I read with interest a book review in a Buffalo-area publication on “The Day the Buffalo River Burned, the Incredible Story of Stanley P. Spisiak,” by John Zach. I recall seeing Mr. Spisiak’s obituary in 1996 and thinking, wow, what a great guy. Everyone should know about him. I grew up seeing the terrible condition of Buffalo’s waterways described in the review, and I agree, Mr. Spisiak would be thrilled to see everyone enjoying our waterfront today.
What would he say about the new industry poised to enter Lake Erie, through Governor Cuomo’s Green New Deal and now being facilitated behind the scenes of pandemic and protest?
The proposal to install offshore wind turbines on the Eastern side of Lake Erie was brought to my attention during the annual Woodlawn Beach cleanup last September.
Since then I have learned much about how negative this would be for Lake Erie and the people and wildlife that depend on it, the protests around the world against these types of projects and the media paywalls that are stifling our knowledge of them. Global developers have called the Great Lakes the “Saudi Arabia of Wind,” and surprisingly, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups that oppose Peace Bridge reconstruction and shoreline development endorse the turbines. Can you see the dollar signs? Can you trust a global industry with our fresh water?
In 2008, I became the proud owner of a Volkswagen Clean Diesel, having enthusiastically bit the bait of beautiful green leaves painted on the test car. Oh how happy I was with my high mileage and low emissions until … eight years later, Dieselgate. A scam exposed, and by driving this car I and millions of other well-meaning people were making things worse for the environment.
What a hassle it was the following year, jumping through hoops to return my car and receive compensation from an uncooperative and condescending Volkswagen. In these “clean” industries, misnomers are key to fooling well-meaning people. They are not windmills, they are electric turbines. They are not “wind farms” or “wind parks,” they are power plants with all the associated infrastructure, not contained in a building but sprawled over many miles. In order to squeeze any worthwhile power out of the fickle wind, they must cover a large area. Turbines contain hundreds of gallons of oil, which must be changed like any motor, and SF6 gas, sulfur hexafluoride, an electric insulator, carcinogen, and ironically, potent greenhouse gas. There will be no hundreds of permanent jobs, only maintenance jobs, and how do the workers access the turbines on a frozen lake?
Spisiak was witness to industrial waste dumped into our waterways. These toxins have settled and become entombed under layers of silt, which took years.
What would he say about their disruption from the necessary drilling and trenching in the lakebed to support the towers and transmission lines? There has been no offshore turbines in freshwater anywhere else in the world, and the foreign billionaires involved don’t know the beating Lake Erie will give them, year after year.
They are ignoring the fact that salt deposits from an ancient sea are beneath parts of the lake. Nothing about these structures are clean, free, or cheap, from manufacture to function to decommissioning. As it was recently exposed in the documentary “Planet of the Humans,” fossil fuel and mining are the skeletons in their closets, quietly done on the other side of the world. The only thing “renewable” about them is the subsidy money that comes ultimately from us.
All this disruption of Lake Erie, and we have had for 59 years truly emission-free hydropower from Niagara Falls which we take for granted.
If you think all of this sounds ridiculous and won’t happen here, on May 21, the Ohio Power Siting Board approved “Icebreaker,” the first Great Lakes offshore wind power project in Cleveland, Ohio, on the western end of Lake Erie.
Ninety percent of North America’s surface freshwater is in our Great Lakes. They are a precious resource never to be messed with again, as the remarkable Stanley Spisiak showed us all.
Mary Hensen is an East Aurora resident.
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