I had never heard of Peter Sinclair. Yet, here was this angry man, scowling at me, and accusing me of wanting to break into his vehicle, while it was parked at a township meeting.
There really is a first time for everything, I guess.
Last summer, I was scheduled to speak briefly at a wind meeting in Union township. The Coalition had been asked to follow the featured speaker, so that people could connect with our local efforts of our newly expanded county-wide coalition, Concerned Citizens of Branch County.
Before the presentation started that evening in June, I went out to respond to a journalist who wanted to videotape the presentation — a man by the name of Peter Sinclair. I had never heard of him before. But I introduced myself and told him that the presentation would be available online at a later date, per the request of the speaker, Kevon Martis.
He asked a little bit about our group, I explained we were not inherently anti-renewable energy, rather that we were anti-improper siting and were focused on incompatible land use. Then Mr. Sinclair stepped in closer, putting himself toe to toe with me.
He wanted to know, would his video equipment would be safe in his car?
I was confused. He wasn’t locking his car?
Was his equipment going to be safe in his car?
It was so ridiculous that I was chuckling — surely he was kidding? He had to come at it several times, before it clicked — this man was suggesting I would break into his car.
Would I ensure that his equipment would be safe in his car, during the meeting as he had to now leave it in his vehicle?
But then he got aggressive.
He leaned in toward me, spittle flying.
“In full disclosure — I watched your presentation. I know Sarah Mills. And you are misrepresenting her work.”
“You are misrepresenting Sarah Mills.”
I cringed — and backed away.
Who acts this way? What kind of man gets aggressive with a woman he doesn’t know? I saw a neighbor approaching the building and walked toward my neighbor, telling Mr. Sinclair, “I’m done. This is ridiculous. We’re done,” trying to shake him off and not let my voice quiver.
This was no impromptu interaction that I had walked into it — and I never saw him coming. Shame on me for that — but shame on him for his tactics.
He had wanted to rattle me. That was his intent. Because that’s what he was paid to do.
24 hours later
The next day, I got a phone call. You wouldn’t believed the coincidence… Sarah Mills, the University of Michigan researcher that Mr. Sinclair had mentioned, had just emailed our township — just that very morning. She was offering to come give a presentation to my community.
Imagine that — the day after her name had been thrown out by Mr. Congeniality, this U of M researcher was wanting to come talk in my township, almost two hours from her home base.
Could the timing of Mr. Sinclair’s antics, and Mills’ soliciting my elected officials, be just a coincidence?
A few months later
We were again in Union Township, but this time, for the October Board meeting. Mr. Sinclair, had invited himself back into our community, for another informational presentation. During his talk, Mr. Sinclair made false allegations and digs against me and our Coalition. Now, he didn’t name me personally — only showed a video snipet of me talking for our Coalition — but it was clearly me. He described me as an anti-wind activist, trained by the anti-wind industry. (Guess I’m “trained by” Bob Villa then too, because I’ve watched so many of his YouTube videos.)
During this Township Board meeting, Mr. Sinclair explained he was a videographer and “an environmental guy” — but when pressed, said he was an “independent communication consultant.” When pressed further, and asked if he, “did this for free?” Mr Sinclair responded, “No. I do consult with wind developers.”
If you read Mr. Sinclair’s bio, he sounds like an interesting guy. No mention of his smarmy tactics or “consulting” work. Named “Friend of the Planet” in 2017 even.
Sadly, unscrupulous paid consultants, like Mr. Sinclair, are just another example of the foul tricks we have come to expect from DTE.
It would be nice to think that DTE doesn’t approve of Mr. Sinclair’s tactics in the field. But then again, after almost 22 months of dealing with DTE’s tactics, we know better.
DTE knows exactly the lengths they are willing to go, in order to shoe-horn their 500-600 foot tall turbines, into rural Michigan.
DTE knows that the only communities that have built Industrial Turbines in our great state have either had elected officials, or appointed officials, who themselves have signed, or someone in their family have signed, a lease to receive monetary payments for participating in the wind project.
DTE knows that if they were upfront and honest about their intentions, they wouldn’t be able to shoe-horn in Industrial Turbines the way they want. So instead, they employ people like Mr. Congeniality, who give consultants everywhere a bad name.
Hiring a world renown videographer may play well at self-serving award ceremonies, or in board rooms and the white tower of academia, but here in rural, agricultural Michigan, DTE’s tactics end up sabotaging their own efforts.
People that started this process identifying themselves as for “green” energy, want nothing to do with the narratives pedaled by videographer consultants.
I’d like to give Peter Sinclair the benefit of the doubt — maybe he started out with good intentions. Maybe he still has them. But when you go around creeping out the locals, it doesn’t bode well with them either. And if it wasn’t Peter Sinclair, it would just be another paid puppet of the wind industry. But when someone is promoted as “the most important videographer on the planet” — and your community’s experience is so contrary to the hype, it makes your wonder, who the hell is pulling those strings.
This process — being David versus Goliath, putting your life on hold, wondering if you will stay in your home because of Goliath’s invasion of your community, trying to combat the seemingly endless resources of DTE, and their subcontractors, and their consultants, and deal with the bias of academics like Sarah Mills — is challenging and hard.
But at the end of the day, the real irony is that the very tactics that DTE employs create even more resistance to their wind projects — and create an even more polarized climate on renewables.
Fortunately for us, adversity only makes you stronger. Branch County has risen to the occasion and will continue to do so. We will keep fighting against incompatible land use and improper siting and we will never stop advocating for our neighbors.