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SOS rally in Barker draws 500 people

BARKER – Despite the pouring rain, about 500 people attended a Save Ontario Shores rally at the Golden Hill State Park Boat Launch Pavilion on Thursday.

Several people from across Orleans and Niagara counties, the state, and the citizens group Save Ontario Shores spoke, with members from the crowd shouting, “Hear our voice!” during speeches.

Kate Kremer, vice president of SOS, addressed the crowd in the beginning, saying the crowd had gathered to express their outrage that “the ability to determine the future of our towns has been taken from us” with the Article 10 process.

“We are here today so that our voices, united, can reach Albany,” she said to the cheers of the crowd.

Pam Atwater, SOS president, started the rally by reading a letter SOS penned to Sandy Reisky, chief executive officer of Apex Clean Energy, and Mark Goodwin, president and chief operating officer of Apex Clean Energy.

The letter stated that the Lighthouse Wind proposal to erect 70 over 600-feet tall wind turbines has pitted the community against each other and caused political upheaval.

“Numerous public opinion surveys in both towns have shown that public opposition to the proposal is above 65 percent,” Atwater read.

“Environmental, conservation, tourism groups, bird conservancy’s and business organizations have all gone on record opposing the project.

“Both town boards and the county legislatures of Orleans, Niagara and Erie counties have also opposed this project,” she continued. “The only serious supporters of this project seem to be those who stand to profit directly from lease payments.”

She then called for Apex to withdraw the Lighthouse Wind project immediately. Atwater than told the crowd to help continue to push against the project to post comments on the website and to continue to go to board meetings and local events.

State Sen. Robert Ortt, R-Tonawanda, also spoke at the rally, and he said this is about a community standing up to powers beyond its scope and saying what the community should be.

“This is a larger, progressive, agenda pushed mainly by New York City – big city interests – and these are people who have filled in every stream, bulldozed every hill and they have the gall and arrogance to tell us about the environment and how to preserve and protect our planet,” Ortt said. “Another thing – you don’t see these projects appearing, and I’m not picking on any one community … they’re not appearing on Long Island. They’re putting them in rural, small communities, usually less affluent communities, because they think, ‘You know what, we’ll throw a few bucks at them, and they’ll just take it.’”

Ortt said this isn’t just about Apex but about lawmakers in Albany, special interests in Albany, New York City and across the country, “who think they know better than you about what your community should be.”

Yates Supervisor Jim Simon also spoke at the rally, and asked how industrial zoned planning occurs two individuals – one with a lot of money and one with a lot of land that “preempts any conversation with what appears to be a town zoning law committee and a town planning committee and a county planning committee.”

The Daily News after the rally reached out to Apex and some of its supporters for a statement about the rally and why they support the Lighthouse Wind project.

“Lighthouse Wind, along with its parent company – Apex Clean Energy, is focused on America’s shift to clean energy sources and the state of New York’s renewable energy goal of 50 percent by 2030. We are strengthened by our rigorous support in the community from hardworking residents who see the importance of wind power for the community’s economic vitality and well-being,” said Cat Mosley, public affairs manager for Apex, in a statement.

“Wind energy is a drought-resistant crop that will help farms be sustainable and bring needed revenue into the localities and schools,” she continued. “We encourage the silent majority to dig deeper for factual and well-researched findings.”

Mosley also said assertions brought up about the impact to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station were baseless and the Article 10 process is a new process that requires thoughtful research and studies over multiple years to develop the best project possible with opportunities for public comment throughout.

“Until those studies are complete and we submit the final application, there is no project to be judged and accusations are premature,” she said.

Two of the citizens who The Daily News reached out to who were in support of the Lighthouse Winds project were Howard Pierce, of Yates, and Susan Campbell, of Lyndonville, and both said they supported Lighthouse Winds because they wanted to leave a cleaner environment and world for their children and grandchildren to enjoy. Neither of them have any monetary investment in the project.

“We need to look at our planet down the road,” Pierce said. “I want to leave the planet better than I found it, you know? I think we have to get away from fossil fuels. I don’t think we can do it 100 percent, but we sure can use the wind power.”

He said he put two years of research into windmills, and out of the 22 windmill farms in the state currently, and none of them had a health issue lawsuit yet. He also addressed another arguing point regarding real estate values are based on supply and demand.

Campbell said when the windmills were first proposed, she looked up facts from government and scientific websites.

“After I read it, I realized this is something that I have to support because I have children and grandchildren,” she said. “If we don’t do something soon, our children and grandchildren are going to pay for it.”

Campbell – like Pierce – said she wouldn’t mind her taxes lowered, but the money aspect wasn’t the reason why she supported it. She also said it also helped the farmers, especially in drought years like this, to have some sort of income to lessen their loss.

Campbell is in favor of the Article 10 process as well.

“I believe that big oil has such a hold on things in this country that if the states don’t pass some stuff so that big oil can’t control what comes in and doesn’t come in to a place, then nothing new is ever going to be done,” she said.