Critics leaflet wind forum

Before a forum sponsored by advocates of wind power even began Thursday at SUNY-Cobleskill it genera

Before a forum sponsored by advocates of wind power even began Thursday at SUNY-Cobleskill it generated friction when a sponsor asked campus police to stop several local critics of commercial wind projects from handing out literature.

“I asked them not to do that,” acknowledged Emmett Pepper, a spokesman for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, which sponsored the pro-wind power discussion.

The group is an 80,000-member nonprofit organization in New York and Connecticut, according to Pepper.

Schoharie Valley Watch co-directors Don Airey and Bob Nied said they and two other members were offering passersby a single page listing questions and answers relating to wind power topics when they said Pepper and Reunion Power representative Sandy Gordon sought to stop them.

The group members also were passing out the group’s business card bearing “No Industrial Wind Turbines” on its back, according to SVW member Kathleen Johnson.

State University Police Officer Angel Reyes responded, and “determined they were within their rights to do what they were doing,” and did not make them stop, according to SUNY-Cobleskill spokeswoman Holly Cargill-Cramer.

“It’s state property and they were not causing a scene,” she said.

Gordon, an Albany County legislator who works for Reunion Power exploring for potential windmill sites in Richmondville, Fulton and other towns in the region, said he also asked SVW to stop their activity outside the meeting room.

“They didn’t make arrangements for this forum,” Gordon said, even as SVW continued to offer their literature to people on a sidewalk.

Assemblyman Pete Lopez, who was invited by Citizens Campaign for the Environment to make brief introductory remarks relating to renewable energy efforts, supported SVW’s rights, after being told by Airey of the incident after it took place.

“I think it’s wholly inappropriate,” Lopez said of the effort to stop the SVW from handing out literature in a public place.

Johnson also said she felt threatened by Gordon and another burly man standing near him.

The man, who refused to identify himself, told a reporter he objected because he contended some information in the SVW literature was erroneous.

“It’s sleazy,” said the man, who would say only that he was a Schoharie County resident.

The stated goal of the forum was to answer questions and “dispel myths” about wind power projects.

In brief remarks opening the forum before about 80 people in Bouck Hall Theater, Lopez, R-Schoharie, said “We have to keep moving forward with alternative energy” in the state. Wind energy, as well as hydropower, solar and biodiesel could be parts of the solution, he said.

During the nearly two-hour discussion, Pepper and Valarie Strauss, of The Alliance for Clean Energy New York, contended that many concerns about negative impacts were unfounded.

Pepper argued for wind power as a way of reducing unhealthy air pollution from coal and other fossil fuel power plant. He said a study by the National Board of Realtors found no significant reduction in property values near existing wind farms.

Concerning risks to birds and bats being killed by wind turbines, Pepper said bird kills had been a problem at an Altamont Pass, Calif., wind farm, but such incidents could be lessened by better site location and advance environmental studies.

“The number one killer of birds is cats,” said Pepper, “so that might be a better area to spend your time.”

Several people attending the forum said a talk by state Agriculture and Markets representative Matthew Brower outlining local governments’ role in mitigating farm and land-use impacts by wind turbine construction was the most useful part of the presentation.

Access road construction for large construction cranes and 300 cubic yards of concrete to support a 400-foot turbine tower can change drainage patterns and damage farmland, he noted.

“It’s important to have close environmental supervision” during the construction process, Brower said.

He said the Department of Agriculture and Markets has prepared guidelines for wind projects on farms.

“We encourage local municipalities to incorporate those guidelines into local laws,” Brower said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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