid pro quo, no trade-off. Is the Ecogen - backing Town Board majority going to sell out the citizens who live "in the hills" - those Councilwoman Stacy Bottom calls "you people" - who would be harmed, and potentially ruined, by turbine noise, in exchange for, perhaps, some sidewalks in the village and a new truck for the Highway Department? And all this when the town should have received millions of dollars more if it hadn't been suckered into a bad deal in the first place?
By the way, this development is virtually "job-free." When you take the six to eight jobs permanent jobs the Ecogen project claims it will generate - over two towns - and factor in the exclusions for skill staff and remote monitoring, each town will be lucky if it gets more than one security guard. And the project's lead agent - Steuben County IDA - claims to be a "development" agency! To make matters worse, at the Tuesday Town Board meeting Stacy Bottom made a big deal out of the local jobs we'd get when the Town Board approves - meaning "rubber stamps" - this project. What jobs? One job? Maybe two? Do they think our citizens are really that stupid that we'd fall for this?
There will also be two critical meetings' in Prattsburgh next month that will address the Ecogen project.
• Tuesday, May 19,7 p.m. Prattsburgh Town Board meeting,
downstairs at the Ingleside Christian Church in Ingleside.
• Thursday, May 21,6:30 p.m., at either the Prattsburgh
School cafetorium or the Fire Hall: Ecogen will present its project
and the public will be allowed to comment.
We live in interesting times. Two-hundred years ago, during the Constitutional Convention, Ben Franklin was asked by a woman on the street "what they were doing in there." He answered, "creating a new country, if you can keep it." I guess it's still up for grabs.