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Yates plans wind power law as activists blast developer

YATES – The Yates Town Board is likely to pass a law restricting construction of wind power projects, as the battle over the project near the Lake Ontario shore continues.

Apex Clean Energy of Charlottesville, Va., operating under the name Lighthouse Wind, is proposing to erect as many as 70 wind turbines, each up to 620 feet high, at still-undisclosed locations in the Niagara County Town of Somerset and the neighboring Orleans County Town of Yates.

Mail-in surveys of the towns’ property owners have shown solid opposition to the project, but some landowners have signed leases with Apex, which has promised to pay them $15,000 a year for each turbine erected on their land.

In Yates, where anti-Apex candidates swept the town election last November, a public hearing was held Thursday on a restrictive wind law and a moratorium on wind projects. Councilman John Riggi said Friday the Town Board will vote on the measures May 12.

The law is modeled on one passed in Somerset two months ago. It prohibits wind power development in the waterfront revitalization area near the lakeshore and requires developers to reimburse property owners who sell their homes because of the wind project if they can’t obtain a sale price equal to the value set by an appraiser.

The moratorium bans all wind projects for six months. During that time, Riggi said, the town intends to complete a comprehensive plan for western Yates and a regional waterfront revitalization plan.

The decision on where a wind project will be built lies with a state-controlled siting board, but the local laws are a step in a bureaucratic fight against the Apex project.

Also Friday, Save Ontario Shores, or SOS, a citizen group opposing the project, released a letter to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman complaining about anti-SOS statements allegedly made by an Apex consultant at a March 7 meeting of the Sierra Club of Buffalo.

The letter, signed by SOS president Pamela Atwater, who was present at the meeting, charged that Bo Shuff of Five Corners Strategies, a public outreach firm, said that the wind opponents haven’t lived in Somerset and Yates as long as the farmers who have signed land leases.

Shuff allegedly said that SOS is part of a national anti-wind power movement backed by people “whose name begins with K and ends with H,” an apparent reference to the billionaire Koch brothers, who have funded groups opposed to legislation to fight climate change.

“As the president of SOS, I know all of these claims to be false,” Atwater wrote, adding that hers is a group of local residents, many of whose families have lived in the towns for generations.

Apex spokeswoman Cat Mosley said, “We are not surprised that SOS feels the need to release a press announcement such as this one, as it follows closely with their consistent and established history of spreading misinformation about Apex Clean Energy and Lighthouse Wind in order to distract residents and stall our ability to present all the required project information for final judgment.”

Meanwhile, the Niagara USA Chamber has come out against the project. A statement Thursday from Kory Schuler, the business group’s director of government affairs, said the state law overriding local authority to regulate wind projects is unfair. “Limited input from local stakeholders is wrong,” Schuler wrote.