Sierra Club deals in fake news, fake endorsements    

Daniel Engert

The ill-conceived Lighthouse Wind project in Somerset was first proposed by Apex Clean Energy in 2014. The Sierra Club consistently stated that “they WILL NOT endorse the Lighthouse project because they need to wait until they see the final siting and plan before they can endorse this project.”

I was perplexed when the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter recently announced that it had voted to “unanimously and formally endorse the proposed Lighthouse Wind project.” The Sierra Club went even further to state that the project is “environmentally sound.”

This seemed incredibly suspicious to me because an application with a final siting plan has not even been filed in this matter and not a single state or federal agency has approved any of the currently proposed environmental, economic or health impact studies submitted by Apex. Not a single sign-off, even after many, many months of review after Apex proposed its studies.

In any event, I was very interested to know what environmental assessment reports the Sierra Club had reviewed, what studies it relied upon and what evidence had been looked at while reviewing the potential environmental impacts specifically associated with the Lighthouse Wind project.

In November, I sent a letter to Kate Bartholomew, chair of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, asking for any reports, studies or materials that were provided by Apex specific to the Lighthouse Wind project and for any conclusionary reports that were produced by the Sierra Club as a result of its review. I also sent a letter to Paul Williamson, project manager for Apex Clean Energy, asking him to provide any reports, studies or materials specific to the Lighthouse Wind project that were provided to the Sierra Club.

Mr. Williamson replied to my letter and confirmed that Apex had not provided the Sierra Club with any materials specific to the Lighthouse Wind project, except material generally available to the public, and he told me to ask the Sierra Club how it came to its conclusions.

Kate Bartholomew never responded to my letter. Instead, Ellen Banks of the Niagara Group of the Sierra Club sent me a note. The Sierra Club’s response did not include a shred of information or even one study that related to or even referenced the Lighthouse Wind project. Not a single one. The materials the Sierra Club reviewed to form its conclusion that the Lighthouse Wind project is “environmentally sound” dated back to 2005.

Clearly, if the Sierra Club did not review any detailed information specific to the Lighthouse Wind project and did not review studies and findings related to the Lighthouse Wind project, then the Sierra Club has no basis to offer opinions about the environmental impacts of the Lighthouse Wind project in Somerset.

This raises serious concerns about the validity of the Sierra Club and the sincerity of their positions. This was clearly a political endorsement. Did money change hands? How can any legitimate non-profit environmental organization endorse a wildly unpopular project as being “environmentally sound” when it has not even reviewed a single study or report related to the project? The simple answer is, it cannot. This was not an endorsement of a broad state or national policy. It was an endorsement of a single specific project as being “environmentally sound” without reviewing any environmental studies that pertain to the specific project.

No one in Somerset is fooled by the games being played by Apex or the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club used to be a responsible advocate for the environment, but has clearly showed itself to be a dealer in “fake science” and “fake endorsements.” In my opinion, this was an intentional and coordinated act by Apex and the Sierra Club intended to mislead and misinform the good people of Somerset and our region.

Apex, you failed miserably.

Daniel M. Engert is the town supervisor in Somerset.

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