Allegations of ‘SIP conspiracy’ outlandish

By Observer editorial November 29, 2010 02:48 pm
An advertisement placed in Friday’s Observer by the Friends of the Grande Ronde Valley alleges that a conspiracy was at work in Horizon Wind’s efforts to negotiate a Strategic Investment Program with Union County. They contend, too, that The Observer was “in cahoots’’ with Horizon and the county.

The advertisement is intended to turn people against the SIP by planting seeds in people’s minds of a “conspiracy’’ and insinuations that a crime was committed. The allegation is ludicrous — nothing more than a conspiracy theorist’s imagination gone wild.
The allegation is the latest conspiracy incarnation by Dennis Wilkinson, president of Friends of the Grande Ronde Valley, the anti-wind farm group. Wilkinson sees conspiracies in almost every local issue he disagrees with. You’re either with him, or you’re wrong. And he’ll stop at no means to prove it — even if he has to concoct a scenario and allege a crime like he did in this case. Remarkably, he’s got others in his group believing it.

The “SIP Conspiracy,’’ according to the advertisement, has Horizon scheming with others, namely the county and The Observer, to build support for the proposed Antelope Ridge Wind Farm. In reality, what Horizon was doing was choreographing a campaign to win support for the wind farm — a strategy used by many entities to tout a product, especially one that has generated controversy.

What Wilkinson uncovered through public records requests to the county was Horizon’s timeline in negotiating the SIP and meeting with various entities to try to win backing for the SIP and, ostensibly, the wind farm. An appointment for an editorial board meeting with The Observer was included on the list. What Wilkinson didn’t mention, and probably doesn’t even know, was that The Observer and Horizon had been trying to schedule an editorial board meeting since early October. The first one was tentatively scheduled for Oct. 13, then changed to Oct. 19 but canceled by Horizon because the SIP negotiations were still under way. Horizon and the edit board finally met Oct. 26. That Horizon wanted an SIP agreement in hand before meeting with the editorial board is understandable. And frankly, the editorial board wanted to make sure that a SIP favorable to our region had been negotiated. Horizon can’t be faulted for trying to win support for its project. That only makes sense. Where it went wrong was in waiting until October to reopen negotiations with the county on the SIP.

What Wilkinson and his group apparently don’t understand is that it is not unusual for persons or entities to present their case to an editorial board. We schedule editorial board meetings with all kinds of “newsmakers,’’ whether that be candidates looking for endorsements, school committees looking for endorsements of bond measures, a university president explaining growing enrollment and recruitment efforts, or a wind farm company hoping to build support for its project. The fact that Horizon was scheduled for an editorial board meeting is hardly the stuff conspiracies are made of. We’ve got a meeting scheduled in early December with the Oregon Board of Higher Education. What might we be cooking up?

The Observer took a position that was contrary to Wilkinson’s. Rather than accept the fact that others, including The Observer’s editorial board, have a right to a different opinion, Wilkinson cries  “Conspiracy!’’ and suggests that a crime has been committed.

Over the course of the past year or so Wilkinson and his group have brought up some important issues concerning Horizon’s proposal for Antelope Ridge — issues that will be addressed through the state Energy Facility Siting Council  decision. But this latest one is ridiculous. Wilkinson has  undermined his own credibility.