Gamesa’s last-minute decision not to attend a community forum on wind power gave opponents of their Shaffer Mountain project the opportunity to rally more than 170 residents to the cause.
Those attending the event held at the Shade High School gymnasium were urged to sign petitions, join groups and contact local and state officials about the controversial project.
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 become the subject of mass mailings, billboards and media coverage in the last six months.
“It’s one of the reasons I would have liked to have Gamesa here,” said Larry Hutchinson, president of the Shade Creek Watershed Association and one of the organizers .
Instead, the forum continued with speakers opposed to the project. However, it seemed to make little difference to the largely partisan crowd that clapped loudly a number of times.
One resident who brought his 14-year-old son to the forum as part of a Boy Scout project came with an open mind and left angry at the company and the state over the matter.
“I’m leaving with a lot of animosity,” Scott Fritz said. “It sounds like they’re going to destroy a lot of valuable watershed.”
His son, Zachary, will be doing a report on the meeting as part of a merit badge project, he said.
While Gamesa officials have repeatedly said the project will not impact wildlife or the watershed, they were not on hand to give their side of the story. According to company representatives, they will be holding a town hall meeting in the near future in order to give the public more information.
Foes of the wind facilities are hoping the state Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public hearing on the project and force Gamesa to confront them face-to-face.
Speakers urged those attending to fill out forms requesting that hearing to be mailed to the DEP. More than 150 people filled out those requests last evening, according to organizers.
“These people have to get involved,” said landowner Jack Buchan, who spoke to the crowd. “We just want Gamesa to sit down at the table with us and amend the project. The problem is, we feel that they’re using this as a litmus test for the entire state.”
Buchan is in the process of filing suit against the project citing environmental concerns but said that he would rather have a grass roots campaign opposing the project gain momentum first.
“I’m a lawyer, the last thing I want is litigation,” he said.
Also speaking were Dr. Thomas Dick and Laura Jackson. Thomas is the founder of the Allegheny Plateau Audubon and Jackson is a founder of Save Our Allegheny Ridges.
By Dan DiPaolo
Daily American 30 North Chief
13 June 2007
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