The supervisors of the towns of Somerset and Yates are blasting Apex's upcoming community forum as "propaganda," saying its restrictions on anti-wind project protests amount to stifling dissent.
The forum, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Lyndonville High School auditorium, will offer the public its first glimpse of Apex's proposed wind energy project, called Lighthouse Wind.
Apex said the forum will include the "turbine array" for the proposed project, but has declined to say whether certain project details, such as turbine height, will be disclosed.
Somerset Supervisor Dan Engert took issue with Apex's rule barring "signs, banners or disruptive behavior" at the forum, as well as its plans to have a moderator and panel of "credentialed experts" lead the program.
"This is a 100-percent, Apex-sponsored propaganda event designed to suppress any public opposition to their ill-conceived project," Engert said.
"By not allowing signs or banners or even interactive spoken questions, Apex is stifling free speech, stifling debate (and) stifling dissent. It is a total sham," he added.
In a media advisory issued last week, Apex wrote that "signs, banners or disruptive behavior are prohibited"and said the forum would be led by Project Manager Paul Williamson and experts on wildlife, sound, infrastructure and the state permitting process. Apex also wrote that security would be present, and that any questions not answered because of time constraints would be addressed later on lighthousewind.com.
Yates Supervisor James Simon said the only reason for a security detail is to "intimidate" community members who are opposed to the project. He also took issue with state troopers and Orleans County Sheriff's deputies providing the security, though Apex did not specify whether police or a private agency will provide security.
“Who is paying for this armed security detail?" Simon said. "It ought not be the taxpayers of Orleans County.”
In a joint statement, the two supervisors also blasted Apex for withholding the proposed project layout for years — and, ironically, for its release, claiming that the information divulged could potentially violate the confidentiality requirement related to the stipulations process. That process gives stakeholders an opportunity to agree to the evidence that's presented before the state Public Service Commission siting board.
“I have a major issue with the fact these guys are making up the rules as they go along," Engert said previously to a reporter.
Apex spokeswoman Cat Mosley said an administrative law judge found that providing basic information, such as the proposed layout, did not constitute a breach of the confidentiality of stipulations confidentiality.
"As with stipulations, tonight's event is voluntary and indicative of how Lighthouse Wind continues to go above and beyond Article 10 requirements," Mosley said.
Mosley added that Apex made the layout available at the "earliest opportunity."
"Because of the complex and iterative nature of a wind project and the large number of landowners involved in this project, many elements needed to align prior to developing a layout," she said. "The claims that developers are obstructing information demonstrate a misunderstanding of the complex nature of the industry and creating a project with so many intricacies."
The governments of Yates and Somerset have repeatedly clashed with Apex over the proposal, insisting that surveys show a majority of residents are opposed to development of an industrial-scale wind farm.
In January, the Somerset Town Board passed a series of zoning laws that ban industrial-scale wind turbines.
But approval of the Lighthouse Wind Project is not either town board's decision to make.
New York State Public Service Law gives a state-appointed siting board the authority to review and permit major (25 mW or more) electric generating facilities. That law states the siting board must consider all substantive local laws but could also waive any local laws that would prohibit the project.
Mosley said Apex is planning to file its application with the siting board sometime this winter.
The forum is scheduled from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. Apex said project information will be available in the school lobby prior to the start of the forum; doors to the school open at 6:30 p.m.