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Save the mountain  

Gamesa’s guest column last week, written by their corporate spokesman, Michael Peck, is an example of spin, half-truths and out and out untruths that Gamesa has tried to use to promote its proposed Shaffer Mountain wind plant. Gamesa starts out by referring to those opposing the Shaffer Mountain wind plant as “anti-wind advocates.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Most people who are opposing this project, including me, support wind power and Gov. Rendell’s initiatives. We are deeply concerned, however, that the “green” label of this technology is being tarnished by Gamesa’s efforts to place this project in the Piney Run watershed – an area recognized by the Environmental Quality Board and Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Project as a natural heritage area of exceptional significance.

Although, according to the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Project, sites of exceptional significance “merit quick, strong and complete protection,” Gamesa wants to build its massive industrial plant, complete with 18 miles of new industrial roads and transmission channels, in the middle of this exceptional natural heritage area. That’s our beef, pure and simple. And that’s where it stops. To characterize us as “anti-wind advocates” is inaccurate.

The truth is that the area is home to the Allegheny Front, which has one of the heaviest raptor migrations in all of eastern North America. The highest annual count of Golden Eagles in the eastern United States is always the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch. Two Exceptional Value streams, Piney Run and Clear Shade Creek, run through the middle of the area Gamesa wants to develop. According to DEP, these waters “constitute the best of the best surface waters in the Commonwealth.” Only 2 percent of Pennsylvania streams have earned Exceptional Value protection.

With the federally protected Indiana bat and bald eagle, and the occurrence of plant species of special concern, the area is one of the last intact forest habitats in our part of the state. Gamesa’s pushing to develop an industrial wind plant here could have dire consequences for the ultimate development of wind technology in Pennsylvania, as their plan to develop such a sensitive area is a recipe for environmental disaster.

Their actions on Shaffer Mountain could come back to haunt the entire wind industry. They risk alienating the public and creating thousands of true “anti-wind advocates.”

Gamesa has badly underestimated the huge and growing opposition to their project on Shaffer Mountain. There are literally thousands that oppose them. They have also underestimated the willingness of the local populace to stand up to them and Berwind.

Gamesa conveniently ignores the fact that Windber, Paint Township, Paint Borough and Scalp Level Borough have all voted against the project because of concerns for their water. It’s their water that’s at risk. Should these communities not have standing to object to that? Not according to Gamesa, who claims these municipalities have no “jurisdiction” to object.

By ignoring the people of the Windber area, Gamesa’s disrespect to them is arrogant and insulting.

Instead of debating the siting issues of the Shaffer Mountain wind plant in a public forum, Gamesa prefers to feed the public misinformation and half-truths through the news media. Some of these are:

(1) Gamesa claims that WAA’s preliminary approval of the project, in January 2007, is final approval and that WAA is precluded from revoking it. This is untrue. The truth is that the WAA already has revoked their preliminary approval. On March 14, 2007, after reviewing Gamesa’s NPDES filing – 673 pages and 43 blueprints – WAA voted 5-1 AGAINST Gamesa’s project in the WAA watershed. The WAA felt blindsided by Gamesa, which obtained preliminary approval in January by submitting only five schematic drawings and a topo map showing preliminary turbine locations. So they withdrew their preliminary approval.

Since that day, a few conflicted people have attempted to exert their influence on the WAA Board to change their vote. The WAA Board has refused to do so and I doubt it ever will. Board members are appointed by the communities in which they live to protect the water for those who live there.

All of these communities have voted against Gamesa’s wind plant in their watershed. The WAA Board members will not sell out their friends and neighbors. This is Windber, not Philadelphia.

(2) Gamesa also makes assertions regarding the benefits and efficiency of wind energy. Fact is that it would take 5,365 turbines stretched over 671 miles of Pennsylvania ridge tops to produce the same amount of electricity as is produced by the Homer City Power Plant during its summer output. Wind turbines produce power at only a 30 percent capacity factor. In the summer, their output falls to below 10 percent at times. Wind turbines are an inefficient and costly way to generate electricity. Power is produced only when the wind blows. However, it is a useful technology that can be developed in areas where its negative impacts will not affect intact ecosystems.

(3) Gamesa’s claim that all DEP sediment and erosion control requirements have been followed “to the letter” is also false. On June 8, 2007, Gamesa was advised that their NPDES permit application was “technically deficient” in 16 different areas. Gamesa failed to submit any wetland reports or studies for the many upland wetlands that exist in the project area. They claimed that no hydric soils exist within the project area, however, the regulators found there to be three hydric soils and 10 soils with hydric component. These are wetland soils. Gamesa’s plan also failed to show detail of the access roads on their plan drawings. Contours, grades and all earth disturbance was also missing.

(4) At Gamesa’s meeting, Gamesa told the crowd that they do not use blasting in their construction process. The next morning, one of the people who had been at the meeting sent S.O.A.R. president, Laura Jackson, a copy of a blasting permit that Gamesa had obtained for their Portage Mountain wind farm. This permit is available for review at www.shaffermountain.com under “announcements.” Go see for yourself.

(5) Gamesa states that they would prefer to build in “areas that have been previously disturbed.” But at their “town meeting” last Wednesday, they stated that they did not want to build on the nearby reclaimed strip mines. The reason is that it’s cheaper and more efficient to bulldoze and blast virgin ground on the ridge tops.

(6) Gamesa claims to be committed to being a good neighbor in all areas where they operate. Does a good neighbor ignore what you say? Does a good neighbor tell you things that are not true?

Gamesa is afraid of the truth. That’s why they refuse to debate. They apparently feel that their permits will be granted by DEP regardless of the serious environmental issues that exist, because the governor is pushing wind development.

We have faith that the truth will prevail in the end and Gamesa will be stopped. If they keep ignoring the people and insulting our intelligence, the good name of wind energy will be severely damaged and Gamesa will create a monster – thousands who oppose all wind power. Governor Rendell should be concerned.

Gamesa should abandon its efforts to industrialize the Piney Run watershed now, before it’s too late.

Jack Buchan

Shaffer Mountain

property owner

Daily American

29 June 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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