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Windmill foes raise big bucks  

A group opposing wind turbines in Somerset County is raising big money to stop Gamesa USA from building 30 of the electricity generators for the controversial Shaffer Mountain Wind Project.

Bedford-based Save Our Alleghenies Ridges raised more than $126,000 from January to October 2007, according to figures released by the Pennsylvania Department of State, which registers nonprofit organizations.

“That’s a good chunk of money,” said James Dellinger, executive director of Greenwatch, a Washington-based nonprofit watchdog group.

SOAR is part of a growing list of nonprofits that have sprung up on both sides of the windmill debate, touting research and statistics to sway public opinion.

“These ad hoc groups are starting to spring up everywhere somebody is trying to set up windmills,” Dellinger said. “It makes sense for fundraising. You can exist in perpetuity if you want.”

SOAR, a subcommittee of the Juniata Valley Audubon Society, has about 350 members committed to educating the public on what environmental damage turbines might cause, Executive Director Laura Jackson said.

A number are Audubon members and many wish to remain anonymous.

SOAR was fined $150 for not registering with the state Bureau of Charitable Organizations, which maintains financial information on more than 9,500 charities that solicit money in Pennsylvania.

Organizations that received more than $25,000 must register.

“What I didn’t know at the time was that stipulation,” Jackson said. “That was strictly ignorance on my part.”

Jackson sought to quell rumors the organization is funded by coal companies and other business.

Individual donors support SOAR, which buys newspaper ads, billboard space and printed material. But much of the money is for legal fees, Jackson said.

The effort has had some success.

SOAR claimed a victory of sorts when the state Department of Environmental Protection raised questions about Gamesa’s post-construction stormwater management plan for its Shaffer Mountain site.

“Obviously, they’re taking our concerns to heart,” Jackson said.

Gamesa wasn’t overly concerned – calling it part of the application process for securing a state permit for the project.

By Patrick Buchnowski

The Tribune-Democrat

1 March 2008

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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