Developer sues Clayton over moratorium on wind energy projects

The developer of a proposed wind project has filed a legal challenge to the Town Council’s six-month moratorium on the installation of towers used to measure meteorological conditions.

Atlantic Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, filed an Article 78 proceeding Friday at the Jefferson County clerk’s office against the Town Council and Planning Board claiming, among other things, that the moratorium is “arbitrary and capricious” and without justification.

The suit asks that a judge annul a local law passed by the council that prohibits the Planning Board from reviewing and approving applications for permits to construct temporary wind measurement towers, commonly called Met towers. Atlantic Wind is also asking a judge to order that the Planning Board issue a final determination on its pending applications to construct three temporary Met towers.

Town Supervisor David M. Storandt Jr. could not be reached for comment Monday.

The town’s Local Law No. 2, adopted April 27, established a moratorium on applications for the review and approval of permits for wind energy facilities, including temporary Met towers, which are primarily used to determine wind speeds and the feasibility of constructing wind turbines in the area.

Atlantic Wind is in the process of developing a major wind energy generating project that will be called the Horse Creek Wind Farm. The project, which would produce about 96 megawatts of electricity, would be in the towns of Clayton, Orleans, Brownville and Lyme, with a significant portion potentially in Clayton.

Pursuant to regulations of the Public Service Commission, an application for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need, commonly called an “Article 10 Certificate,” must include on-site meteorological data demonstrating adequate wind resources for the proposed facility.

Atlantic Wind has proposed three Met towers within the town of Clayton, each in the town’s Wind Energy Overlay District in the southern portion of the town. While Atlantic Wind’s application for the towers was pending before the Planning Board in March, the Town Council proposed a local law banning wind energy generating facilities and Met towers. The proposed law was amended in April to establish a six-month moratorium on wind projects, rather than an outright ban. After the town adopted the law in late April, the Planning Board was prohibited from reviewing or approving applications for wind projects and on May 5 the board refused to make a determination on Atlantic Wind’s application for three Met towers, citing the town’s law.

Atlantic Wind maintains that the town’s actions are inconsistent with state Public Service Law Article 10 which, among other things, outlines regulations regarding the siting, constructing and operating electric generating facilities. The company contends that, by enacting its local law, the town “frustrates the purpose of Article 10” and is “unreasonably burdensome” as applied to Met towers.

In its legal action, the company is asking that a judge annul the local law to the extent that it prohibits the Planning Board from reviewing and approving applications for permits to construct temporary Met towers. It is also asking, among other things, for a determination the local law be preempted by state law as it applies to Met towers.

By Brian Kelly, Watertown Daily Times