WINDBER – Area authority members have asked the parties responsible for two billboards opposing a wind farm project to change them or face further legal action.
The billboards imply an association between the authority and the Save Our Allegheny Ridges group, which amounts to false advertising, solicitor James Cascio said.
While SOAR is the group working to defeat the Shaffer Mountain wind farm project slated for the authority watershed, the billboard does not make that fact clear, he said.
The signs, located at both ends of Windber along state Route 56, state on the top line: “Your drinking water at risk? Get the Facts about Wind Power,” with a bottom line reading “Support the Windber Area Authority â‚¬ Protecting Your water.” Included on the advertisement is an Internet address for SOAR and logo.
Laura Jackson, who answered to a phone number listed for contact on the SOAR Web site, said implying a relationship with the authority was not the purpose of the signs.
“It wasn’t meant to show affiliation. It was meant to give a source for more information,” she said. “I didn’t see any words connected to them,” she said.
Joseph Cominsky, an avid opponent of the project, said he thought the sign was praising the authority for a March 14 vote to oppose the wind farm.
“It’s a statement of support,” he said. “You have a lot of people in this town that are grateful for that vote.”
However that vote did not count as the board’s land use agreement with the primary landowner prohibited killing development outright.
The agreement will allow them to take action on the project, but only after Gamesa Energy USA submits a final project with permitting to the authority.
Under the 1989 land use agreement with Berwind Natural Resources Corp., of Philadelphia, the board had only the right to approve or approve with written conditions the terms of any use that would impact the watershed, unless the project materially degrades the authority’s water supply.
The 30-turbine wind farm, which is projected to extend through parts of Shade and Ogle townships in Somerset County and Napier Township in Bedford County, has taken up a substantial amount of authority business in the last year.
Board members said they don’t want to further stretch the resources of the authority fighting a public perception that they have a part in the campaign against the project.
Less than a month ago, an anonymous pamphlet mailed to more than 5,000 authority customers created similar concerns for the board. Numerous phone calls were made to the authority by concerned residents, manager Dennis Mash said.
Member Raymond DiBattista said the signs amount to misrepresentation by the authority. The board decided to authorize Cascio to take further legal action against the group if the signs aren’t corrected.
Last week the authority mailed a letter to Jackson and the advertising company asking for action in the matter, Cascio said.
According to Jackson, they received the certified letter last week but haven’t decided on a response yet.
The Shaffer Mountain project is only one of a number of wind farms in the region the organization is concerned with, she said.
The organization, which is less than a year old, has more than 200 members from a number of different states, she said.
By Dan DiPaolo
Daily American 30 North Chief
24 May 2007
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