By Roger Barth
The combination of a federal push for big industrial wind projects, the New York State mandates for 50 percent renewables by 2030 and tax incentives, tax subsidies and other financial carrots have created a strong corporate drive for industrial wind projects all over rural New York.
Corporate sales people are trying to entice landowners in small towns to sign 50-year leases with few protections. Towns have very little funding to fight projects and the Article 10 funding to assist towns and local citizens groups has proven inadequate. If a town is in favor of a project then all is well. But if a town is not in favor, the deck is stacked.
In the case of the Lighthouse Wind project, most Yates and Somerset residents are clearly opposed. Time and again hundreds of people have attended information sessions, town board meetings and rallies.
Because the lake shore concentrates raptors and songbirds during spring and fall migrations, the American Bird Conservancy has listed Lighthouse Wind among the nation’s 10 worst-sited wind projects. For the same reason, DEC has required extraordinary wildlife study measures to demonstrate the site is acceptable.
But for two and a half years, Apex Clean Energy has pushed forward. It is as if they need to prove something and cannot let go.
Industrial wind is not an environmentally friendly source of power when it is placed in migratory bird, raptor and bat pathways. It is not friendly to neighbors when placed too close to residences. It is not economically beneficial if it is located in areas that rely on lake and rural tourism such as Lake Ontario shoreline communities and the Seaway Trail, or that have military air bases nearby. It does little to reduce emissions when zero-emission hydropower from Niagara Falls is displaced to give priority to wind power.
There is no question but that Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, is fighting for his constituents on this issue. He has attended our rallies and listened to the town officials.
He is working to eliminate the tax credits that lure these projects into rural areas. And he is further protecting the military operating areas around bases such as the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station from obstructions that may disqualify local bases for future missions.
People who are demanding renewable energy – this is not the way to garner support. How about offering towns some renewable options that enable them to benefit financially while honoring the character, environment and existing economy?
These projects are not the equivalent of a manufacturing plant or a few buildings. They tower more than 600 feet and are spread across 12 miles or more in areas where the tallest building is a 70-foot farm silo or a church steeple.
We are grateful that Congressman Collins is working on behalf of his rural constituents on a federal level to give voice to our concerns.
Roger Barth is executive vice president of Save Ontario Shores.