Yates councilman says many negatives for community with wind turbine project

Posted 2 August 2018 at 9:14 am


This letter was read into the public record at the July 12 Yates Town Board Meeting in the presence of Mr. Paul Williamson, Project Manager APEX Clean Energy, regarding the proposed Lighthouse Industrial Wind Project.

“A note of thanks to Mr. Williamson and cadre for clearly describing your 8 tenet strategy for destroying the towns of Yates and Somerset.

You have indicated that:

1. There is no impact on NFARS

2. Turbines are good for the environment

3. Turbines are good for infrastructure

4. Turbines are good for the economy

5. Turbines are safe for birds

6. There is no need for Yates to have laws governing wind turbines

7. There is no need for a baseline health study

8. There is no need for a PILOT

Let’s take these one at a time:

1. There is no impact on NFARS:  Clearly, you have no understanding of the economic history of Western New York. Unlike Virginia, where you live, Western New York is an area with many challenges. High taxes, little economic and industrial development combined with a complete lack of interest by Albany make this a hard-scrabble place to live and thrive. Yet, we do. That’s because we are, as a people, extremely protective of those unique aspects of life in Western New York. Unique aspects such as the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS) base in Niagara Falls.  You say there will be no impact. Frankly Mr. Williamson, your very presence in this area is a threat to NFARS. This base employs 3,500 breadwinners with good paying jobs in an area where good paying jobs, actually any jobs, are difficult to come by. NFARS has been slated for closure twice by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRACC) and we have learned the hard way that any small reason to put a negative spin on a base may cause its closure. So, your impact on NFARS is a clear and present danger to all of Western New York. This is one of the reasons that Orleans, Niagara and Erie counties have opposed you.

2. Turbines are good for the environment: Really!?! How are turbines good for the environment? If allowed, you will blast massive holes into bedrock, potentially impacting aquifers. Pour tons of rebar concrete into each hole. You do this, even as residents are prohibited by law from pouring concrete in the water of Lake Ontario due to leaching. Your holes will also leach lime into Lake Ontario, negatively impacting pH of the water and as a result the lake ecosystem. You will also segment and destroy wildlife habitat. Good for the environment? I think not.

3. Turbines are good for the infrastructure: This Mr. Williamson is downright laughable. You are not coming here to improve the infrastructure. You are coming here to stick steel and concrete into the ground and then repair infrastructure. Turbines are not good for infrastructure.  Nothing can change that, regardless of how you twist the words.

4. Turbines are good for the economy: This is a flat out lie. People who can get out, will get out. Driving property values down. Business will not come where the people aren’t and your tiresome statements of 10-15 good paying permanent jobs rings untrue today as it has since you first stated it, oh so many years ago.

5. Turbines are safe for birds: I’m still laughing about this one. If one bird is killed by a turbine, then turbines are not safe for birds. Certainly, you can state statistics about cars and cats killing more birds than turbines. But the fact remains, birds will be killed, not only during migration season, but all year round. Whenever I was trying to get out of trouble as a youngster, my father used to say “figures lie and liars figure” as he was meting out punishment. Just admit that turbines are not safe for birds already! Stop lying.

6. There is no need for Yates to have laws governing wind turbines: This is basically what you are saying when you indicate that you will “request waivers” of Town laws. That’s a nice way to say, that you are going to ask the state to eviscerate your Town laws as “unreasonably burdensome.” And your reasoning is ludicrous! You state that we passed these laws to stop the project. Nothing could be further from the truth. We crafted the law using input from your industry. We studied and assessed the changes in technology as well as health, real estate, wildlife and environmental impacts via independent, peer-reviewed studies on the subject in order to determine how we wanted to write the law.

Frankly, if we wanted to stop the project in its tracks we could have just banned turbines altogether. So we clearly indicated, via our law, where you could place turbines. If you can’t place turbines in compliance to the Town of Yates wind law, you have chosen the wrong location for your project. But instead admitting your mistake like any normal business, you’ve decided that you know better than the vast majority of the people of Yates. So, you’re going to travel to Albany and ask the Governor to shove this project down our throats. How sweet!! You should educate yourself on recent precedents and decisions by the Siting Board reinforcing local laws as sacrosanct. The vast majority of our constituency is of the same mind regarding the sanctity of our town laws and that’s not going to change.

7. There is no need for a baseline health study: Your statements here are pure pablum. You clearly do not understand the difference between the terms “data” and “study.” We have plenty of medical data, but without an organized assessment of that medical data there are no conclusions to be drawn. Your statements clearly indicate that you do not understand simple and robust scientific methods. You should be willing to pay for the organized assessment of medical data in order to determine the baseline health of the community you are trying to destroy. I am amazed that, as a firm based in science, you do not understand scientific assessment methodologies. Another reason we don’t trust that you know what you’re doing.

8. There is no need for a PILOT: The long-held rule of thumb in the State of New York regarding these types of projects is; “No PILOT, no project.” Assessed values for this project may very well rest in the range of $220 million (Harrisburg, NY,  Watertown Daily Times, April 2015).  You have proven yourselves to date, a firm that likes to get off on the cheap (a few hundred dollars here and there to attempt to curry favor). There will be no “cheap” in this deal.  Forty-seven turbines will tip the scales at $200 million in assessed value. Apply local tax rates and the full taxation will be in the range of $9,400,000 annually. As compared to a PILOT payment of $1,500,000 annually, which nets the Town of Yates $40,000 per year!! A constituent stated last month that he hoped we would negotiate the best deal for the town. The best deal for the Town of Yates is “no negotiation.”

I understand that my comments this evening are fairly blunt and may have ruffled your feathers. Frankly, I don’t care. The Town of Yates has consistently fought alongside the Town of Somerset against this travesty. It’s time for you to begin to feel the rage that fully 65 percent of our constituency has felt since December of 2014.

You need to get out of Town.

By the way, why isn’t your CEO sitting here with you tonight?”

As a final note:

Mr. Williamson needs to do his homework and understand the war being waged against his company for the very soul of our town.

Governor Cuomo needs to understand this as well. Are you listening, Mr. Governor?

Thank You,

John Riggi

Councilman, Town of Yates

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