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November 14, 2013

Enjem still doubts wind plans|

By Joe Mahoney The Daily Star
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Re-elected Tuesday as Richfield Town Supervisor, Fran Enjem said Friday that he has serious reservations with an agreement offered by the developers of a planned wind farm project, saying it fails to adequately protect his community.

Enjem’s resistance to the host agreement is one of the two last remaining obstacles facing the Monticello Hills wind farm. The other is a pending court action filed by Protect Richfield, a group of citizens opposed to the project. The opponents are challenging the legal procedures that were used in the granting of the special permit issued by the town.

A hearing on that case is scheduled for later this month in state Supreme Court in Madison County.

“My job now is to hopefully convince the other members of the (town) board to change that host agreement so it protects the town,” Enjem said.

On Election Day, he defeated challenger Nicholas Palevsky, 368 to 255. The latter mounted a write-in campaign against Enjem after being beaten by a whisker in the September GOP primary.

Specifically, Enjem said he wants to see wording in the host agreement that would provide financial protections to property owners whose real estate slips in value after the six-turbine wind farm is constructed.

He also said the wind farm company, Ridgeline Energy of Albany, is only required by the agreement to come up with $30,000 per turbine when it is time to decommission them. He said the actual cost is expected to be far beyond that amount.

“They told us we would be getting the scrap metal,” Enjem said. “But we are not in the scrap metal business. We are a township.”

Owen Grant, the project manager for Ridgeline Energy, said that Enjem is “operating under a misunderstanding,” noting the decommissioning sums were set by an independent engineer.

Grant also said the host agreement was approved by the town board at a meeting in January 2012. The impact of the town supervisor’s continued resistance to signing the host agreement is not immediately clear, Grant said.

As for the ongoing litigation, Grant said, “We’re very optimistic that the decision will go in the project’s favor. We’re looking forward to resolving all outstanding issues.”

The turbines being proposed would stand 492 feet tall and would be visible from nearby towns. They would be capable of generating 18.45 megawatts of electricity.

What the company calls a “community scale” project would connect electrically to the local medium-voltage transmission line serving the surrounding community.

Enjem said he is deeply concerned that the company will seek to introduce more turbines once the initial six are installed. “They have to have more if they are going to have any kind of product,” he said. “Six just isn’t going to cut it.”

The company has said that any expansion of the project would require a new review by the town, and the public would have input into such a process.

Enjem said he is not opposed to wind energy, adding he simply wants to have the best possible host agreement to protect the town.

Ridgeline is a subsidiary of Paris-based Veolia Environnement, a company that reported having revenue of 29.4 billion euros in 2012.

The fact that Enjem was re-elected is not being seen as a referendum on the project by those following it, as one of the town councilman opposed to the wind farm, Bill Seamon, lost his seat on Tuesday, and a candidate involved in Protect Richfield, insurance executive Larry Frigault, also came up short. But another candidate aligned with the opposition, Paul Palumbo, acquired a seat on the board, as did wind farm backer Fred Eckler.