Articles filed under Impact on Landscape from Pennsylvania
An open house Wednesday by Spanish energy producer Gamesa USA is not exactly the kind of forum Tyrone's mayor had in mind when he asked the company to hold a public meeting on its proposed Ice Mountain wind farm. ... As it is set up now, with Gamesa representatives talking to people one-on-one, there's a missed opportunity for more people to hear how the company is addressing its critics.
Tyrone Mayor James Kilmartin has said that 70 percent of borough residents he has been in contact with oppose the wind farm project. This is a similar result to the Harrisburg Patriot News poll that revealed that 83 percent of Pennsylvanians oppose industrial wind farms on state forest lands. Juniata Valley Audubon Society (JVAS) President Stan Kotala, M.D. has been at the forefront of the opposition in Gamesa's proposed wind farm on Ice Mountain. He said that the JVAS is not opposed to wind energy, but asks that wind energy be developed in an ecologically sound manner, avoiding ecologically sensitive areas, such as Ice Mountain. "We ask that wind energy developers follow US Fish and Wildlife Service Guidelines calling for the avoidance of migratory pathways and unfragmented forests," said Kotala.
But the fact is that while wind power is being promoted as an essential part of any credible response to climate change, it is increasingly being challenged and questioned, as indeed is the case with other so-called "renewable" forms of energy, such as corn-based ethanol. ...a National Research Council study released this year entitled "Environmental Effects of Wind Energy Projects," concluded that based on the expected maximum number of windmills to be built, wind would offset total expected higher carbon emissions by no more that 2.25 percent. Is that a difference worth allowing the ridge tops of Pennsylvania to be dotted with giant industrial-sized windmills?
In 2005, Tyrone Borough Forester, Paul Noll, of Noll's Forestry Services, Inc. wrote the Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Plan based on the 3,800 acre borough watershed property. Recently, Noll issued a recommendation/ suggestion summary report on the property concerning the possible Gamesa Energy USA wind farm installation and the issues that need to be addressed at the watershed property as a whole. ...In Noll's recent report, he stated that he would be "in favor of having the wind towers erected on the watershed property because you will be disturbing only a small area of the property, but the money you receive from the towers can be used to improve other areas of the watershed property."
As Tyrone Borough and Spanish-based wind energy generator Gamesa work out the fine print on a lease agreement for watershed acreage, those outside the process question the merits of placing turbines on Ice Mountain. ...Resident Jeff Morrisey said he has done as much as he could to educate himself about the issue of wind turbines since he became aware of Gamesa's intentions. ‘‘The more I found out, the less I liked them,'' he said of the 380-foot-tall windmills. ‘‘I don't want them anywhere. I really don't see where they're making a difference.'' The difference Morrisey brings up is the debate over whether wind is a ‘‘green'' enough alternative to electricity generation methods, particularly coal-powered generation.
On June 29, 2006, I sent a two-page letter to Mr. Vought in regards to his and Gamesa's offer. This is a "quote" from that letter. "You stated (Tim Vought) that the first phase of wind-power development would consist of 30 wind-powered turbines, the first year (2007). Also, 30 more to follow in the second phase, which would be approximately two years, with other phases being considered." You stated this would be a definite because of the vast land holdings of Berwind Corporation (7,935 + acres) which were leased to Gamesa. Berwind-Gamesa lease of Nov. 22, 2005, in effect Gamesa leases the Windber Area Authority Watershed! Mr. Vought, John Kott was definitely 100 percent right in his statement! ...In closing, your letter to the editor, "Some simple facts" turns out to be another Gamesa "smoke-screen" containing nothing more than spin, half-truths, and in some cases such as the Windber Area Authorities cutting of timber - totally false and untrue statements!
Municipal officials riding a tour bus this week along Route 39 toward the town of Eagle first spotted several 300-feet-high wind turbines at a distance of about two miles away. A tour of the Bliss wind turbine park, sponsored by the Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board, was set up to provide town officials in Cattaraugus County a variety of aspects on wind turbines. Proposals for wind turbine farms have been reviewed locally in communities that include the towns of Allegany and Carrollton as well as across the state line in Potter County. ..."This is my view now," he said pointing to the large wind turbines looming high above the tree lines. "This looks like the ‘War of the Worlds' out here, I mean I previously had a pristine, gorgeous view. "I can see 13 of these (wind towers) out here, and they say ‘your property value is going to increase' but do you think that's going to increase my property value," he asked.
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.
Recent articles, stated the project will enhance the water quality at this site. Also, Gamesa states that protecting natural resources and wildlife is a "shared priority" with the community. If this is so, then why was there a rattlesnake study of the area done in November (when snakes are hibernating)? Why did Gamesa do a study on bird migration in July, when bird migration doesn't start until late August, September and October? How does bringing in large equipment to clear-cut the forest and building new roads improve water quality of streams that are already of the highest quality in the state?
Tyrone Mayor James Kilmartin is asking the community to provide its input on the potential wind farm. Gamesa will be hoping to receive the borough's decision at the next council meeting November 13. "I want the community's response," said Mayor Kilmartin. "These wind mills will be up there for almost 30 years. These are 300 foot structures, then another 150 feet with the blades, so it's a 450 foot structure that's going to be on top of our ridge tops." ...He continued, "Years ago somebody made the decision to bring in low income housing and we went overboard on that, so now we're reaping some of the negative fruits of that decision. We want to look at this wind mill decision very systematically."
I made a trip up to Blue Knob today, in response to a constituent complaint to hear and see the new wind turbines located along the mountain top. ...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.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will develop guidelines for wind turbine development in wetland and watershed areas following the quarterly board meeting in Harrisburg. The commissioners agreed during the Oct. 1 meeting not only to develop guidelines but also send a letter to Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty concerning the matter, said Len Lichvar, the District 4 commissioner. "We need to develop a full-blown policy, especially in exceptional value watersheds and wetland areas. We're charged by legislature to protect the resources of the state," he said. ..."We're more concerned with predictive studies, not necessarily post-construction studies. ..."
As supervisors develop an ordinance to regulate wind turbines, some people continue to express concern that a turbine facility proposed for the southern part of Wyoming County could hurt the watershed. "My concerns are when you cut off the top of the mountain, it creates runoff," Doug Ayers, a Noxen resident and conservationist, said.
Sensible Wind Solutions member Dr. Tom Dick - founder of the Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society - said state and federal legislators should have been regulating where the wind industry is allowed to place its turbines. That decision is left to individual municipalities, where leaders often have yet to encounter the wind industry. "To me, it is the same as strip mining," Dick said. "We were unregulated then, and now people are paying for it. Now, we are unregulated again."
A group fighting the Shaffer Mountain Wind Farm in Somerset and Bedford counties rallied Monday in the state Capitol for more-aggressive regulation of wind-energy companies. Laura Jackson, chairwoman of Save Our Allegheny Ridges, joined concerned citizens from nine counties, including Somerset, in Harrisburg to urge legislators to pass siting regulations for turbines. No state or federal guidelines are in place regarding where turbines can be located.
... wind power has recently come under attack by groups that say it will ruin undeveloped areas and threaten wildlife. ...The opposition from citizens groups follows a statement last week by the Pennsylvania Biological Survey, which said wind turbines must be "properly sited" or they could destroy birds and bats. The nonprofit survey group didn't see wind energy development as suitable on many state-owned lands "where natural resource conservation is a major goal," especially land owned by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
... because wind energy development has associated environmental costs, wind energy development should only be instituted on state lands if the environmental benefits can be demonstrated to exceed the environmental costs. ... The environmental benefits of wind energy development, in the mid-Atlantic area in general and on Pennsylvania state lands in particular, are small relative to the negative consequences, which include habitat fragmentation and mortality to birds and bats.
The National Academy of Sciences concluded that long-term research is needed on the ecological impacts of wind turbines prior to their establishment on mid-Atlantic ridges. The academy recommended a minimum of three years for impact studies and that the results be made available for public and scientific scrutiny. Full results of industry-funded research at the Shaffer Mountain site are kept under lock and key and are therefore of dubious scientific value. ... The most reasonable compromise for the state Department of Environmental Protection and the state game commission is to place a moratorium on wind-turbine development in biologically important sites until the environmental impacts are fully understood.
A Press Conference has been scheduled for 12 noon on Monday September 17, 2007 in the rotunda of the Capitol in Harrisburg to protest the statewide push by the Rendell Administration to turn hundreds of miles of Pennsylvania's forested ridge tops into industrial wind facilities. Groups from across the state will be addressing the various concerns that wind power facilities pose to Pennsylvania's wild areas, wildlife, tourism, historical resources, and viewscapes.
Opposition to the Shaffer Mountain project turns on the old Realtor's mantra of "location, location, location." The wind turbines would be built near the Bedford County line and in the watershed of Piney Run and Clear Shade Creek, two of the state's 28 exceptional value streams -- a designation reserved for creeks with the highest water quality and biological diversity. ... The project [..] also raises hard questions for environmentalists and regulators about the expected expansion of wind-power projects and the need to balance their benefits against potential environmental harm.