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Lighthouse Wind and the meaning of words

In Somerset and Yates, residents have seen the words “transparency” and “robust” used in many statements prepared by Apex Clean Energy. The wind developer wants to put 70 turbines with spinning blades that are taller than the highest building in the City of Buffalo into our rural communities.

In response, the affected towns, and Erie, Niagara and Orleans counties, have studied the issues and said “no” to this project. The counties and the majority of the affected towns’ citizens have recognized that such structures in a rural/residential/tourist area are not appropriate for the region that already sends excess renewable hydro power throughout the state.

Apex has regularly declared that they operate in a transparent manner and plan to prepare robust studies to address the issues surrounding the proposed placement of industrial turbines in our communities. But questions surround that vocabulary.

How is it possible to be fully transparent when records readily available on the internet show hundreds of thousands of dollars spent each year by Apex in order to reach influential federal and state officials who can advance their business goals and generate large profits for their management? For example, the American Wind Energy Association website shows that this spring Apex will spend $50,000 alone at the upcoming AWEA conference for name badges (lanyards). Spending this kind of money for publicity at a trade association event clearly demonstrates the unequal balance of power between mega million-dollar wind developers and the small towns they seek out. To a small town, $50,000 can mean the difference between maintaining or discontinuing a town service.

The AWEA conference Facebook page states that attendees at Windpower 2016 will learn how to be a player in Washington, which is not something rural communities or average citizens have the money to do. This is the kind of tactic that voters across the country – whatever their politics – are rejecting.

For research to be valid, it must ask the right questions, be done in an unbiased manner, and contain accurate data. Further, all aspects of the studies must be open and available to all. When the health and wellbeing of communities are at stake, nothing should be secret or declared by a company to be proprietary.

Robust studies cannot be conducted when representatives of the affected communities are excluded from meetings discussing aspects of those studies. To exclude representatives of the affected towns is to present government officials with only the wind developer’s point of view. This is especially troubling in light of the fact that under New York State’s Article 10, towns have lost home rule and wind projects can be ordered sited by the State.

The project that Apex wants to impose upon citizens demands true transparency and truly robust, independent studies. To do less is unfair to everyone in the region.

Peg Schwabel