The Shenandoah Valley is on the verge of being blighted with its first industrial wind facility. Apex Clean Energy is preparing to apply for a Virginia DEQ Permit by Rule to construct a 25-turbine industrial facility on North Mountain in Botetourt County, near the Rockbridge County line.
The project includes the installation of 25 550-foot turbines that will be brightly lit visible as far as Rockbridge County. Road construction and turbine placement will require blasting and grading the steep slopes of North Mountain.
Apex’s CEO, Sandy Reisky, contributed $25,000 to Governor McAuliffe in recent years and was appointed to the Virginia Energy Council, a committee charged with drafting the Virginia Energy Plan. Molly Ward is a member of the Council. Ward is also the Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources, and is charged with upholding Article XI of the Virginia Constitution, which states “the Commonwealth’s policy [is] to protect its atmosphere, lands, and waters from pollution, impairment, or destruction, for the benefit, enjoyment and general welfare of the people of the Commonwealth.”
On January 21, Ward wrote a letter to the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors “in support Apex Clean Energy’s application for permit and a special exception permit for the Rocky Forge wind farm.” The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the permit on January 26.
Ward wrote in support of the project without having any data regarding the impact to environmental and natural resources, which is required by the Virginia DEQ Permit By Rule. It is imprudent and dismissive of her constitutional duty to protect the Commonwealth’s natural resources for Ward to endorse this project in the absence of this data.
This project, like all industrial wind facilities, will have significant impacts on wildlife, water quality and the quality of life of Virginia citizens. After reviewing the scant wind data supplied by Apex, it does not appear that there is sufficient wind to justify these impacts. My question: how will Apex’s application receive a rigorous and unbiased review by DEQ staff given that Molly Ward, their boss, has already voiced her approval in writing?
It is clear that cronyism is alive and well in the Old Dominion.
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