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Honest critiques: Wind project opponents reflect sentiments in the community

During a legal process known as voir dire, lawyers seek to select just the right individuals to serve on a jury.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys ask prospective jurors questions about themselves. The lawyers are looking for warning signs that members of a jury pool may not benefit their goals in a trial.

In broad terms, this is an attempt by the opposing sides to craft a jury more favorable to their purpose. This give and take is designed to produce a set of jurors with a fairly balanced approach to the legal issue at stake.

Representatives of energy companies in the north country have taken it upon themselves to conduct their own voir dire.

Parties involved in the state’s Article 10 process may challenge the qualifications of members of siting boards created to review proposed wind projects. Obviously, they’d like to gain an upper hand by knocking off people who don’t share their vision of a wind project’s merits.

Avangrid Renewables tried to have Potsdam resident Gary P. Snell removed as an ad hoc member of the Electric Generation Siting and the Environment for the North Ridge Wind Energy Project. Mr. Snell chairs Concerned Citizens for Rural Preservation, which opposes the Avangrid’s proposed wind project in Parishville and Hopkinton.

Declaring he has a conflict of interest, officials at Avangrid first insisted that Mr. Snell be rejected from the Siting Board. The board has no authority to take such action, and Mr. Snell declined to recuse himself.

Avangrid then filed a motion with the state Department of Public Service to have the matter reviewed. The agency ruled that Mr. Snell may remain a member.

Now, apparently, it’s Apex Clean Energy’s turn to try to shape the narrative. Representatives believe that Clifford P. Schneider doesn’t qualify for party status in the review process for the company’s proposed Galloo Island wind project.

“Receiving party status allows agencies, municipalities and individuals to apply for intervenor funding to retain counsel and experts to help conduct analyses, present testimonies and evidence to the Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment and to cross-examine testimonies and evidence from other parties, according to Article 10,” according to a story published Oct. 4 by the Watertown Daily Times.

Mr. Schneider is a retired biologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. He has criticized Apex’s research on how wind turbines constructed on Galloo Island would affect bat and bird populations.

Apex claims that since Mr. Schneider lives on Wellesley Island, more than 30 miles from the project site in Hounsfield, the wind turbines would have little effect on him. In addition, his scientific background did not involve bats or birds.

Mr. Schneider persuasively countered Apex’s charges. Since Jefferson County has submitted recommendations for ad hoc members to this Siting Board, and given that he is a Jefferson County resident, he lives in an affected municipality. He also said his experience as a biologist can be applied to bats and birds as well as fish.

He’s correct on both points. Wind turbines on Galloo Island would extend their economic and environmental impact beyond arbitrary borders.

And saying Mr. Schneider as a biologist couldn’t speak authoritatively on the wind project’s effect on bats and birds is silly. That’s like suggesting a brain surgeon would never be able to figure out why being stabbed in the chest could pose hazards to a person’s heart.

These individuals reflect how many people in the north country view the proposed wind projects. Their inclusion in the review process is vital, and they should continue along this path.