By Ellen Cardone Banks, Sara Schultz and Kathryn Bartholomew
The Sierra Club, like most major environmental organizations, including the Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation and Environmental Defense Fund, supports wind power as one of the best ways to hold back the worst effects of climate change.
The Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter did not endorse Lighthouse Wind until the site plan and environmental protection measures were presented at an Oct. 2, 2018, public meeting in Lyndonville. All large wind projects in New York State must pass rigorous review by regulatory bodies, including the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Defense and Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among others, so proper siting is not optional, it’s essential to the process.
The Oct. 2 presentation included wildlife studies, placement maps of turbines (far from raptor nesting areas), information on sound from wind turbines, which is like the hum of an air conditioner at setback distances, and other engineering and scientific data, all consistent with previous data from wind projects. Audience questions were answered thoroughly. Later in October, the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter’s Executive Committee voted to unanimously endorse Lighthouse Wind.
Town of Somerset Supervisor Daniel M. Engert did not attend the presentation, and in fact used taxpayers’ money in a legal proceeding to try to prevent it from taking place. Engert asked Chapter Chair Kathryn Bartholomew to explain the Sierra Club’s reasons for its support. Conservation Chair Ellen Banks was delegated to answer, and sent a long, cordial letter to Engert thanking him for his interest, proposing a meeting, and including about 40 pages of scientific studies and commentaries on the wildlife and health issues of wind farms and the health risks of fossil fuels. (He described this dossier as a “note.”)
There are no scientific studies yet on effects of wind turbines in the Somerset-Yates area, because there are no wind turbines there to study. However, a report was included on a similarly situated wind farm on Lake Michigan, on a migratory bird route, where opponents predicted great harm to birds. An independent ornithologist found very minimal effects on birds two years after the project was operating – consistent with other wind energy studies.
Citizens are entitled to honesty from their elected officials, including describing communications accurately and making decisions based on the best evidence, rather than ignoring and obstructing facts. The charge that the Sierra Club endorsed Lighthouse Wind due to politics or domination by Apex is false.
Wind turbines are safe and effective, producing more than 30 percent of the power in four U.S. states and even more in several European countries. For a century, the Sierra Club has been committed to the well-being of our land, people and the species that depend on us for their survival. We proudly support wind energy.
Ellen Cardone Banks is Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter conservation chair; Sara Schultz is Sierra Club Niagara Group chair, and Kathryn Bartholomew is Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter chair.