NIAGARA FALLS — Some elected officials and about 50 members of Save Ontario Shores gathered at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Monday to speak out about Apex Clean Energy's plan to build up to 70 wind turbines along the lake in Somerset and Yates.
According to Pam Atwater, Save Our Shores president, Cassidy and Associates, a Washington-based lobbying firm, has been working for Apex Clean Energy to promote the Lighthouse Wind industrial wind turbine project.
In addition, Atwater said the lobbying firm has been hired by the state of New Jersey to help protect several military installations in New Jersey that make up Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, as well as the Earle Naval Weapons Station, the 177th Fight Winger and a Coast Guard Training Center.
“The same firm that is promoting wind turbines here — turbines that could jeopardize the future of (the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station), has been hired by a neighboring state to land a re-fueling mission while keeping an eye on the chief competitors and threats to New Jersey’s military installations," Atwater said.
Rep. Chris Collins (R-Clarence) and State Sen. Robert Ortt also cited concerns that the turbines could damage the livelihood of the air base.
The press conference, though, comes on the heels of an announcement from the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station last week that the turbines will have no impact on operation as the base will be switching from low-level flying missions to higher-altitude flights by next year.
Despite the announcement, elected officials Monday pressed on.
"Why would we put these wind turbines in Lake Ontario, on our shoreline?" Collins asked, flanked by a group of yellow-clad SOS members. "We don't know what could happen with the base in the future — why take any chances?"
Ortt, who sat on the air base advisory board for several years as mayor of North Tonawanda, said that Niagara County can't afford to lose the base or any flying missions in the future.
Atwater also expressed her concerns about the turbine project's future impact on the air base.
"If these turbines are placed here, this base can pretty much rule out ever having low-flying aircraft, including drones," Atwater said. "Allowing these structures in the base area could cripple the base's ability to attract new missions."
However, a top officer of the local Air Force Reserve unit said two weeks ago that that the possible construction of wind turbines in Somerset and Yates will have no impact on operations at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
Col. Joseph D. Janik, operations group commander for the 914th Airlift Wing, said by next October, the unit will have new planes whose local flights will take place at far higher altitudes than those of the C-130 transport planes currently based at Niagara Falls.
Ortt added that he feels the turbine project is part of an agenda being pushed on the county by New York state government.
"New York state is demanding that we reduce our reliance on traditional energy sources by 2030 — that means we'll need thousands of windmills," Ortt said. "It's going to decimate rural New York."
"They're not putting them in Albany or in Long Island," Ortt added. "They're putting them in rural communities because they're a little poorer."
Noting that wind power is not competitive, Collins added that industrial wind projects like the one being proposed in Somerset and Yates are subsidized by federal taxpayers, resulting in more deficits and debt.
“They are not economically feasible,” he said.