Three years have passed since Charlottesville, Va., based Apex “Clean Energy” slipped into our area and began signing landowners to 49-year, non-revocable, confidential leases for Project Lighthouse Wind. This project is a proposed 71-unit industrial wind turbine complex, with units perhaps as high as 650 feet, to be strung along 12 miles of Lake Ontario shorelines in the towns of Somerset and Yates.
Incredibly, after this length of time, the exact size and location of these monsters is not yet known. Secrecy prevails throughout the process as leaseholders are under a gag order, certain technical information related to the project is deemed proprietary and town representatives are being excluded from technical meetings.
Although the project has not yet been approved, Apex has permanently scarred our community by pitting neighbor against neighbor. No matter the final decision to proceed or not, the scars will remain. This project has also raised a huge amount of opposition, as it threatens our environment, our health and the way of life in our rural community.
The opposition to this type of heavy industrial development runs deep. Comprehensive plans officially dating back to 1974, and recently updated, stress above all else the preservation of the rural character of our community. Erecting huge industrial structures of the number and size associated with Project Lighthouse Wind makes a mockery of this objective. There never was the intent to heavily industrialize our community.
Further, these huge structures raise many physical and environmental issues that we, who will be forced to live among them, must face. Issues include health effects, degradation of property values, visual pollution, disruption of normal farming operations, noise, flicker, vibration, bird kill, bat kill, alteration of drainage patterns, disruption of wildlife, electromagnetic interference, road damage and general construction disruption.
A citizens’ coalition, Save Ontario Shores, has been formed to protect interests of the citizens of our area from Project Lighthouse Wind. Currently, several hundred individuals are involved with this coalition and 30 businesses and organizations have expressed opposition to, or concerns about, this proposed project. Further, three independent surveys in our towns have shown that residents oppose Project Lighthouse Wind by a margin of 2 to 1.
Public opposition has reflected itself also in the last two local elections. Those running for town board in Somerset in opposition were handily re-elected. Two incumbents in Yates in support were turned out, one of them being the supervisor, thus shifting the balance of the Yates town board.
Those supporting Lighthouse Wind argue that proper turbine siting will mitigate the issues to the extent that we will be able to “live with them.” Those opposed, and with a multitude of very good reasons, say this is the wrong project in the wrong place.
Despite overwhelming public rejection, Apex pushes on with Project Lighthouse Wind, under the authority of the recently passed Article X of the state Public Service law. This law stripped local governments of the ability to decide the fate of this project and placed that authority in the hands of a siting board dominated by Albany politicians. Big business and big government are therefore in control of our community and our destiny. This should not be!
Based on the overwhelming public rejection of Project Lighthouse Wind, Apex is requested to immediately cease all activity related to Project Lighthouse Wind.
The New York State Public Service Commission is requested to reject the project.
Our state legislators are requested to modify Article X and return home rule.
James C. Hoffman is a Somerset resident.
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