Official Pledges ‘No Quarter’ In Fight Against Wind Turbines In New York

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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An upstate New York local official has promised “no quarter” in his town’s battle against a planned wind power farm that has Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s support.

Yates town councilman John Riggi opposes Apex Clean Energy’s plan to build a 200-megawatt wind turbine project over the objections of local officials and a majority of voters.

Riggi says he’s not opposed to green energy, but doesn’t want it nearby if his constituents don’t support it. He wrote an editorial in a local paper this week pledging to accept “no quarter” in the fight against the Lighthouse Wind farm.

“The main concern is the desires of the constituency who are massively opposed to this project,” Riggi told The Daily Caller New Foundation. “It is like 87 percent opposed.”

Cuomo plans to drastically increase New York’s wind power capacity as part of his effort to phase out fossil fuels. Cuomo wants New York to get 50 percent of its electricity from green energy source by 2030. Cuomo did not return requests for comment to TheDCNF.

Riggi worries Apex’s wind farm, called Lighthouse Wind, will disrupt the region’s rural vibe.

“Some of these turbines would be 750 feet high,” Riggi said. “They want to put 70 of them in a 24 square mile area.”

“It would completely change the community into something very different from how it feels,” Riggi said. “People live here because they like rural living. They don’t want their areas turned into industrialized zones.”

Lighthouse Wind could also run into opposition from environmentalists, who are increasingly turning against wind power at the local level. Environmentalists have become concerned with wind powers impact on birds and bats.

Wind farms kill an estimated 573,000 birds and 888,000 bats a year, according to a 2013 peer-reviewed study published in Wildlife Society Bulletin. Wind farms are projected to kill 1.4 million birds annually by 2030.

“This area sits astride the preeminent bird and avian flyway on the North American continent,” Riggi said. “We have birds coming in massive amounts. There’s an issue with that. It’s a danger to the birds and bats.”

Wind farms kill an estimated 573,000 birds each year, as well as 888,000 bats, according to a 2013 peer-reviewed study published in Wildlife Society Bulletin. Wind farms are projected to kill 1.4 million birds annually by 2030.

“Apex Clean Energy also works to ensure that our projects are responsibly sited for wildlife by conducting in-depth environmental impact studies for every project,” Cat Strumlauf, a spokesperson for Apex, told TheDCNF. “At every stage of development and operation, we coordinate with federal and state wildlife agencies to make sure that our projects are sited in areas where impacts to birds or bats are minimized and appropriately mitigated if necessary.”

The project could harm with the region’s economy, potentially creating problems for a nearby U.S. Air Force base.

“We also have an Air Force base 30 miles from the proposed project site,” Riggi said. “The base is concerned about the wind project because it would mess with the radar. We have an aerial refueling and drone mission there. It could impact how they’re performing as well.”

The wind farm could make a nearby military base, which is a critical part of the local economy, much less useful. The base pump $200 million a year into the region and employs over 2,600 people.

“Apex Clean Energy takes the safety and readiness of our military very seriously, and we work closely with the Department of Defense and its services to ensure our wind energy facilities do not adversely impact military missions,” Strumlauf said.

Riggi is also worried about the health concerns involving wind turbines. One of most common complaints about wind turbines by local residents is that they cause “flickering” when the sun is behind their blades. This is generally agreed to be incredibly annoying and there’s evidence that it can cause headaches, sleep disorders, anxiety and depression symptoms in people who live nearby.

Finally, Riggi is concerned Cuomo’s green goals give local government’s very little flexibility to determine how they go green.

“One of the thing the governor is very clear on is that he wants all towns to become more green,” Riggi told TheDCNF. “What I don’t understand is with all of this going on why would the governor not allow the towns to choose how they’ll support this initiative. There’s no flexibility.”

New York state currently gets less than 5 percent of its electricity from wind and solar, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). That’s a long way from Cuomo’s 50 percent by 2030 target.

“Do we want to reduce our carbon footprint?,” Riggi said. “Certainly. But we’re not being given the option of deciding how to do it ourselves. We’re full in on renewable energy, but the town wants to have a choice. We want to be the ones to make the decisions on how we’re going to contribute.”

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