New York state senator Rob Ortt has been tracking multiple renewable energy projects proposed in his district for several years. He is aware of his constituents’ views, both for and against such projects, and has witnessed communities divided. Unlike those who have no qualms seeing the corporate industrialization of vast areas of rural New York with few questions asked, Senator Ortt has listened to specific concerns raised. He recognizes that these projects are not just about the money; he is knowledgeable about safety issues and environmental concerns and doesn’t automatically label any words of caution as “misinformation.”
People who do not live in rural areas can belittle the concerns of residents because they have zero burden from these sprawling industrial projects. The burden of the state’s plan to increase electrical generation by renewables is disproportionately heaped on rural communities in low-income counties. Massive political pressure from national environmental groups, like the Sierra Club, along with funding from the industrial renewables corporations has fueled a demand for large scale renewables placed far away from urban centers. Senator Ortt’s constituents applaud his attention to their concerns.
A recent letter to this paper, whose author does not live in Orleans County, made the assertion that there is broad support for the Orleans County Heritage Wind project in the town of Barre. Industrial wind and solar developers have been welcomed by the Barre town supervisor and officials. The required New York State Code of Conduct posting on the Heritage Wind website lists 13 conflicts of interest in Barre involving elected or appointed officials. Perhaps this is basis of support referred to by the author. The author failed to mention the existence of two citizen groups in Barre which oppose that project and several environmental groups that have serious concerns. Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge is surrounded by proposed sprawling industrial wind and solar projects. The wildlife in this regional gem, including bald eagles, will be impacted by the industrialization of local farmland and by the dangers of blades the size of football fields. Many residents are opposed to the wind turbines placed as close as 1,014 feet from their property. These turbines are almost twice the size of the Steel Winds turbines and are being placed much closer to residences.
Senator Ortt’s district has been repeatedly targeted by industrial renewables developers. The Lighthouse Wind project in Somerset and Yates has opposition that has grown to 80% of residents, yet after six years has not been withdrawn by the developer. An industrial solar and battery project in Hartland and Newfane that would occupy a large agricultural area has residents divided with many questions, including about industrial batteries near homes. By not acknowledging the serious burden on targeted communities and giving them options to find projects that make sense for their local economy and environment, there will continue to be strong resistance. There are now thousands of constituents in the 62nd Senate District living near proposed projects as the state has become more heavy handed in its approach.
PAM ATWATER, president, Save Ontario Shores, Inc., Barker
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