By Tompkins Weekly Staff
The Tompkins County Legislature, after listening to more than an hour of public comment, voiced its support for timely development of the Black Oak Wind Farm project in the Town of Enfield. The legislature’s vote was unanimous, with Dooley Kiefer abstaining because she is an investor in the wind farm project.
More than 60 people packed Legislature Chambers, and nearly half of them spoke—about two-thirds (some of them investors in the wind farm project) expressing support for the project and its role in addressing the critical issue of climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Others (among them, neighbors of the wind farm site) asked the legislature to refrain from taking a stand at this time, since they believe matters such as setbacks and potential health and safety impacts should be addressed, with the Enfield Town Board still examining the issue, and some observed that the issue has created a rift within the Town. Some speakers said people also need to be mindful of the need to make personal changes in consumption to address the energy challenge.
Many legislators expressed their appreciation to the members of the public who communicated their views on the issue, among them Legislature Chair Mike Lane, who called it “a model of public participation for this Legislature, with people speaking quietly, clearly, and respectfully.
The resolution notes that the Black Oak Wind Farm “constitutes a $40 million investment in clean, renewable energy,” is consistent with the County’s greenhouse gas emission goals contained in the 2015 Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan, and that “the Tompkins County Energy Roadmap documents that wind energy has the potential to provide a significant portion of electricity demand within Tompkins County while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.” Through a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement, the project is expected to generate more than $133,000 in annual revenue to the Town of Enfield, Tompkins County, and the Odessa-Montour and Ithaca City School Districts for 15 years.
Legislator Jim Dennis, who along with Dave McKenna represents Enfield, said “the only thing the measure indicates is that the Legislature supports renewable energy, which happens to be renewable energy in Enfield” and he noted that the County has no other role in the issue.
Also noting that the County has no land use jurisdiction, Legislator Carol Chock said the Legislature is weighing in as one of many parties, and is not directing the Town to act. Legislator Dan Klein said the Legislature, in its action, is trusting the Enfield Town Board to resolve the specific project details in question.