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Eight locals nominated to Somerset-Yates wind power siting board

SOMERSET – Somerset Supervisor Daniel M. Engert announced Saturday that he has chosen his four nominees to the state siting board that will determine whether and where the Alex Clean Energy wind power project is built.

The law governing the process says the host municipality and the host county are to send four names each to Albany. The Assembly speaker and the Senate majority leader are to choose one each to sit on the board alongside five officials of state agencies.

Engert said he and Niagara County nominated the same four people: Barker Board of Education President Randall B. Atwater; Cathie Orr, one of the project’s earliest foes; Thomas Staples and Robert Damon.

The project, which is to include as many as 70 wind turbines, is to extend into the Orleans County Town of Yates, which also nominated four potential siting board members: former Supervisor Russell Martino; Cynthia Hellert, a member of anti-wind group Save Ontario Shores (SOS); Glenn Maid, who lost last month’s Town Board election despite an SOS endorsement; and Jeffrey Oakes.

“Due to the overwhelming detrimental impact the proposed Lighthouse Wind project will have on the Town of Somerset, it is of utmost importance that the siting board contain members whose views reflect that of the community where the project is proposed,” Engert wrote in his nominating letter. A survey taken in the town in June showed opposition as high as 67 percent to the project, depending on how the question was phrased.

Asked if that means they are all against the project, Engert said, “All four represent very different perspectives and after speaking with them, I believe that each of them, if appointed, will effectively represent the interests of the Town and the will of the residents in this process. I remain very disappointed that the town will not have controlling authority over the ultimate decision. However, through every avenue available, I will make certain that the residents of Somerset are strongly represented.”

“I think we have a good balance of opinion,” Orleans County Legislature Chairman David B. Callard said. He and Yates Supervisor John B. Belson nominated identical slates. The town also has mailed out opinion surveys about the Apex project to all residents, and asked for them to be mailed back this week.