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Another Voice: Sierra Club endorsement of Somerset wind project is suspect

By Daniel M. Engert

The ill-conceived Lighthouse Wind project was first proposed by Apex Clean Energy in 2014. The Sierra Club consistently stated that they would not endorse the Lighthouse project because they needed to wait until they saw the final siting and plan before they could endorse it.

I was perplexed when the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter recently announced that it had voted to “unanimously and formally endorse the proposed Lighthouse Wind project.” The Sierra Club went even further to state that the project is “environmentally sound.”

This seemed very suspicious to me because an application with a final siting plan has not even been filed and not a single state nor federal agency has approved any of the currently proposed environmental, economic or health impact studies submitted by Apex.

I was interested to know what environmental assessment reports the Sierra Club had reviewed, what studies they relied upon and what evidence had been looked at while reviewing the potential environmental impacts specifically associated with the Lighthouse Wind project.

Last month, I sent a letter to Kate Bartholomew, chair of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, asking for any reports, studies or materials that were provided by Apex specific to the Lighthouse Wind project and for any reports that were produced by the Sierra Club as a result of their review.

Bartholomew never responded to my letter. Instead, Ellen Banks of the Niagara Group of the Sierra Club sent me a note. The Sierra Club’s response did not include a shred of information or even one study that related to or even referenced the Lighthouse Wind project. The materials the Sierra Club reviewed to form its conclusion that the Lighthouse Wind project is “environmentally sound” dated back to 2005.

Clearly, if the Sierra Club did not review any detailed information specific to the Lighthouse Wind project and did not review studies and findings related to the project, then the Sierra Club has no basis to offer opinions about the environmental impacts.

This raises serious concerns about the validity of the Sierra Club and the sincerity of their positions. This was clearly a political endorsement. Did money change hands? How can any legitimate environmental, nonprofit organization endorse a wildly unpopular project as being “environmentally sound” when it has not even reviewed a single study or report related to the project? The simple answer is, it cannot.

No one in Somerset is fooled by the games being played by Apex or the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club used to be a responsible advocate for the environment, but has clearly showed itself to be a dealer in fake endorsements. In my opinion, this was an intentional and coordinated act by Apex and the Sierra Club intended to mislead and misinform the good people of Somerset and our region. Apex, you failed miserably.

Daniel M. Engert is the town supervisor in Somerset.

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