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BP takes first step toward Article X process for Cape Vincent Wind Farm

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CAPE VINCENT — BP took its first step in applying for an Article X review process Monday by submitting a Public Information Plan for its Cape Vincent Wind Farm project to the state energy siting board.

But some town officials believe the paperwork is just a publicity stunt to keep local wind lease holders excited about the prospect of a project — which is likely to cost more than $300 million — while BP tests the waters to see if the U.S. government will continue to subsidize wind farms.

BP Wind Energy had confirmed earlier this year that it hoped to expedite the approval of its project by submitting an application to a state siting board under Article X of the 2011 Power NY Act — which generally imposes a 12-month deadline for the approval of the construction and operation of electric-generating facilities of 25 megawatts or higher.

The Public Information Plan submitted by BP, as required under Article X, details the history of public involvement related to the proposed project as well as the developer’s plans for community outreach.

“We are optimistic that the Article 10 process will result in the approval of our project which will deliver approximately 200-285 megawatt of renewable energy to the residents of New York and much needed revenue to the region, local landowners, and the residents of the greater Cape Vincent community,” Richard Chandler, director of business development for the Cape Vincent Wind Farm, said in a letter to the town.

His letter — dated Sept. 14 — was in response to a recent request by Cape Vincent’s Planning Board to provide a “comprehensive and meaningful” report on its latest plans for the proposed wind farm.

Other than this letter, Councilman John L. Byrne said, the Town Council has had no communication with BP since he took office at the beginning of this year.

Planning Board Chairman Richard H. Macsherry said BP’s letter does not specify whether it wants the local application dropped, suggesting that BP wants the town Planning Board to be the entity to abandon the application.

This would make the town look “harsh” and give the developer grounds to argue that the local government has been unreasonable in its dealings related to the company’s wind application, Mr. Macsherry said.

He further argued that BP’s real intent behind the recent “publicity moves” — Mr. Chandler’s letter to town officials and a full-page advertisement in Sunday’s Times — is to keep lease holders “excited about the possibility” of a multimillion-dollar project, when the company actually is on the fence on whether to move forward.

“They are holding their fire to see what happens with the federal tax subsidies,” Mr. Macsherry said.

The Obama administration hopes to renew the $12 billion tax credit — which provides 2.2 cents per kilowatt for the first decade of a wind farm’s operation — while Republican challenger Mitt Romney wants it to expire at the end of the year.

In the first year of operation, Mr. Chandler said in his letter, the Cape Vincent Wind Farm is “estimated to deliver $1.7 million of new tax revenue to be divided between the school districts, the town of Cape Vincent, and the county based on a previously approved payment in-lieu-of taxes structure in Jefferson County.”

“In addition, annual royalty payments in excess of $1.2 million will be paid to local landowners once the wind farm is in commercial operation. This substantial tax revenue and personal income will enable a significant number of landowners to remain stewards of their land and drastically offset the local tax burden on this community,” he said.

Even if BP decides to proceed with the project application under Article X, Cape Vincent still will have a say in the final outcome through the two community members the Town Council can appoint to the state ad hoc committee, said town Supervisor Urban C. Hirschey.

Cape Vincent’s Planning Board plans to meet later this week to discuss its options, Mr. Macsherry said.

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