Article

Local lawmakers facing three major decisions

Clean energy, no greenhouse gases, less dependence on foreign oil, guaranteed revenue for Tyrone - what's the catch? Well, there are many definite and possible catches. Gamesa promises no negative impacts to Tyrone's drinking water, but I wonder if they can really build all of those giant wind turbines without erosion taking place. There is always the possibility of an accident as well. According to Stan Kotala, spokesperson for the Juniata Valley Audubon Society, the small environmental gain from building the windmills would be offset by a huge ecological cost. Sandy Ridge has been identified as an Important Bird Area and a greenway. The wind turbines threaten birds and building them causes forest fragmentation. Mayor Kilmartin points out in his analysis, "... the structures will take up the ridge tops that people so tremendously love about this community." And these are big structures, too. One can't really comprehend their 450-foot height until you get close.

If ever there was a need for an environmentally informed citizenry, it is now. Three local communities are faced with major environmental decisions - all different, but all having far-reaching ecological impacts. The choices made will affect the environment, hunting, fishing and the quality of life that we enjoy for many years to come.

For State College and Bellefonte, it is the pending Rockview Prison land transfer, to whom the land will go, and how it will be managed and protected. Rush Township citizens are battling over a proposed mega landfill. Tyrone, in northern Blair County, is considering an offer to install a 25-unit wind farm on the borough's watershed property.

I marvel at the differences in the handling of these three issues.

For a time, it appeared that the Rockview land transfer was decided behind closed doors. Representative Mike Hanna, who seems to represent Penn State, was quoted claiming that it was "a done deal." The Rush Township landfill is dependent on the success of a proposed Interstate 80 interchange, rather than environmental concerns. The proposed Tyrone wind farm is dependant on one thing - a vote of the Tyrone Borough Council, where the issue has been openly discussed... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

If ever there was a need for an environmentally informed citizenry, it is now. Three local communities are faced with major environmental decisions - all different, but all having far-reaching ecological impacts. The choices made will affect the environment, hunting, fishing and the quality of life that we enjoy for many years to come.

For State College and Bellefonte, it is the pending Rockview Prison land transfer, to whom the land will go, and how it will be managed and protected. Rush Township citizens are battling over a proposed mega landfill. Tyrone, in northern Blair County, is considering an offer to install a 25-unit wind farm on the borough's watershed property.

I marvel at the differences in the handling of these three issues.

For a time, it appeared that the Rockview land transfer was decided behind closed doors. Representative Mike Hanna, who seems to represent Penn State, was quoted claiming that it was "a done deal." The Rush Township landfill is dependent on the success of a proposed Interstate 80 interchange, rather than environmental concerns. The proposed Tyrone wind farm is dependant on one thing - a vote of the Tyrone Borough Council, where the issue has been openly discussed since its beginning stages.

Being an environmentalist or conservationist is not always easy. Sometimes the choices are clear-cut, but often they are not. Even when the environmental choices look as if they are black and white, other factors often enter the picture.

Land use

The Rockview land transfer has been discussed here before. If your goal is the same as mine - preservation of the land forever - the environmental choice is clear.

Penn State and Benner Township cannot offer or guarantee long-term protection. One only needs to consider the Circleville Farm property to see the future fate of the Rockview land if Penn State buys it. The land should go to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources or to a conservancy. Their ownership will preserve it forever. Preservation will provide the largest benefit to the most people over the long haul.

On Monday, the House State Government Committee will hold a hearing in Pleasant Gap to discuss the Rockview land transfer. Other local discussions have been occurring. Although you cannot testify at the hearing, there is still time to have your opinion heard.

Hopefully, the decision has not already been made, rendering the meetings and hearings window dressing.

Landfill

With the carrot of jobs and tax revenue, Rush Township has voted to site a large Resource Recovery landfill within the township. In order for the project to move forward, it must be approved by the county Planning Commission and a new Interstate 80 interchange must also be approved.

The proposed landfill may bring jobs and tax revenue, but it will also bring heavy truck traffic and noise to a rather quiet part of the state. The landfill will be a net loss to wildlife, and there is always a threat of possible groundwater contamination.

If you want jobs, money and out-of-state trash in central Pennsylvania, then you want the landfill. The environmental choice is clear - no landfill for Rush Township.

Wind farm

Gamesa Energy USA is proposing to erect between 10-25 electricity-generating windmills on the Tyrone Borough watershed property on Sandy Ridge. The contract would run for nearly 30 years. Tyrone is not a wealthy community, and the prospect of $60,000 to $90,000 per year in revenue looks quite appealing.

I like the process being used to make the Tyrone wind farm decision. The proposal, in various stages, has been discussed at prior borough meetings and has been openly covered by the media. Mayor James Kilmartin went public last week, laying out the entire proposal and asking for public input. Gamesa has requested that a decision be made at the Nov. 13 borough meeting.

Clean energy, no greenhouse gases, less dependence on foreign oil, guaranteed revenue for Tyrone - what's the catch?

Well, there are many definite and possible catches. Gamesa promises no negative impacts to Tyrone's drinking water, but I wonder if they can really build all of those giant wind turbines without erosion taking place. There is always the possibility of an accident as well.

According to Stan Kotala, spokesperson for the Juniata Valley Audubon Society, the small environmental gain from building the windmills would be offset by a huge ecological cost. Sandy Ridge has been identified as an Important Bird Area and a greenway. The wind turbines threaten birds and building them causes forest fragmentation.

Mayor Kilmartin points out in his analysis, "... the structures will take up the ridge tops that people so tremendously love about this community."

And these are big structures, too. One can't really comprehend their 450-foot height until you get close.

A recent item on Senator John Eichelberger's Web page is worth noting.

"I made a trip up to Blue Knob today (Oct. 12), in response to a constituent complaint to hear and see the new wind turbines located along the mountain top," Eichelberger wrote. "Although I have been given a lot of information about these things, I was startled at their size. It was a windy day and the blades were really moving. The complaint we received was about how disruptive the noise was. I agree after going to the site myself that the noise is disturbing and certainly carried to the home of the people who contacted me. I was also surprised at the ground area needed to facilitate the turbines, which includes a wide road cut into the woods. There needs to be more discussion on the placement of these structures and their effect not only on the environment but on the people who live close by. I'm sure the property values of this immediate area have been negatively [affected]. This hour-long excursion in the middle of my jammed up day was worth the time. Until you see this up close, you don't understand the impact these turbines are having."

I want to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, but do we really want to see rows of these things lining all of our beautiful ridge tops?

Informed citizen input is needed for all three of these important issues. The final decisions will have far-reaching effects on more than just the local residents. I only hope that what is best for the environment is part of the decision-making processes.

Mark Nale, who lives in the Bald Eagle Valley, is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoors Writers Association. He can be reached at MarkAngler@aol.com.


Source: http://www.centredaily.com/...

OCT 21 2007
https://www.windaction.org/posts/11547-local-lawmakers-facing-three-major-decisions
back to top