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Environmentalists abandon core values

Leaving aside the questionable economics, inefficiency and massive tax subsidies required to induce investment in wind turbines, there are several other concrete – and local – reasons why the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors should vote against an ordinance allowing and encouraging industrial-scale wind turbines.

Let’s start with the Sierra Club for guidance on this issue.

The Sierra Club and Cool Cities Coalition have consistently cited the Sierra Club’s siting guidelines for why they support industrial-scale wind turbines on Poor Mountain. The Sierra Club “strongly supports the development of substantial wind resources for electricity generation. Wind power is a reliable, clean, renewable resource that can help reduce our dependence on polluting fossil fuels.” And who in their right mind wouldn’t support such a goal?

But the Sierra Club also recognizes the importance of balancing the beauty of our natural surroundings with the impact of such large-scale industrial development and, as such, states:

“The Sierra Club opposes development in protected areas such as national and state parks, national monuments, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, designated roadless areas, critical habitat and designated habitat recovery areas for wildlife, and areas of cultural significance, sacred lands and other areas that have special scenic, natural or environmental value.”

So the question Roanokers and our zoning commission must ask is this: Does Poor Mountain have special scenic, natural or environmental value?

There’s nothing ambiguous about this language, and I’d argue that nine out of 10 residents would unequivocally answer, “Absolutely. Our beautiful mountains are one of our greatest assets here in Roanoke!”

On this specific point, I’ve repeatedly asked Cool Cities President Diana Christopulos if she would respect the majority view of Roanokers on this simple question, but she has declined to answer. I’ve pressed her on it in public meetings and in public online discussions, but she’s refused to answer it with a yes or no.

I can understand being passionate about an idea, but I fail to understand why – given her assertion that she and the Cool Cities Coalition are using Sierra Club guidelines – she would be unwilling to respect the view of a majority of Roanoke Valley citizens on such an important issue. This is patriotic?

Given the Sierra Club’s own guidelines, Poor Mountain, our highest mountain – with its unique importance to Roanoke’s scenic beauty – is clearly not an acceptable location for industrial-scale wind turbines.

Even Rupert Cutler, in his recent op-ed on why he’s changed his mind and can now “live with” (hardly what you’d call a ringing endorsement) wind turbines, notes, “There are places they don’t belong, such as the Blue Ridge Parkway.” (“A life-long environmentalist shifts his opinion on wind,” Aug. 21 Horizon).

Does he not realize that 18 structures, each higher than the Statue of Liberty, on the tallest mountain around, will be visible for 20 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway?

Even the commissioner of the parkway came to a county planning meeting to speak out against the wind turbines, but to no avail.

To give you an idea how off-the-beam proponents’ thinking is on this issue, think back to the hoopla just a couple of years ago, when a proposal to allow a modest structure on the top of the much smaller Mill Mountain was floated. At the time, the Sierra Club went on the record strongly against that, and Bill Modica, vice chairman of the Roanoke Chapter of the Sierra Club, wrote:

“I also don’t understand the type of thinking that leads one to conclude that any vacant land needs something built on it as soon as possible. I came to Roanoke, like many others, because it wasn’t all covered over with buildings. I like the trees and streams and the open fields along the roads. That is what makes this area so wonderful.”

So we’ve got the same group on record strongly against building a modest structure, lower than existing trees, on a much less prominent ridgeline in town, but lobbying for 18 industrial structures, each taller than the Statue of Liberty, on the highest ridgeline in the area?

I hope our supervisors will come to their senses and side with the citizens of the Roanoke Valley, not an outside company with no ties in Roanoke and a well-organized special interest group.

Lawson lives in Roanoke County and is owner and publisher of Credit Today.