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Yates, Somerset town supervisors say Lighthouse Wind meeting will stifle debate about controversial project

Posted 1 October 2018 at 12:14 pm

Joint Press Release from James Simon – Yates Town Supervisor, and Daniel Engert – Somerset Town Supervisor

LYNDONVILLE – Apex Clean Energy, a Virginia-based company and the developer of the proposed Lighthouse Wind Project, recently advertised it will host an event on October 2 to provide a preliminary project layout to the general public.

Apex has also indicated a “panel of experts” will provide information about four topic areas – wildlife, sound, infrastructure and the permitting process.

Apex issued a media advisory last week stating the “community forum” will be conducted by a moderator and will include a panel of Apex “experts” who will allow only written questions to be submitted. Only the Apex moderator will ask questions of Apex’s panelists. The last line of the media advisory warns: “Signs, banners or disruptive behavior will not be permitted. Security will be present.”

According to Daniel Engert, Somerset Town Supervisor: “Apex is calling this a ‘community forum,’ which is totally misleading. This is a 100 percent Apex-sponsored propaganda event designed to suppress any public opposition to their ill-conceived project. Apex is not going to let the community ask questions. Instead, Apex is going to have their hired guns just lecture our community. That is not a ‘community forum’ in any sense of the term. By not allowing signs or banners or even interactive spoken questions, Apex is stifling free speech, stifling debate, stifling dissent and it is a total sham.”

Jim Simon, Yates Town Supervisor, agrees with Mr. Engert’s comments and also adds: “Apex is going to have uniformed Orleans County Sheriff’s deputies and New York State Troopers present as security. We have outstanding law enforcement officers in our area who certainly have more important criminal justice activities to accomplish. There should be no need for security at a community forum to discuss a proposed project. The only reason for such a large security detail is to intimidate members of this community who have a different view than Apex.”

Mr. Simon is also asking, “Who is paying for this armed security detail? It ought not be the taxpayers of Orleans County.”

The two towns and other parties, including state regulatory agencies, have requested a facility layout multiple times for almost four years.

Mr. Engert and Mr. Simon stated, “We are extremely frustrated that Apex chose to not provide the towns a facility layout showing exactly where this project will be located even though they did so in their two other proposed projects in New York. This information should have been provided years ago and not under the cover of a tightly scripted lecture event with uniformed police officers standing guard. As frustrated as we are, our communities have given absolutely no reason for this heavy-handed treatment by Apex.”

The Towns of Somerset and Yates made a motion to the New York State Department of Public Service requesting that Apex be required to provide the location of the turbines to the Towns before their upcoming event. The motion, filed on September 28, 2018, also raises the concern that if Apex decides to provide comments and distribute information to the general public related to the stipulations process, Apex will violate the confidentiality requirements repeatedly requested by Apex and imposed by state regulations.

Mr. Engert and Mr. Simon state, “Apex’s recent actions demonstrate their lack of commitment to any meaningful public participation. Based on survey data, a majority of this community does not support Lighthouse Wind and does not want Apex in our towns. Almost all, if not all, of Apex’s supporters are leaseholders who want to profit off the project or people who live outside our community. As a result, we formally call upon the Public Service Commission to come to our towns and see firsthand the depth of division caused by Apex’s divisive, dismissive and unethical behavior, and we once again request Apex to abandon Lighthouse Wind in Somerset and Yates.”

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