Bill to ban wind turbines on freshwater lakes in NY
WTNY - Iím on the phone with Senator George Borello. He was elected New York State Senator for the 57th district in November 2019. Iíd like to thank you for doing this.
Senator Borello - Great to be here. Thank you.
WTNY- Can you tell me a little bit about what bill S.C6314 is?
Senator Borello - Yes, this is a bill that was introduced last year and we reintroduced it and enhanced it this year. It is to ban the use of industrial wind turbines in freshwater lakes in New York State. This is I think an important bill and primarily because there is just no evidence of the safety of this because there arenít any large-scale industrial wind farms, factories whatever you want to call them in any freshwater lakes, anywhere in the world.
So, the fact that we would risk the largest source of drinking water in the world, the largest source of fresh water in the world with these industrial wind turbines is I think foolish and dangerous. In the case of New York State, it threatens the drinking water for 11 million people and thatís why Iíve introduced this bill; is to ban those industrial wind turbines.
WTNY- You voted against something called the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act. Can you tell my viewers why you voted against that and what it is?
Senator Borello - Sure, you know again, in New York State were good at nice names for things but the reality is what it is, is advancing a very regressive tax on energy products including gasoline, home heating oil. I represent a very rural part of New York State where we have a lot of poor people, working poor that have to use their vehicles to drive to work. Essentially this bill would put New York at the top of the list when it comes to taxes on gasoline. An additional 55 cents a gallon approximately would be added to every single gallon of gas sold in New York State should this bill pass.
It also would raise the cost of natural gas, which is the primary heat source in my district by about 26 percent, and in addition to that, it would raise the cost essentially of home heating oil which is very much the only option for a lot of folks in the very rural parts of my district. So this is what I would call very ďpolitical causesĒ that really have nothing to do quite frankly with making improvements to the environment, at the same time it will create a huge economic hardship for millions of New Yorkers.
WTNY- Many environmental advocates claim this method of power generation is far better than the existing 20 coal and natural gas plants that exist in Ohio at this point. What would you say to them?
Senator Borello - Well first of all letís break it down a little bit. When you start talking about wind turbines in freshwater lakes like theyíre proposing with the ďIcebreakerĒ project in Ohio, you have to realize even if you like wind and solar, putting wind turbines in the water raises the cost of generating electricity more than double that of a land-based industrial turbine. So thereís just no justification for it. We donít lack the land for wind turbines on land, it is truly a boondoggle to enhance, you know, corrupt politicians and the companies that profit from these things, so thatís number one. Number two is, we have converted in New York State at least most of our electricity to natural gas which is much cleaner burning. Yet at the same time, we are importing more electricity than we ever have. Western New York where Iím from, used to be energy independent. We used to create and generate our own power. Now about 25 percent of that electricity is coming from other states and other countries including Canada. For example, one of the main suppliers of power to Western New York now is a plant in Homer City, Pennsylvania which is a dirty, old-fashioned coal plant.
So, in my opinion, this is all about a political shell game, to say that we donít generate power in New York unless it's clean and green but we're importing power from the dirtiest coal plants in the nation, which is increasing the carbon footprint. Until we have a serious discussion about how we can truly and responsibly transfer from old-fashioned fossil fuels to renewables that actually includes responsible ways of transitioning them, like using natural gas as a fuel. Understanding that options of nuclear, which we have not built a new nuclear plant in the United States in more than a quarter of a century, we have to be responsible about this.
Instead, we're basically saying weíre going to transfer the 30 power generators to other areas to make ourselves look good. Again, this is all about political agendas and profit. It's not truly about what we're going to do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
WTNY- In August 2014, Toledoís water system was shut down by an outbreak of blue-green algae. Youíve made claims that windmills/turbines will exacerbate the blue-green algae situation. Can you tell me, what information that claim is based on and how you see this working going forward?
Senator Borello - Sure, and I can say that in some of the ocean-based industrial wind turbines, weíre seeing plumes that can be seen from space. These plumes of sediment, obviously in something as vast as an ocean are insignificant, but in a small body of water, a shallow body of water like Lake Erie, you know, the shallowest Great Lake I might add, those plumes will become significant in spreading all the things that create harmful algae blooms, including nutrient load and sediment. So, to know that youíre going to transfer the patterns that have been proven on a larger scale, in the ocean, to essentially a much smaller body of water, then thatís only going to exacerbate (HAB).
We have harmful algae bloom problems. Iíve spent a decade as the chairman of the Lake Erie Management Commission in my hometown of Chautauqua in New York State and we watched as Toledo suffered from those HABs. I know that there are those folks who say, ďwell HABs are being caused by global warmingĒ, but is there evidence to support that? There is substantial evidence that to disturb the bottom of the lake, anything that changes the patterns of wind will have an impact, a real impact on the spread of harmful algae blooms. So, we met, and it's very obvious that we're trying to do something thatís never been done before, not knowing what the results will be. Erring on the side of caution, in my own opinion, when it comes to something as important as drinking water is advisable. Because as you pointed out with the harmful algae blooms in Toledo in 2014, the system was shut down for four days, and you boiling the water, that does not fix the problem that exacerbates it and releases the toxins in the drinking water. So to know that something like that could be exacerbated, could affect millions of people, why would we take that risk? We have plenty of land in other areas that we donít have to risk our drinking water.
WTNY- Iíve noted that Canada has a moratorium on wind turbines around Lake Erie. Is this something that the IJC should be getting involved with? Have you talked to the Canadian side about this?
Senator Borello - I attended the last meeting of the International Joint Commission and I asked them if they would take a position on this. They said thatís not their role, they said that if one of the members of governments did request an opinion, that they would research it, but I believe the International Joint Commission should be involved in this. I think that you can't expect that something that happens for example, in New York State - literally less than a mile away from international waters, and Canada's water - would not have an impact, obviously, it would. Just like the fish don't know where the border is, neither would any of the other negative things that could happen along our shared border, our shared water. So I believe IJC absolutely should be involved.
We've also noted that since 2011 there has been a ban on industrial wind turbines placed in freshwater bodies in Canada and maybe Ontario Iím not 100 percent, sure but those are the kind of decisions that should be made involving those who share the waters, who are impacted.
WTNY - Dave Simons who is co-chair of the energy committee at the Ohio chapter, Sierra Club believes that state legislatures have been captured by Oil and Gas. Garry George, the renewable energy director for Audubon California says that specific turbines would greatly reduce bird collisions and that we can have wind and birds, last word to you Senator Borello on this?
Senator Borello - Well last word Iíll give you is Sierra Club is a complete sell-out. They have gone against their basic principles of trying to protect our environment, ecology, and our wildlife. They have been bought out, this has been evidenced by the amount of money they received from the renewable energy giants, the green energy complex. They have sold out the mission of their founder and Iím extremely disappointed in them and they lack any credibility in my opinion, in any of this.
WTNY - You brought up the rural-city divide, can you talk a little bit about what youíre doing about that, what it is? This is an issue in Canada as well, thatís why Iím bringing it up.
Senator Borello - To speak in general terms, hereís my issue and Iíll relate it to what weíre discussing now. In upstate New York, well rural Western New York, we are already 88 percent green. 88 percent of the energy we produce comes largely from hydropower which I know is also big in Ontario, and yet it is our cities, particularly New York City, that are still 70 percent reliant on fossil fuels. So they want to come up to our beautiful areas, tear down our forests that are already naturally sequestering carbon, and do so many things that would negatively impact our quality of life and our human health, all because of their insatiable need for power.
If they want it, they should have it right in their backyard. By the way, from a scientific standpoint, and an engineering standpoint thatís the best place to do it. You donít want to send electricity 100 miles from areas where infrastructure is already aging and failing where it doesnít need to be generated, where it doesnít need to be consumed. So this is only going to further exacerbate that rural and urban divide, the fact that they want to industrialize a beautiful area to support their insatiable need for energy, is just unconscionable.
WTNYĖ Senator Borello Iíd like to thank you for doing this. Have a good day.