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BP hoping to bypass tough local limits proposed as Cape Vincent prepares to adopt new restrictions on wind farms

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CAPE VINCENT — BP Wind Energy hopes to bypass strict local restrictions proposed for wind turbines and expedite the approval of its Cape Vincent Wind Farm by submitting an application to a state siting board under Article X of the 2011 Power NY Act.

Cape Vincent’s town government is preparing to adopt tougher rules on wind farms and plans to update its zoning law as soon as Aug. 1.

BP spokeswoman Amanda Abbott said in an email that the company already has a substantial investment in the project and that it is seeking an Article X process “that will facilitate its development and construction of the Cape Vincent Wind Farm.”

Article X generally imposes a 12-month deadline for the approval of the construction and operation of major electric generating facilities of 25 megawatts or higher. BP had told the state Public Service Commission that the Cape Vincent project “can reach upwards of approximately 285 megawatts in size.”

In its own comments to the PSC on Article X, BP said that any override of local laws should be provided by the state siting board early in the process and that the “local community should bear the burden of proof to demonstrate why the more restrictive requirements are appropriate.”

The town of Cape Vincent today is gathering public feedback on both the newly updated zoning law and the Comprehensive Plan at public hearings at the Community House on Market Street.

The town board will hear comments on the Comprehensive Plan from 9 a.m. to noon and on the zoning law from 2 to 5 p.m.

Under the newly proposed zoning law, setbacks for commercial turbines would be:

n Six times the total height of the proposed structure from the nearest residence, the nearest project boundary line, boundaries of adjacent towns and any road and property line.

n Two miles from the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River waterfronts.

n 1.25 miles from the boundaries of the village of Cape Vincent and hamlets of Rosiere, Millens Bay and St. Lawrence Corners; Route 12E; Seaway Trail; National Scenic Byways, and schools.

A-weighted, audible spectrum noise limits proposed are:

n Daytime (7 a.m. to 7 p.m.), 45 decibels.

n Evening (7 to 10 p.m.), 40 decibels.

n Nighttime (10 p.m. to 7 a.m.), 35 decibels.

Under the proposal, the C-weighted, or low-frequency, wind turbine noise limit will be 18 dB over the A-weighted limit.

Also, if operation noise contains a “steady pure tone” — such as a whine, screech or hum — the upper noise limit is to be reduced by 5 decibels; for “impulsive noises,” the limit is reduced by 7 decibels; and for “highly impulsive noise” by 12 decibels.

While some view the newly proposed restrictions as an effort to “shut out” wind development in Cape Vincent, others believe even more protection is needed in the law to protect town residents.

Some struggling farming families in Cape Vincent say commercial wind turbines on their land would offer a much needed revenue stream to keep their operations running.

Critics — many of whom come to Cape Vincent to retire or spend their summers — see commercial wind turbines as an eyesore in an otherwise quiet rural area and believe a wind farm in the town would devalue their properties and potentially cause health problems.

BP is “tweaking” its plans for a proposed $300 million project in Cape Vincent.

“The final size and turbine number of the wind farm will be determined as we move through the development process and we will continue to communicate our plans to all our stakeholders as we move through this process,” Ms. Abbott said.

But some Cape Vincent officials are not happy that the town government — which is clearly a stakeholder in the proposed project — has been learning about BP’s latest plans second-hand.

“Remarkable, the town finds out that BP increased their project by 43 percent from a letter they sent to the PSC. BP never even copied the town or sent any separate notification as to their expanded project,” Councilman Clifford P. Schneider said.

Earlier this year when BP took over Acciona WindEnergy USA’s St. Lawrence Wind Farm project, the company said the new Cape Vincent wind project would produce approximately 200 megawatts of electricity.

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