TYRONE – An open house Wednesday by Spanish energy producer Gamesa USA is not exactly the kind of forum Tyrone’s mayor had in mind when he asked the company to hold a public meeting on its proposed Ice Mountain wind farm.
‘‘It just doesn’t cut it,’’ Jim Kilmartin said, adding that at this stage a decision by Tyrone Borough on whether it will lease Gamesa watershed acreage for up to 15 wind turbines as part of the company’s Sandy Ridge Wind Farm won’t come until after a new Borough Council convenes next year.
Kilmartin said he has asked Gamesa to take part in a public meeting he will moderate.
Kilmartin said he has not heard back from Gamesa, but he hopes the public forum will give the public a better understanding of the pros and cons.
As it is set up now, with Gamesa representatives talking to people one-on-one, there’s a missed opportunity for more people to hear how the company is addressing its critics.
Critics Juniata Valley Audubon Society President Stan Kotala said last week that he does not know if he will attend the open house from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Tyrone Senior Center.
The forum, Kotala said, stifles the debate over whether building turbines on the Ice Mountain watershed is sound environmentally.
Because the meeting was suggested by Kilmartin in the wake of public opposition to the project, Kotala said he’s disappointed it won’t give residents who are against the deal the opportunity to challenge Gamesa’s assertions publicly.
‘‘It’s designed by Gamesa with the intention of suppressing public comment,’’ he said.
Kotala said despite Gamesa’s assertion that wind energy is supported by the National Audubon Society, Audubon isn’t supporting the Sandy Ridge project.
The chapter did not have problems with the building of the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm and other projects, but those other projects didn’t involve fragmenting the forest on Ice Mountain, an area deemed ‘‘unique’’ by the Blair County Natural Heritage Inventory.
Council Vice President Bill Latchford said he’s likely to vote ‘‘yes’’ to the watershed lease as long as he is convinced that wind energy will help decrease the amount of electricity generated from fossil fuels like coal.
Latchford said he also hopes any revenue generated for the borough by the deal – $60,000 to $90,000 a year – are put to work renewing the borough’s 3,800-acre watershed.
Latchford says he has studied the issue from all directions and sees more positives than negatives. Still, he said he will attend the open house to learn out more.
While Latchford said he sees a lot of pluses, some of his constituents see mostly negatives and said they have trouble believing everything Gamesa has said about the issue.
Resident Bob Roseberry does not think building 490-foot-tall wind turbines on the watershed is a good idea.
Outside his Third Street home, within a stone’s throw of where the meeting will be held, huge signs plead the case to save Ice Mountain from what one sign deems ‘‘greed energy.’’
Roseberry said he is not impressed with Gamesa’s arguments or its handling of questions about wind energy and its potential downside to the community.
‘‘Too many questions with the answers they give,’’ Roseberry said.
By Greg Bock
3 December 2007
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