In a recent editorial, the Times-Journal criticized the anti-wind power group Schoharie Valley Watch for the tone of its attacks on Reunion Power and Richmondville Town officials. The Times-Journal had harsh words for SVW, calling the group “venomous”, “bitter”, and accusing the group of engaging in “slash and burn style” politics.
I believe that wind power is a critical resource, and we must exploit it to our best advantage. But when it comes to SVW’s criticism of town officials, you have to admit, they have a point. Over the past year, the town of Richmondville has given its critics (some of whom may be inflexible NIMBYs) more than enough ammunition. The secrecy, the stonewalling, the conflicts of interest on the zoning rewrite board, the firing of Kathleen Johnson; much of SVW criticism has indeed been over the top, but Richmondville officials have done more than enough to warrant it. There may not be anything wrong with any of this, but it has created an appearance of impropriety that anti-wind activists have seized on. SVW are gadflies and the way you handle gadflies is by absorbing their energies, co-opting them and challenging them to buy in rather than storm out. The last thing you do is hand them ammunition on a silver platter.
The real tragedy is that Richmondville could have had a meaningful discussion about how to make a contribution to alternative energy. Maybe Reunion could have sold wind-generated electricity to Richmondville Power and Light (I still would like to see that happen). But town officials have bungled this opportunity and played right into the hands of SVW and the NIMBYs.
SVW will complain, they will attack town officials, and they will probably file suit against the town. In the end, they will probably succeed in stopping Reunion Power. Though I supported the idea of a wind farm from the beginning, I feel no sense of loss at this inevitable result. If Reunion Power doesn’t build here, they will likely build somewhere else. The urgent need for renewable energy sources is simply too great. There’s plenty of wind in this state. Let the NIMBYs have their mountain.