BARKER – Too big. Too close.
Standing next to a model of the 570-foot turbines proposed for a 200-megawatt wind energy project in Orleans and Niagara counties, members of two groups opposed to industrial wind farms warned and urged residents to take an active role in fighting Lighthouse Wind.
Both Save Ontario Shores, which formed to fight the project, and Great Lakes Wind Truth spoke to a crowd nearing 200 people that had filled the fire hall in Barker, a village just south of the land area targeted for the Lighthouse Wind project, which stretches into the northwestern corner of Orleans County.
Their goal was to educate and accumulate supporters about more than the research disparate groups have put into investigations over the health, environmental and financial impacts of wind energy. It was an effort to rally them to act quickly at the local and state level.
Mike Basil, a concerned citizen from Yates, said residents need to be ready and active at the next set of town board meetings. He encouraged them to sign petitions at the event that will be delivered to both towns.
“Our mission to show leaders how many people are really, really opposed to (the project),” Basil said.
Glenn Maid, the research chair of Save Ontario Shores, urged attendees to reach deeper during a run-through of the state laws guiding the siting process.
SOS was formed to give community members a voice, as a stakeholder group, in the state’s review of a coming application for a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need by Lighthouse Wind’s developers. Maid showed the crowd how to register that voice on the public service commission’s website for the project.
“You have three weeks to say you don’t want this,” Maid said. “We have 85 (comments) so far, we need hundreds against this.”
Among those to comment against the project Wednesday were two people who weren’t aligned when wind energy projects were built in Wyoming County but find themselves in agreement now.
John Hutchins said he had allowed two wind turbines to be leased on a 100-acre property in Eagle he used for recreational hunting, believing he was doing “the right thing” for the environment.
He regrets the decision, saying any promise of reduced town taxes was overwhelmed by raises in school and county taxes.
“They’ll tell you taxes are going down … my taxes went from $800 a year to $3,000,” Hutchins said.
Cathi Orr described herself as a refuge from Wyoming County, having moved from Orangeville to a “safe haven” in Somerset in 2013 after having been a founding member of Clear Skies over Orangeville, which fought against the Stony Creek Wind Farm.
Orr said her former neighbors live in a steamrolled community, where clear-cut fields and forests and slag-filled access roads lead to turbines that reduced property values and ill-effects to their wellbeing.
She found a similar base of support for an anti-wind effort along the lakeshore.
“We fight because we love the environment, because they don’t work, and because if we don’t stand up for what’s right, we know the government won’t,” Orr said.
The meeting came a week after many of the same attendees witnessed a panel discussion between SOS, GLWT and representatives from Apex Clean Energy, the company pursuing the Lighthouse Wind project.
Susan Albright of Great Lakes Wind Truth was the only person to speak at both events. She came to the meeting with details of “confidential no more” contractual leases that she said are being made between land owners and an Apex subsidiary.
Her reading of the 35-page document, obtained by Great Lakes Wind Truth, was a warning that lessors would give up many of their rights without guarantees that the lessee would maintain their obligations for information, safety and remediation once the project’s life cycle runs out.
“Ultimately, if you do sign such a lease, your neighbors who don’t will likely hate you,” Albright said. “The wind company will eventually be one or multiple unknown absentee tenants who you might never meet, and who do not care about you or your property. If you live until the end of the ‘lease,’ you will very likely be left with a filthy, industrial junkyard.”
Al Isslehard, also of GLWT, revealed more, naming the four Yates landowners and about a dozen more in Somerset known to have signed leases with Apex Clean Energy.
He named the town council members up for re-election in the fall.
And he named his own reasons for why Somerset and Yates should oppose the project.
“The noise and inter-related health problems, the avoidable property value declines, and the decommissioning,” Isslehard listed. “These will be the tallest turbines in New York, likely the loudest.”
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