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Yates official disappointed with opposition to wind turbines by congressman, Ortt, Legislature

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 December 2015 at 12:00 am

‘They never came to us and asked our feelings’

Photo by Tom Rivers – State Sen. Robert Ortt attends a meeting at the Barker Fire Hall on Dec. 7 attended by about 200 people. Ortt told that group he would work to defeat a proposed wind turbine project in the towns of Yates and Somerset.

YATES – A Yates town official says he is “really disappointed” with recent public declarations from elected officials against the Lighthouse Wind project.

Wes Bradley, a Yates town councilman, said county legislators, a state senator and congressman did not reach out to Yates officials about the project before making their public comments, denouncing the project. Apex Clean Energy wants to build up to 71 large-scale wind turbines in the two towns.

Bradley said this morning during a Yates year-end meeting that he is most disappointed with the Orleans County Legislature, which voted on Dec. 16 to oppose the project.

Legislators on Aug. 27 said they would hold off on a public stance on the project until after a town-wide wind survey. The wind survey results were presented this morning, with 66 percent of the respondents saying they oppose the project.

“They couldn’t wait 12 days,” Bradley said about legislators and their vote. “They never came to us and asked our feelings.”

County legislators said on Dec. 16 they wanted to get on the record with the Public Service Commission. The deadline for comments was Jan. 6, but was extended on Dec. 16 until Jan. 12.

Legislators said they have heard “the voice of the people” and want to state the county’s opposition to the project to the PSC. Legislators opposed the project that they said would “place commercial wind turbines within this quaint, beautiful Town of Yates,” according to the county resolution.

The Legislature also opposed the state’s Article 10 law, which gives the state the power to site the turbines, not the local government leaders.

Bradley said the Legislature’s talk about “home rule” through Article 10 is “lip service.”

Brad Bentley, a Yates town councilman, also said he was disappointed to see the Legislature come out against the project while it’s in the preliminary scoping stage. All of the studies haven’t been done and Apex Clean Energy hasn’t disclosed the locations and size of the turbines.

“I take issue with the county,” Bentley said. “It seems they want home rule but that’s quite a lot of hypocrisy.”

State Sen. Robert Ortt and Congressman Chris Collins also came out publicly against the proposed Lighthouse Wind project, where the turbines could peak at about 600 feet high.

Ortt was the first to say he opposes the project and will work to defeat it.

“My focus will be to kill the project,” Ortt told about 200 people at a meeting on Dec. 7.

That meeting was organized by Save Ontario Shores, a citizen group opposed to the project by Apex Clean Energy.

“Sen. Ortt has never spoken to us,” Bradley said. “He never asked us our opinion.”

The next day after Ortt’s comments, U.S. Rep. Chris Collins sent a letter to the Department of Defense and Federal Aviation Administration officials expressing concern over the wind turbine project along the Lake Ontario shoreline.

Collins said the project could jeopardize 3,000 jobs at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station military operating area.

“Protecting the military missions and jobs supported by the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS) is my main priority,” Collins said in a news release on Dec. 9. “The proposed wind turbine project along the Lake Ontario shoreline has the potential to jeopardize the base’s operations and viability. Any project that puts the base’s future at risk is unacceptable. NFARS has survived a number of closure attempts, and I will continue to do everything in my power to guarantee its doors remain open.”

Bradley said Yates officials were never contacted by Collins and his staff about the issue.

“He never spoke to us and got our input,” Bradley said. “They all made these statements without ever talking to us.”

Taylor Quarles, the development manager for Lighthouse Wind, issued a statement today after the wind survey results were announced. Quarles said the full application hasn’t been submitted. He thanked the Yates Town Board for refraining from judging the project in its early stages.

“The Yates Town Board has taken a very responsible approach in waiting to take a position until all of the relevant information has been collected and submitted as part of the application process, and we encourage others to follow its lead,” Quarles said.