Monday, October 25, 2010

Kessel:a controversial keynote speaker

New York Power Authority President Richard Kessel’s scheduled appearance this evening as keynote speaker at a dinner in Rochester has raised the hackles of people who oppose the project Kessel will here to promote - offshore wind turbines in Lake Ontario or Lake Erie.

The Center for Environmental Information, which invited Kessel to speak at its annual “Community Salute to the Environment” dinner, has received some complaints, executive director George Thomas said on Friday. That may be a first for the environmental group, which doesn’t make a habit of inviting lightning-rod speakers to its dinners. This time, though, it wasn’t a surprise, Thomas said: CEI officials knew full well Kessel was persona non grata to offshore wind opponents.

“That was a consideration when we decided we want to ask him to come, but this is such an important topic that we wanted to give him a chance to describe NYPA’s perspective on it,” Thomas said.

One of the folks who registered a stern complaint with Thomas, Greece shoreline resident Suzanne Albright, said she was displeased that CEI was giving Kessel a platform.

“I believe that Mr. Kessel will take advantage of any opportunity to portray himself in a positive light here in Monroe County,” she said. “Why would he not do that? He’s trying to sell us a bill of goods. Anybody who invites him to come and talk - especially an agency that’s there to protect the environment - he’s going to take advantage of that and hope that that portays him as someone who’s environmentally friendly.”

Indeed, Kessel surely will portray offshore wind as an environmentally friendly way to generate renewal, non-polluting energy. He likely will push the economic benefits of hosting what backers see as a major new industry.

Opponents, naturally, don’t agree with any of this, and can tick off any number of ways they believe offshore turbines can damage the environment and are a financial loser.

At least one opponent asked for equal time at tonight’s dinner, but Thomas said no. “They’re welcome to come and ask questions, but we weren’t going to set up a debate. We’re just asking him to make a presentation on his perspective on it.”

Albright said she asked other opponents if they wanted to join her on a picket line outside the George Eastman House, where the dinner’s being held. As of Friday, she’d had no takers.

No comments: