A nonprofit group raising money to try to stop construction of wind turbines in eastern Somerset County is not registered as a charity, and it remains unclear whether the organization has received enough donations to mandate registration.
Save Our Allegheny Ridges, a Bedford group commonly called SOAR, is soliciting contributions on its Web site, http://ShafferMountain.com. The group is not listed with the state Bureau of Charitable Organizations, which maintains financial information on more than 9,500 charities that solicit money in Pennsylvania.
Organizations that receive more than $25,000 in donations must be registered, said Catherine Ennis, spokeswoman for the Department of State.
It is unclear whether SOAR’s donations rise to that level. SOAR Chairwoman Laura Jackson was unavailable for comment.
Last month, SOAR members rallied at the state Capitol, calling for more aggressive regulation of wind-energy companies. They have bought ad space on billboards and are soliciting donations for the “Shaffer Mountain Legal Fund.”
SOAR is one of several grassroots organizations that have formed to stop Spain-based Gamesa USA from building 30 electricity-generating wind turbines in Shade and Ogle townships on the border of Somerset and Bedford counties.
Another group, called Save the Mountain, has strong financial backing but does not need to register with state agencies because it does not solicit money.
“We’re not out there taking private money,” said Joe Cominsky, a member of Save the Mountain. He declined to name the group’s financial backers but said, “We draw on our base when it’s needed.”
Opponents of the Shaffer Mountain wind project contend the turbines will damage pristine streams and kill wildlife. Gamesa said it is taking exceptional steps to protect the habitat and wildlife near the proposed site.
By Patrick Buchnowski
14 October 2007
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