Cape Vincent tells state: we want decision on wind farm

Dec 10, 2013

The town of Cape Vincent, in Jefferson County, has been divided over a proposed wind farm for a decade. The latest company to pursue the project is BP. But now, with a potential sale in the works, residents told the state power project siting board they’re getting impatient with the uncertainty. 

The meeting Monday night was subdued compared to past ones. The idea was to get everyone on the same page about the project’s status. Some residents reiterated their opposition, but largely, locals pleaded with state regulators to move more quickly toward a decision. Wind farm, or no wind farm, they said, we want to move on.

“It’s not healthy for the community, it’s not healthy for the residents of the community, it’s not healthy for the town government,” said Town Councilman John Byrne. “Right now, this is creating a burden on us, because we don’t know if we’re going to have to budget in so many dollars for a legal fund to defend the town or not. If this goes on much more, it’s going to start costing the taxpayers money.”

Driving through Cape Vincent, you see handmade signs for and against the wind farm. The political division has riven families in this small community. And the longer the battle continues, the deeper and more painful the wounds.

Resident Liz Brennan told the state officials she’s impatient for the issue to be resolved. “I, like many people on both sides of the issue, am very frustrated with how long things are taking. It seems ludicrous that there’s no time limit.”

Brennan urged the regulators to think about closing the application for the wind farm if a new buyer who will move it forward isn’t found soon. “It’s like holding the town hostage in terms of trying to attract people to move here, trying to set a budget for the town – how many hours of lawyers are they going to need? – those kinds of things,” she says.

Another resident says she can’t find a buyer for her property because the project is still up in the air. But Brennan says the uncertainty is about more than practical issues. It goes deep into the fabric of the community. She co-chairs the town’s annual young musicians competition. “All the pianists are hosted by local people,” she says.” And we have people on both sides of it hosting, and coming to the party to celebrate it, and – and that’s wonderful. And then they go their separate ways afterwards, you know. So for three days, we come together, and then it’s gone.”

Even though town officials say they want a quick decision, their actions aren’t always in the interest of efficiency. All the town’s elected leaders are anti-wind. They recently told the siting board they want to make a new owner start the review process from scratch. The state officials say that likely won’t happen.

There is another delay, though. BP wants to sell the project before year’s end. But the company attorney now says that’s unlikely. So for now, the uncertainty continues.

The siting board says it will revisit the project in March – and may consider closing the application then if there’s been no action.