Greetings, all! January is flying by and it’s been a while since we’ve given you an update on the Lighthouse Wind project. Our plan this year is to have more frequent meetings that our supporters can attend. We will send out notices when they are scheduled. Let’s take a look at what has been accomplished in 2016.
Elected Officials: Two newly elected Yates officials are sworn in: John Riggi, Councilman and James Simon, Supervisor of the Town of Yates. Dan Engert was re-elected as Town Supervisor in Somerset. These town officials are interested in the economic success of the towns while maintaining the towns’ rural character. They are well versed in issues such as the wind turbine project and will help the overwhelming number of Yates and Somerset residents who made opposition to the Lighthouse Wind project clear in 2015 surveys and in the election.
Public Comment on the Preliminary Scoping Statement (PSS): SOS established a website and offered an information session in late 2015 to provide some instructions for citizens who wanted to offer comments to the Lighthouse Wind PSS. Many town residents made substantive comments by the January 12, 2016, deadline date. SOS funded our attorney and several experts to address local concerns in comments to the PSS. The holiday filing time (late November 2015) is an example of how Apex "works" with a community.
Code of Conduct: In February SOS became aware of Apex’s correspondence with the Attorney General’s office arguing that the wind company code of conduct was not needed under Article 10. In March, after much public urging by SOS, Lighthouse Wind, LLC, signed New York’s updated code of conduct which had been revised by the Attorney General after corresponding with Apex.
Astroturfing and other Unethical Tactics: After hiring consulting firm Five Corner Strategies, Apex began a tactic called “astroturfing”. They packed town meetings with nonlocals and posted form letters on the DPS website to create a sense that many people were in favor of Lighthouse Wind when we know from survey results there is little local support outside of landowners who have signed leases. Based on concerns regarding astroturfing, on March 27, the Town of Somerset sent a letter to the New York State Attorney General’s Office requesting an investigation into Apex’s conduct. The Town also requested that the Code of Conduct be further revised to prohibit such deceptive practices. In April, SOS also sent a letter to the Attorney General, echoing the Town of Somerset’s requests and outlining inaccurate information about the project shared by a Five Corner Strategies consultant at a Buffalo meeting.
Bird Migration Danger: SOS has been working with local and national birding organizations to gather information and raise concerns about wildlife impacts of the Lighthouse Wind project. The American Bird Conservancy identified 10 of the worst-sited wind energy projects in the United States and Lighthouse Wind is on the list; the proposed location on the southern shore of Lake Ontario boasts one of the greatest bird migrations in North America. ABC mentioned that "vast numbers of songbirds and raptors concentrate within six miles of the shoreline during spring and fall of each year", "pockets of key habitat for sensitive grassland birds, which could be displaced by the wind turbines" and "federally protected Bald Eagles" also at risk. The Conservancy noted that "FWS [Fish and Wildlife Service] has expressed serious concern about this project, warning the developer that this is an area of extremely high avian use."
Raptor Migration Informational Event: Brett Ewald, a local biologist and birding guide, gave a Raptor Migration talk on March 31 at the Barker High School to assist SOS supporters in gathering bird migration data that might be used to argue against the Lighthouse Wind industrial wind turbine project. The Genesee Valley Audubon Society organized a citizens' science raptor count during April and May in the Lighthouse Wind project area and local residents were part of the effort.
Fundraising and Community Events: In January we sent out a request for financial support to assist with the legal and expert costs in the PSS comment period and the SOS community was generous. In June SOS held a successful fundraising event at the White Birch Restaurant in Lyndonville. SOS kept its presence in the public eye at both the Albion Strawberry Festival and the 4th of July festivities and parade in Lyndonville. In 2016 SOS local supporters funded the development of new signs and placement of several billboards to educate and show growing opposition to the project.
General Community Information Events: In July informational meetings were held for the communities of Somerset and Yates. Meetings were held July 13 and 18 with presentations and a showing of the film "Big Wind." A new volunteer meeting was held for supporters of SOS who want to participate by suggesting ideas, handing out signs and helping to staff events. Anyone who would like to volunteer and wants some background information can use the “Contact Us” link on our website and SOS support coordinators will be in touch!
August Rally by the Lakeshore: In August, SOS sponsored a rally at Golden Hill State Park – hundreds gathered to voice their opposition to Lighthouse Wind. The event attracted a huge and enthusiastic crowd demonstrating in their numbers (and staying through a heavy downpour) that Lighthouse Wind is not welcome in Yates and Somerset. The visuals included fly-over of a plane at 650’ and 220’ of barricade tape representing the length of one huge turbine blade. Local and regional press covered the event on television and in newspapers. Speakers at this event included SOS President Pam Atwater, SOS Vice President Kate Kremer, Senator Robert Ortt, Niagara County Legislator John Syracuse, Town of Yates Supervisor Jim Simon, Town of Somerset Supervisor Dan Engert, Niagara USA Chamber Director of Government Affairs Kory Schuler and Dennis Vacco, former NYS Attorney General and counsel for the Town of Somerset.
Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station Press Conference: In October SOS President Pam Atwater, Congressman Chris Collins and State Senator Robert Ortt announced a conflict of interest between Apex's lobbying firm, Cassidy and Associates, in their promotion of Lighthouse Wind and their assurance that the air base is not threatened by the potential presence of 600+ foot tall industrial wind turbines. Cassidy's other clients are bases in the North East area that would benefit by gaining missions if the Niagara Falls Air Base were to close. New Jersey, the location of Joint Airbase McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and Earle Naval Weapons Station, is a client of this lobbying firm. The firm is actively seeking to secure a mission currently at Niagara Falls.
Apex sues the Town of Somerset! In November Apex filed suit against the Town of Somerset when the town required a full-length environmental impact form from Apex Clean Energy for wind data collection MET towers. Regulating MET towers is one of the few wind development issues that the towns still control. Current court date is in February 2017. SOS has had people at every town board meeting to support towns’ efforts to protect citizens’ health, safety and welfare.
SOS in Associated Press Article: In November, George M. Walsh wrote an Associated Press article about the Save Ontario Shores battle with Apex. The article has been picked up by 77 news outlets around the country and gives a balanced assessment of the concerns we have regarding the environment and wind.
History of Saving Eagles in New York State Community Fall Presentation: SOS sponsored a talk by Mike Allen, a former wildlife technician with DEC's Region 8 office. He spoke to a capacity audience at Barker High School in November. He recounted the 40-year journey of the bald eagle’s comeback in New York State and the role of the Endangered Species Unit in that return. Mr. Allen, who had responsibility for monitoring eagles in Western New York, noted that when the program began in 1976, only one active bald eagle nest was known to exist in all of the Empire State. Over a thirteen-year period, 198 nesting bald eagles were imported from other US states, mainly Alaska. Now, there are more than 300 eagle nesting territories within the state's borders, and some of those eagles would be directly threatened by the Lighthouse Wind project.
Somerset Supervisor in City Journal Article: The fight against Apex continued to get coverage in major news outlets. In December a story in the City Journal highlighted Dan Engert’s fight for the health and well-being of his town and explains how the governor's current mandates for renewables puts undue burden on the rural parts of the state to create power to meet his goals. http://www.city-journal.org/html/where-bully-winds-blow-14879.html
Follow up on Base Issues:
A study came out in December showing the negative effects of wind turbines near a naval aviation base near Corpus Christi, Texas. "Congressman Blake Farenthold's office said the study showed that the wind turbines from the proposed Chapman Ranch wind farm can reduce detection of planes near wind turbines, cause false echoes of planes and false echoes in areas adjacent to wind farms." They considered the creation of a "30-mile wind turbine buffer zone around air installations."
Texas Senator Cornyn introduced Senate Bill 3428 “Protection of Military Airfields from Wind Turbine Encroachment Act” to ensure new wind turbines located near certain military installations are ineligible for the renewable electricity production tax credits and energy credits.
Representative Collins has introduced a similar bill in the US House of Representatives which has been backed by the Niagara and Orleans Legislatures. The bill would prevent industrial wind turbines from being subsidized with renewable energy tax credits if they are located within 40 miles of a U.S. military facility. Without tax credits, wind power projects rarely are profitable.
Stipulations: For most of 2016 the Lighthouse Wind has been in the Article 10 Stipulations process that permits Apex to meet with any party to the Lighthouse Wind application and work out the details of what studies Apex will complete and what data they will provide in the application. Early in 2016 the Article 10 Administrative Law Judges ruled that the process is confidential –a ruling that was opposed by both towns and SOS. We will let you know when the Final Stipulations have been made public and what the time period is for public comment.
Apex stated at a recent presentation to the Yates Carleton Lakeshore Sportsman Club that they planned to file the Application for the Lighthouse Wind project in the summer of 2017. SOS continues to educate the public and carry citizen concerns to the Department of Public Service and all our local, state and federal elected officials. We are beginning a fundraising campaign to help sustain our work through the application and decision making process. We look forward to seeing you or hearing from you in 2017.
Thank you for your ongoing and growing support!
Your friends at Save Ontario Shores
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SOS is 100% funded by generous local individuals. Please consider joining this work by giving what you can. SOS is a not for profit corporation and it is not a tax exempt organization, so donations are not deductible for tax purposes.
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The TAKE ACTION NOW page on our web site is a step by step guide to help you participate in our fight against the installation of industrial wind turbines in our community!
Save Ontario Shores, Inc.
PO Box 216
Lyndonville, NY 14098
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