In places like Cape Vincent, wind energy is not just an issue on voters' minds. It's the issue on voters' minds, from the election of the Town Board to the town justice.
And while it’s just one of many matters to consider in the race for Congress, voters who care about wind power will have plenty of differences to weigh between the Republican and Democratic candidates.
For the June 26 GOP primary? Not so much. Neither Matthew A. Doheny, Watertown, nor Kellie A. Greene, Sackets Harbor, support a federal subsidy for wind energy projects that many believe keep the industry afloat. The credit expired in March, but Republicans and Democrats alike have vowed to renew it.
“These subsidies from the federal government, they just don’t work,” said Mr. Doheny, an investment portfolio manager. “Something that would not be economical gets into production.”
Ms. Greene agrees.
“If private industry wants to support it, private industry could do what it wants,” Ms. Greene said, adding: “I’m not a supporter of wind farms.”
But both candidates, eager to tout their limit-government bona fides, wouldn’t go the extra step to say that they’d take on an affirmative, explicit role in the House of Representatives to discourage wind power projects.
“I’ve been very clear that this is really about: Should our scarce tax dollars be used to subsidize industries that wouldn’t exist without them? I come down on the side of no,” Mr. Doheny said. “Solyndra, the sugar industry, the ethanol industry, I think people are sick and tired of that.”
Tax subsidies for oil companies, too, should be done away with.
Said Ms. Greene: “We need to get rid of subsidies, grants, this pork barrel lining peoples’ pockets. That’s not the role of government.”
By the time the dust has settled on the June 26 GOP primary, distinctions between the remaining candidates will emerge when the race focuses on the Nov. 6 general election.
Rep. William L. Owens, the Democrat of Plattsburgh whom the GOP victor will face, said he would vote to approve a package of energy tax credits that include wind energy.
“My inclination would be to vote in favor of an entire package that gives you an all of the above approach to renewable energy,” he said.
He said that an extension of the tax credits is likely to be approved. It stalled in the Senate in March, but U.S. Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, pledged to find a way to get it extended.
“I think it’s quite likely, because there are many many businesspeople, and virtually every energy company, who are supportive of this,” Mr. Owens said.
The town election in Cape Vincent in 2011 proved that the voters were skeptical of wind power projects there.
But Mr. Owens said that other areas of the 12-county district — Lewis County, Ellenburg, Beekmantown, and other locales in the western half of the district — were supportive of wind power.
The federal and state governments have taken steps recently that would help speed and centralize the process of approving wind power projects, which have been effectively stalled in some areas by local opposition.
That’s dismaying, Mr. Owens said. The state and federal governments should take local opposition into account in the permitting process, he said — it should take local support into account, too.
“If a community accepts it, I think it’s good for that community,” Mr. Owens said.