SOMERSET – Lighthouse Wind LLC responded to comments by Somerset Supervisor Daniel M. Engert, and his advisor, former New York Attorney General Dennis Vacco, on Friday regarding insinuations that Apex Clean Energy may be violating New York State laws.
In a press release on Thursday, Somerset stated despite signing the Code of Conduct, it believed Apex may be violating New York state laws by engaging in deceptive public relations strategies, improper lobbying and the development of false grassroots or “astroturf” support.
In addition to stating it believed Apex retained the Washington, D.C., firm Five Corners Strategies, which is not a registered lobbyist in New York, to influence state and local government decisions regarding the proposed wind project in the town, Somerset said it is also concerned Apex is engaging in “astroturfing” by flooding the New York state Department of Public Service public comment website with form letters purportedly drafted by neutral third parties and showing public support for the subject project. “Astroturfing” is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization to make it appear as though the message originates from and is supported by third parties.
“New York State has seen far too many high-level state officials and state agencies unduly influenced by lobbyists and deceptive business practices,” Engert said at the end of the press release. “I call upon the Attorney General to commence and conduct a thorough investigation of all the company’s actions to ensure that a completely transparent and legal process is taking place here. The Attorney General must lift the veil of secrecy surrounding this project so Somerset residents, state agencies and all interested parties know which way the wind is really blowing here.”
Lighthouse Wind in its press release reiterated its commitment to continue development for the project in an ethical and open manner, and noted there is no basis for Engert or Vacco to allege otherwise.
“Lighthouse Wind, like others in the alternative energy/wind development community, has signed the New York Code of Conduct Agreement for wind project developments,” it stated in its press release. “Lighthouse Wind has and will continue to comply with all applicable rules and standards as it moves forward in joining others across the country to develop renewable energy supplies for our state and nation.”
Lighthouse Wind added New York and other states across the country have recognized the importance of shifting away from reliance on polluting fuels for generation of electricity and have expanded support for renewable energy developments, such as its own.
“These efforts, and the support of many residents in communities such as Somerset and Yates, will enable us to combat the adverse impacts of climate change and to provide for an energy future without harmful emissions, the depletion of economic development opportunities, open space preservation, and the long-term maintenance of the rural character of upstate New York communities,” Lighthouse Wind continued. “Wind development is a good thing, and we were disappointed to see the supervisor and his counselor, former public official Dennis Vacco, disparage our efforts to be a part of the renewable energy initiative that is growing across our great nation.”
In related news, members from the New York Legislature wrote a letter in February expressing concerns with the project’s proximity to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station military operating area. Sen. Robert Ortt, Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, Assemblywoman Jane Corwin and Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak wrote to Kathleen Burgess, secretary to the New York state Public Service Commission, with their worries the wind turbines will affect airspace around the base and make it less likely to be considered for future missions.
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