November 5, 2016
New York, Opinions

Wind project poses long-term threat to Niagara air base

Christine Bronson | Lockport Union-Sun & Journal | November 4, 2016 |

SOS staged another press conference at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station this week, and this time U.S. Rep. Chris Collins and state Senator Rob Ortt spoke out against Apex Clean Energy’s wind turbine project for Somerset and Yates. Some people have been commenting, “What’s with those SOS people? Don’t they hear that these wind turbines won’t affect the base?”

There is much more to the story. Do you recall recently that it was much celebrated that NFARS just got a new mission, which is the mid-air refueling tankers? It meant that the future of the base looked good, safe for the time being from the watchful eyes of the Base Realignment and Closure Committee. Employing 2,800 civilians, the base’s future is tied to the economic health of all of Western New York.

As you may know, Apex is a huge corporation with a staff and lots of money at its disposal, and like lots of corporations it employs a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C. Apex uses Cassidy & Associates. It just so happens that Cassidy is also employed by the State of New Jersey for the purpose of protecting (from closure) several military installations: Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Earle Naval Weapons Station, the 177th Fight Wing and a Coast Guard Training Center.

Cassidy is being paid by New Jersey to: Lobby the Air Force to locate the next generation of mid-air refueling tankers at McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst; maintain a list of chief competitors and threats to New Jersey’s military installations; and develop a list of similar missions based at other military installations that may be suitable for the state.

So now, the picture gets clearer. But wait – there’s more.

There surfaced a Youtube video of the chairman of Cassidy, one Barry Rhoades, who is filmed speaking about a conference of the Association of Defense Communities. This three-day event in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Cassidy, brought together Pentagon officials knowledgeable about BRAC procedures, and those civilians who live in defense communities. In this brief video Rhodes warns communities that want to preserve their military installations and ensure their “survivability” must be “proactive,” not “like ostriches,” and be involved in “intelligence-gathering.” Moreover, he advised that to ensure the future of any military base, residents must look at what a base looks like “five, ten years down the road. … If you say you’re not encroached now, you need to be thinking about what your base will look like ten years from now.”

Right now, NFARS has an extremely positive rating by BRAC for its exceptional lack of air space encroachment. What happens if Apex sites 70, 620-foot industrial wind turbines in Niagara County? What will the base look like to BRAC five to 10 years from now?

So, if you can connect the dots, you can see that Apex’s unwelcome presence here has also opened the door to compromising the future of NFARS on two fronts. This wind turbine project now has suddenly become an issue for all residents here, as the Western New York economy is on the line if Cassidy is successful in transferring NFARS’ hard-won mission to a much larger New Jersey installation. This is why SOS called on Collins and Ortt to speak out against the Apex project.

Christine Bronson is a Somerset resident.

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