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Owens signals concern about speeding up wind project approval

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Rep. William L. Owens is concerned that an agreement between President Obama and the state of New York to accelerate approval of wind farms in Lake Ontario could quash local input, he said Wednesday.

“I haven’t seen the detail, but obviously what we want to make sure happens is that local folks have input into the final placement,” said Mr. Owens, D-Plattsburgh.

The White House last week announced that it had come to an agreement with five Great Lakes states, including New York, to speed up and streamline approval of off-shore wind turbine projects. But a slow approval process is often the product of raucous public disapproval of such plans; greasing the skids for approval amounts to “(shoving) the idea of Great Lakes turbines down our pie holes,” the author of one anti-wind power blog, Rick Wiley, wrote in reaction to the news.

Some environmental advocates tout wind turbines as an effective and renewable source of energy. But opponents of wind power point to potential declining property values near projects and the dangers they present to wildlife like birds, among other criticisms.

Mr. Owens wouldn’t be pinned to a specific position on wind power in general, saying he’s not sure whether they’re a force for environmental good or a blot in the Golden Crescent.

“I can’t tell you I have enough scientific information to tell you that,” Mr. Owens said.“Clearly the need for alternate sources of energy is important. It can be that they can be placed in a safe manner; I don’t know that standing here today.”

But he was concerned, he said, that recent developments in state and federal government have undermined a local government’s right to decide where and when to construct wind turbines.

In 2011, the state passed Article X legislation, which will give a committee in Albany the power to decide where to put up wind turbines. The committee also will consider the input of local stakeholders, but opponents of wind power projects in the Thousand Islands region believe it’s not enough.

The most recent agreement between the state and the federal government similarly raised hackles. In Cape Vincent, opponents of wind power have slammed Mr. Owens for his support of a one-year extension of the tax credit that helps boost wind turbine construction.

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