It has come to my attention that you recently wrote a letter to the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) supporting a petition by Highland New Wind Development (HNWD) for permission to erect 400 foot wind turbines on top of Allegheny Mountain in western Highland County. I write to register my strong disagreement and dismay with the position you are reported to have taken on behalf of Arlington County and its citizens.
My wife and I are long-time Arlington County residents, voters and taxpayers. We have through the years been proud of the values of public good exhibited by the Arlington County government and its elected officials. We also own a second home and property in western Highland County, in the vicinity of the proposed wind turbines. The erection of these turbines would be an environmental travesty to one of the most scenic and pristine areas in Virginia and the Eastern United States. And, its economic benefit to energy conservation, as well as the economic well-being of Highland County, would be at best marginal. For these and other reasons Highland County residents have expressed overwhelming opposition to the proposed project (more than 8-1 based upon filed comments, petitions signed, postcards sent and witnesses before various public hearings).
The Recorder newspaper, which serves Highland and Bath County, reports that you filed your comments after being asked to do so by a Charlottesville councilman, Kevin Lynch. In its Dec. 8 issue, The Recorder wrote:
“Ferguson, who issued his SCC letter after he was contacted by Lynch, emphasized his belief HNWD’s project is a local issue, and he does not want Arlington to be considered as “˜interfering.’
“”˜We’re a buyer,’ Ferguson said of Arlington County, “˜but only if it works for the locality . . . I fully support your board of supervisors and I empathize with the tough decision they had. I understand all the arguments for and against (the project).’
“Though Ferguson has not been to Highland County, he said he felt the boards in Highland and Arlington have a lot in common when it comes to getting state funding, and both local governments often get the short end of the stick.”
Continuing, The Recorder wrote:
“Ferguson said he was not aware of the many organizations and state agencies that have publicly opposed HNWD’s utility, and called it a “˜formidable list.’ Nevertheless, he said, Arlington County officials would say the plant is “˜something we’d like to see’ constructed. “˜I don’t know if it works for Highland . . . I didn’t know all the facts . . . Certainly, I don’t presume to know what’s best for Highland County, but I respect their decision,’ he said.”
It is true that the Highland County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the project, but by only a 2-1 vote and in the face of extraordinary opposition from the community. The “formidable list” of opposition also includes the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, West Virginia Division of Culture and History, National Parks and Conservation Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation and The Nature Conservancy, a world-respected organization that, as you know, is headquartered in Arlington. For you to take the position it is reported you’ve taken is akin to public officials elsewhere in Virginia opposing the right of Northern Virginia communities to address and fund their transportation problems. Sound familiar? Do you think their opposition on the transportation issue is in the interest of Arlington’s public good?
You admit that you’ve never been to Highland County, that you don’t presume to know what’s best for Highland County residents and that you don’t want to be considered “interfering.” Well, Mr. Ferguson, you have indeed interfered, and done so in a way that embarrasses Arlington and its residents, as well as yourself. Frankly, your position, as quoted in The Recorder makes you come across as an immature, uninformed public official.
Please, Mr. Ferguson, come to your senses and write a follow-up letter to the SCC explaining that you were misinformed and ill-advised in expressing your earlier views. I certainly hope the thought process you utilized to make a judgment about the proposed Highland County wind project is not an example of how you reach decisions that directly affect Arlington County residents. Arlington County deserves better. Lewis Freeman
P.S. ““ You really ought to visit Highland County sometime and see what beauty these proposed wind turbines would desecrate. You can even stay at our house. Free!
Editor’s note: This letter was written to Paul Ferguson, vice chairman, Arlington County Board, and shared with The Recorder.
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