New York Towns May Vote On Whether To Ban Wind Farms

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Two small New York towns may hold votes Wednesday to ban large-scale wind farms from being built on their borders.

The towns of Clarence and Tonawanda are considering a de-facto moratorium on all large-scale wind farms. Town officials feel that the state government is usurping its authority by effectively forcing them to allow new turbines.

“New York City wants the power, but they want rural upstate New York to be completely transformed to do it,” Daniel Engert, supervisor of a nearby small town resisting industrial wind, told The Buffalo News. “When a developer files an application their local laws are reviewed and the state has the authority to overrule a local law if it can be determined to be unreasonably burdensome.”

The towns are considering rules to set back wind turbines 2,000 feet from a property line, which could effectively ban wind projects. Many residents don’t like the turbines because they allegedly ruin the area’s rural feel and may come with health risks.

One of most common complaints is that wind turbines cause “flickering” when the sun is behind their blades. There’s also evidence that turbines can cause headaches, sleep disorders, anxiety and depression symptoms in people who live nearby.

Other upstate New Yorkers worry that wind farms could make a nearby military base, which is a critical part of the local economy, much less useful. The base pumps $200 million a year into the region and employs over 2,600 people.

New York state currently gets less than 5 percent of its electricity from wind and solar, according to the Energy Information Administration. That’s a long way from Cuomo’s 50 percent by 2030 target.

New York’s Democratic Governor, Andrew Cuomo, committed the state to using huge amounts of wind power by 2030 in a “State of the State” speech in January, focusing especially on offshore wind. Cuomo wants the state to get 50 percent of its electricity from green energy sources to “phase out” conventional fossil fuels, with the goal of slowing global warming.

However, Cuomo has already shut down several other attempts to develop low-carbon energy in New York state.

Cuomo banned hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas in 2014 after a years-long moratorium. He also finalized a deal that will prematurely shut down the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which generates a quarter of New York City’s electricity. Allowing the Indian Point plant to shut down will increase carbon dioxide emissions by 29 percent, according to a report by Environmental Progress, and require numerous new turbines to be built.

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