Citizen Power Alliance
Citizens’ plea: End the wind PTC
Beavers are contributing to climate change
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Ohio Joins Effort to Slam the Door on Big Wind
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Greens Blast Ohio’s “State” of Renewable Energy
Friends: (12-12-14) Good news and crazy news. The crazy news is that Cleveland Democrat Mike Foley and Lorain Democrat Dan Ramos introduced HB 684 yesterday to resurrect the renewable energy and efficiency mandates as well as revert wind turbine setbacks to the old measurement from a home instead of property line. The good news is that today is probably the final day of the legislative session; Foley’s term ends on December 31st and he is not eligible to run again. Ramos, a self-described environmentalist dedicated to establishing a “green infrastructure in Ohio, will return next year for another term. Co-sponsors of the bill are Rep. Bob Hagan of Youngstown; Rep. Debbie Phillips of Albany (Meigs, Athens, Vinton and Washington); Rep. Nickie Antonio of Lakewood; Rep. John Patterson of Ashtabula and Geauga Counties and Rep. Denise Driehaus of Cincinnati. Mercifully, none of the co-sponsors serve on committees dealing with power generation. They likely have little knowledge of the subject. The general feeling is that this bill will not move but we thought you should be aware of the ongoing efforts of the wind lobby to trample your property rights and wreck the Ohio economy.
In the “what’s up with that?” category, Everpower representative and leaseholder, Michael Pullins was out spreading manure on his fields last week. It was aromatic to say the least but at least the ground wasn’t frozen. This week Pullins is spreading more hogwash. This time, in ‘Burma Shave’ style, he has erected a series of signs along State Route 36 east of Urbana that say: When the winds of change blow * Some people build walls. * Others put up windmills. * Chinese Proverb
Congratulations to Jim Cole for the best comeback to Pullins:
For reliable energy * Build one new Coal Plant * Every Week. * Chinese Reality.
In an effort to build more national support for wind and thus more geographically diverse political support for the wind industry in Congress and across the states, the US Department of Energy has released new maps to show the potential for wind energy in areas previously thought to have limited wind resources. Much more of Ohio would now theoretically be considered viable for wind generation. A link to the maps is here. The new maps anticipate that turbines will be 140 meters which is about 460 feet tall with even longer blades. It is rather oxymoronic to think that left wing enviro’s in the legislature want shorter setbacks while turbine heights and blade lengths are getting longer. Proof that many people don’t know what they are talking about and the wind lobby is doing nothing to educate them.
Several years ago, Dr. Alec Salt who has done research on the health effects of wind, including infra-sound manifested by longer blades and taller turbines, wrote a very good column raising concern about the wind industry’s denials of noise impacts. We thought this was a good time to revisit Dr. Salt’s warning about the legitimacy of studies that dilute the effects of wind turbines on people who live nearby by using large geographic areas in their sample. As Dr. Salt says, “size matters”. We encourage you to read Salt’s column.
(12-11-14) We have a “potpourri” of news to report. The Ohio Renewable Energy & Efficiency Study Committee met this past Monday to hear additional testimony from PUCO Chairman Tom Johnson. The Committee had asked Johnson to return and provide more information on the costs of the mandates to residential, commercial and industrial ratepayers. Chairman Johnson’s testimony is attached. A couple of things stood out to us. First, with respect to job creation, Johnson testified that: “Several members of the committee wanted to know how many jobs have been created through the renewable and energy efficiency requirements. I do not have an answer to this question. As a regulatory agency, tracking and verifying jobs, whether they be green jobs or otherwise, is not considered by any PUCO processes. Nor does the PUCO have any reliable method by which it would do so.” That is quite a statement given the wind industry’s claims that wind turbines meet the “public interest” in part because of job creation. The wind industry uses the flawed JEDI model (Job and Economic Development Impact (JEDI) Wind Model) to project job creation. Further, OPSB’s acceptance of the JEDI jobs model was and is an issue in UNU’s ongoing case against Everpower. Please refer to the link here for further detail on the use of questionable job information by the OPSB despite Chairman Johnson’s testimony.
The second surprising statement in Chairman Johnson’s testimony was that the PUCO (and presumably the OPSB) tries to be as transparent as possible in its work. When an entity claims information is confidential due to trade secrets or other legal protections, the PUCO requests the entity to assert and make clear their legal grounds for protection of the information. “In some instances, a utility is required to file a request for a protective order from the PUCO. Information is only kept confidential if there are legal grounds for keeping the information private,” testified Chairman Johnson. UNU, and likely other communities, have encountered numerous instances where they were denied access to information by wind developers. To our knowledge, protective orders were not routinely required.
We are still waiting to hear about the US Senate action on the tax extender package. AWEA is still begging citizens to call Congress about the Production Tax Credit. On Monday, AWEA wrote to the pro-wind community that, “As you know, a few weeks ago, when Congress began negotiating the terms of a bill that could make a huge difference in bringing affordable wind power to American families in 2015, we launched a nationwide campaign to support it. However, we weren’t the only ones reaching out to Congress. Anti-wind organizations have been fired up beyond any opposition we’ve seen before. They’ve been spending millions of dollars and writing messages to legislators urging them to leave wind policy out of this bill.” Well! We guess we got their attention! We have heard that in Washington, policy makers consider that for every 1 letter or call they receive, there are 99 others who feel the same way but did not take action. Ohio and other states that participated in speaking out against the PTC represented more than 8,000 citizens. If the political calculation is accurate, that is like 800,000 Americans saying enough is enough. That is a big number! We will surely be called upon in 2015 to speak out again. By the way, we haven’t seen any of those “millions of dollars” floating around as AWEA claims.
Speaking of millions, British wind developer, Ecotricity, is owned by millionaire Dale Vince. In a story link, the ethics of Vince are questioned as he steps forward to fund anti-fracking protests. Hmmm……we wonder if that novel practice has crossed the Atlantic yet?
And further on millionaires, our old friend, Guy Hands, the CEO of Terra Firma Capital Partners which owns Everpower Wind, is in trouble again. Terra Firma bought a large nursing home chain in 2012. The Economist magazine speculates that this was a bad investment for Terra Firma. “An analysis of how Terra Firma’s ward got into trouble will undoubtedly focus on the debt that its owner piled onto it. But inducing the firms in which they invest to borrow sums they will struggle to repay is not the only way in which private-equity firms can be careless with other people’s money.” “Such misaligned interests are relatively rare in private equity: a firm that riles investors will struggle to raise money for future funds. But Terra Firma had little hope of raising more money anyway, since the same fund had also been involved in one of the biggest private-equity fiascos of all time, the disastrous purchase of music label EMI in 2007, which cost investors £1.75 billion. Since then, few apart from Terra Firma’s boss, Guy Hands, have been very upbeat about the firm’s future.” The year to date return on Terra Firma is -8.8%. (Guy Hands’ “View” posted this week on the Terra Firma website).
The picture for Everpower is bleak. With the future of federal tax subsidies in question, the freeze on renewable mandates in Ohio, scrutiny by lenders and apprehension about how much debt is piled on Terra Firma companies, it may be very difficult for Everpower to finance its pipeline of projects. If so, Terra Firma may try to exit the business before Everpower loses value. There will be consolidation in the wind business. The Ohio projects acquired by Apex last summer are proof. We will be keeping a close eye on this.
(12-4-14) We cannot thank you enough for supporting our efforts to end the taxpayer subsidy for wind. The House passed a retroactive one year extension of the credit which will expire on December 31, 2014. This means to be eligible for the tax credit, a project would need to commence construction in the next 27 days. It remains to be seen what will happen in the Senate but the package is likely to be enacted. The PTC will come back for discussion again next year and we will rally once again to defeat it forever. We have provided an article about the events of the day in Washington.
Ohio is so very important in this deliberation on Capitol Hill and in the House of Representatives. Westerville, Ohio Congressman Pat Tiberi holds an important post on the House Ways and Means Committee. When Speaker of the House John Boehner served in the Ohio legislature, a young Pat Tiberi was his legislative aide. Another Westerville native, Brad Bailey, served as a Congressional aide to Rep. Tiberi and now serves Speaker Boehner as a policy advisor. We were gratified to learn through Brad that they are aware of our efforts. During the negotiations on the tax extender package, Tom Stacy and Lisa Linowes suggested that the current lenient IRS interpretation of the “commence construction” be countered with the inclusion of a provision that would require projects to be “placed in service” by January 1, 2016. After the vote yesterday, Brad wrote to Tom Stacy from the Speaker’s Office that:
“I’m sure you’ve seen reports to reach a broader agreement on extenders that came to a halt last week after the President threatened a veto. Such an agreement would have included major policy changes to many of the extenders, likely including the wind PTC. The bill on the floor today is a straight extension of current law for one year, what typically happens when a larger agreement falls apart. No major policy changes were included.
Your concerns with the commenced construction definition, including the IRS’s generous interpretation, are shared by a number of our Members. The one year bill on the floor today moves the expiration date to the end of this month, meaning the debate is sure to occur again next year. I’d encourage you to continue advocating for the limitation, but if I know you and Julie, I’m sure you’ll be pushing for eliminating wind altogether!”
(11-27-14) Yesterday was WILD in Washington and Monday will be really crazy. A plan was in the making yesterday to extend this taxpayer funded subsidy until 2017!!! Conservatives were furious with their Republican brethren who were willing to support the plan as a tradeoff for other business tax breaks. Obama was against the business tax breaks and threatened to veto the bill. Then negotiations collapsed. Speculation is that the best the wind industry can hope for is a retroactive extension through December 31st of 2014. When the new Congress takes office there may be less support for the wind industry.
We plan to send our letter on Monday when the chaos and bargaining resumes. Every state will join in but we need Ohio to be LOUD and CLEAR! If you have not sent us your names and address to add to the signers list, will you take the time to do it now? If you have already replied, we give great thanks for your support.
You can make a difference.
The draft letter is included below in case you need to see it again as a reminder. Slight modifications have been made as we put the final touches on it. Remember, we will cut off signature collection and send the letter on Monday.
(11-23-14) The wind industry is pushing back hard against any regulations that might subject them to scrutiny in the killing of wildlife. HB 490 that passed the House of Representatives is now in Senator Cliff Hite’s Agriculture Committee in the Senate. Iberdrola testified in the House hearings and made numerous claims to assert the “benefits” of wind should outweigh wildlife impacts. Interestingly, the Iberdrola witness said “ODNR‘s proposed amendment narrows the law’s applicability to only wind farms. If the intent of the amendment is to provide benefits to Ohio’s wild animals, then such a narrowing of the law’s applicability will only serve to drastically narrow suitable protections. ” The rebuttal comes from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources: . “[Wind] is where we’re noticing the takes,” ODNR spokesman Bethany McCorkle said. “We have proven numbers.”
(Note: Senator Dave Burke Senate District 26 Crawford, Marion, Morrow, Sandusky, Seneca, Union, Wyandot serves on the Ag Committee as does Sen. Gayle Manning Senate District 13 Huron, Lorain. All readers are encouraged to contact Sens. Hite, Burke and Manning in support of HB490.)
The ODNR spokesperson goes on to assert regulation of wind is reasonable: ” She said other energy industries face such permitting regulations, such as when stream pollution leads to a fish kill. The department would develop rules as to how the permitting fees would be applied, with the goal of encouraging wind farms to take steps to mitigate their impact on wildlife, such as changing the speed of turbines during bird migrating season, she said.”
There are proposals to build wind turbines in the migratory flyways of Lake Erie. There are proposals to add additional species to Ohio’s endangered and threatened species lists. We note that bats, including the soon to be listed Northern Long Eared bat are mammals. The wind industry acts like the use of the term “wild animal” means raccoons or flying coyotes in addition to sparrow and crows. Once again, AWEA is trying to deflect attention from the real issue of threats to raptors, bats and migrating species. We recall that Everpower asserted there were no endangered species bats in their Champaign County project area while Invenergy had simultaneously documented three maternal roost colonies. When Everpower bought Invenergy’s assets and incorporated the Invenergy project into the Buckeye Wind project, they required Invenergy to destroy all records concerning the bats. This made it difficult, if not impossible, for citizens to engage on this issue.
Under the federal Endangered Species Act, wind companies must take the maximum feasible steps to protect listed species. Everpower was required to submit a plan to “take” endangered Indiana bats but their proposal was less than the maximum and it was approved by the US Department of the Interior. Everpower also proposed differing cut-in speeds for different turbines within the same project area. Union Neighbors United, in cooperation with the Conservation Law Center at Indiana University, filed suit against the US DOI in August of 2013 in the US District Court of the District of Columbia. That suit is still pending. But while it has been pending, more and more evidence is surfacing that wildlife kills are much greater than the wind industry has revealed. We reprinted the article presented last week about the efforts of one wind company to sue the US Dept. of the Interior to keep information away from the public.
And now what is the final irony? Ten pro-environment US Senators wrote to the US EPA on Friday urging them to ban pesticides containing neonicotinoids, pest controls that have been linked to massive bee deaths. They rightly argue that bees are essential to crop production and the economy. Boston University has researched the significant contributions of bats to avoided use of pesticides. They conclude that the combination of wind turbines and white nose syndrome will result in increased pesticide use at a cost to farmers of $74 per crop acre. That is $12 million annually in Champaign County alone. If we protect the bats – all bats – from wind turbines, we will decrease the need for chemical pest controls that may be killing bees. If neonicotinoids are banned and wind turbines have killed our bats, our farmers will suffer significant economic injury. In light of all of the above, the wind industry’s protests ring hollow….again.
(11-21-14) We had a remarkable response to our letter that was sent to the Governor about the Ohio Power Siting Board. Now we come to you one more time to ask for your sign-on to a letter to the Ohio Congressional delegation asking for an end to the Production Tax Credit, the federal taxpayer subsidy for wind. The PTC has expired and the wind industry is trying hard to get a retroactive extension in the lame duck Congress. Public input could sway those who are on the fence. We are working with a national coalition of citizen volunteers like you. The nation needs Ohio to weigh in on this. The fact that the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, is an Ohioan makes this all the more important.
We know that the Thanksgiving holidays are upon you. We would like to send the letter either next Friday or the following Monday. Time is of the essence. Please reply today with the names and addresses of yourself, your family members and friends. If you wish to gather names by posting a request on your website, that is fine. You do not have to be eligible to or registered to vote. You must have an Ohio address. The letter below is a draft which may be modified slightly. We are still refining it but the substance will not change.
Thank you. We wish you all the blessings of Thanksgiving. We are so thankful for you and all of your support this past year. You are making a difference.
Re: Ohioan’s Plea to NOT REINSTATE the Wind Energy Production Tax Credit (PTC)
Dear Representatives name1, name2, name3 and Senator name 4 and Senator name 5:
We, the undersigned Ohioans, join thousands of U.S. taxpayers and ratepayers nationwide in urging you and your colleagues to eliminate the (PTC). The industry has been on notice for years that the 22-year old PTC would expire and it has. We flatly reject policy actions by Congress, especially during this lame duck session, to reinstate and extend the credit.
You should know by now that development of wind power in the United States does not reduce our need to maintain and build reliable generation, nor does it add materially to employment in our country. The small amount of energy it generates is intermittent, and hugely landscape-intensive. And, of course, this degree of landscape disruption is highly destructive to every community it touches in America including our families and our wildlife.
Renewable energy tax policy also has fostered a generation of developers who are rewarded for siting turbines on every free acre that has transmission access, no matter who is in the way. The negative effects of erecting turbines too close to where people live are real. Unsurprisingly, more than twelve active lawsuits are pending against wind projects in as many states. More are sure to follow.
The issues surrounding wind power expansion also impact energy prices and disrupt otherwise functional markets. The PTC provides project owners with a significant out-of-market revenue source, which invokes predatory pricing practices that unfairly harm the economics of reliable generators. There is no justification for a government program that manipulates otherwise healthy, competitive businesses.
After 22-years of tax credits, the business of big wind is not about energy production. It’s about tax avoidance. Indeed, an entire financial-market “ecosystem” has evolved around these subsidies. Warren Buffet recently reminded us that wind investment makes no sense without handouts from taxpayers. Wind energy will never be competitive with the price of the fuel it saves and would not sell but for the PTC.
The attachment to our letter takes a closer look at the reasons why the PTC needs to end. After more than two decades, the wind industry is well situated to stand on its own without the PTC. Your constituents know it and you should, too.
This is why we respectfully request that Congress resist any temptation to reinstate the expired PTC or associated investment tax credit (ITC).
List of Signers
ATTACHMENT: THE FACTS ABOUT INDUSTRIAL-SCALE WIND
- Wind is a mature industry – it’s time for it to stand on its own. The Joint Committee on Taxation reports that between 1992 and 2015, the cumulative cost of the PTC, without the prior 2012 extension, would be approximately $17 billion with the bulk of this claimed by wind resources constructed since 2006. These costs are in addition to the anticipated $22.6 billion in direct cash outlays under the Section 1603 grant program now expired. Yet, after decades of government support of multiple kinds, the wind industry remains economically unviable.
- The wind-sector slow-down is not tied to the end of the PTC. The wind industry insists it’s at risk of a slow-down without the PTC and jobs will be lost. But this view ignores crucial factors driving development in the United States. Demand for wind has eroded, in part, due to states meeting their renewable mandates and flat growth in electricity demand. Lower natural gas prices have further reduced wind’s attractiveness as a ‘fuel saver’. Faced with these market conditions, wind developers are tabling projects. The Energy Information Administration forecasts an initial spike in new wind development in 2015 as the market responds to the 2012 extension of the wind PTC. Flat growth in the wind sector is expected after that.
- Government efforts to offset the cost distort the markets. Wholesale power contract prices for onshore wind are roughly two- to three- times the price of more reliable generation, making wind one of the most expensive power sources in the U.S. even after the PTC is factored in. The PTC offsets the high price of wind energy, giving the false impression that wind is competitive with other resources, but at 2.3¢/kWh, the subsidy’s pre-tax value (3.5¢/kWh) equals, or exceeds the wholesale price of power in much of the country. The size of the subsidy relative to wholesale prices is distorting competitive wholesale energy markets and harming the financial integrity of other, more reliable generation.
- The industry’s job-creation claim is based on one-sided, simplistic modeling. The wind industry insists the PTC enables American jobs but ignores potential jobs that would be created given alternative spending of federal funds. Further, industry job forecasts fail to report on the more important net job creation.
- Low capacity factors and high project costs. Proponents insist wind energy is a few short years away from thriving without government assistance, but the trends do not support the claim. For the wind industry to grow without subsidies, average capacity factors would need to increase dramatically and/or project construction costs must drop dramatically. But that’s not happening according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Wind Technologies Market Report 2013. Average capacity factors for projects built after 2005 have been stagnant despite advances in turbine technology. The interior region of the country covering Texas and the plains states continues to show the best capacity factors (36-38%) and lowest project costs ($/kw) but it’s also the most remote which means miles of expensive new transmission needed to transport the energy.
- Relaxed eligibility equals PTC phase-out. When the wind PTC was last extended, a critical change was introduced that relaxed the eligibility requirements for the credit. Renewable energy projects now need only show they began construction by January 1, 2014 to qualify for the credit, instead of projects being ‘placed-in-service’ by that date. Since the law did not define the term ‘begin construction’, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was at liberty to determine the intent of Congress without any Federal Register notice that would have afforded the public an opportunity to be heard. The rules for PTC eligibility are so relaxed that projects can qualify long after the PTC is expired. This, in essence, allows for the phase-out asked for by the industry. No additional extensions are needed.
 In addition to federal tax credits, government efforts to support the wind industry have included (1) a mandatory federal requirement (under PURPA) that utilities purchase wind energy from qualifying independent producers, (2) feed-in tariffs or their equivalent in a number of state (these impose a tax in the form of higher electricity rates to subsidize wind development), (3) “renewable portfolio standards” requiring that utilities obtain some minimum percentage of their electricity from wind and other “renewable” sources and (4) various other tax breaks such as sales and property tax exemptions. (4) Federal loan guarantees, (5) A special 2X double declining balance accelerated depreciation schedule, over fueling the industry at deployment but leaving it more vulnerable to insolvency in later years.
(11-18-14) Yesterday the Ohio House of Representatives passed Amended Sub HB 490. This is a large bill that addresses many environmental concerns such as toxic algae. But on page 151 and 152 of the bill was a small provision to enable the Ohio Dept of Natural Resources to regulate wildlife kills at industrial wind facilities. Many species are protected at the federal level but there are many other species that are not. The language in the bill gave ODNR the power to establish State “take permits” for allowable levels of wildlife kill. This would be important for eagles around Lake Erie and Indian Lake and other bats and raptors in our communities. During consideration in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, AWEA lobbyist Dayna Baird and two other wind companies testified against the provisions and requested their removal. A number of you helped to turn that around by writing to Chairman Hall in support of the language. Thank you!
On a related and timely note, we see that one wind developer based in Oregon (and owned by Warren Buffet) has tried to block release of bird and eagle death information from the US Fish and Wildlife Services. The Associated Press was trying to obtain permitted kill data collected under federal “take permit” programs. The AP wanted to know more about the efforts of wind companies to collect the carcasses of the dead animals. USFWS was agreeable to sharing information and so the wind developer has sued them.
We look forward to following this case and to the eventual dismantling of the argument by wind developers that more “birds” (raptors) are killed by cars and buildings than wind turbines. Again, the timing of this effort by the AP and the wind industry’s efforts to prevent data collection, management and permitting of wildlife kills in Ohio is curious and, we suspect, not a coincidence.
The Ohio Power Siting Board has published its Agenda for the November 24th meeting and, again, Buckeye Wind, Greenwich, Hardin and Blackfork are not scheduled. One application for certificate extension is on the Agenda for Paulding Wind III. This project has no intervenor so the lawyers couldn’t blame the victim for the delay. Instead they blame shale and other market forces. We have attached their motion.
Two articles about Congressional action on the Production Tax Credit are included. We still do not have a good sense of what will happen. The frustrating thing is the Toledo Blade Editorial that is so off base and “fact free”. Readers might want to click on the link and read Tom Stacy’s great reply comments.
Also linked is an article from Bloomberg.
(11-16-14) Well, here’s another request for your help–and it needs to happen soon–as always with the wind wars.
Please–send an e-mail to Rep. Hall in support of his legislation to have ODNR require permits to kill fauna, including eagles, unprotected bats or other species that are not protected at the federal level.
Three of the wind folks–including Dayna Baird of AWEA–are asking the committee members to remove the language.
Time is of the essence and the wind supporters are working to kill this part of the bill. The vote will be taken probably next Tuesday or Wednesday.
Please–will you do this?
Note info and attached bill below.
Also linked below are the members of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.–or by clicking on the link below you can access the members and the schedule for HB 490. You may find other members you wish to cc on your e-mail to Rep. Dave Hall.
As always, thank you, All.
FYI- starting on page 151, of the attached legislation, (House Bill 490 – sponsored by Representative Dave Hall (R- Millersburg)), this legislation would require operators of wind turbines to get a permit (cost to be determined) from ODNR, for the incidental taking (killing) of wild animals.
It appears that the supporters of Wind – are asking for the language to be removed from the bill. Three of them testified this afternoon in opposition to
It would be great if there were folks who could send letters to the Sponsor of the Legislation – Rep. Dave Hall expressing their support for the reasonableness and appropriateness of this legislative proposal!
Also – linked is the web address for the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee where this legislation is currently pending. In terms of timing, it is anticipated that HB 490 will move quickly through the House ( maybe pass by next Tuesday or Wednesday).
(11-13-14) We gathered 850 names! Awesome! You all did great and thank you so much.
The letter went to Kasich a few days ago. And there was a general response to it–nothing specific–an acknowledgement. I sure hope his staff sticks the letter under his nose.
And now we are hearing lots about the PTC. Of course, Senator Reid wants it to go through–but many do not. So that likely will be our next project–and that will be soon.
So stay tuned. I am fairly certain that our grassroots machine will gear up again in the near future.
(11-5-14) Across Ohio, all of us have a long list of grievances concerning the process and rules of the Ohio Power Siting Board concerning industrial wind facility siting. We promised to bring these issues and concerns to the attention of Governor Kasich but we were encouraged to wait until after the election. And so it is today that we are launching an important signature gathering initiative. We would like to have a minimum of 500 signers of the letter to Governor Kasich proposed below. Please take a moment to add the names of every member of your household to our message. We are calling for the Governor to halt any further processing of any wind matter until the proper rules are in place. These rules must faithfully implement the legislative intent of the General Assembly. The current rules are so deficient in that regard as to effectively create an unregulated environment where property owners and families across Ohio are unprotected.
We need our collective voice to be loud and clear. The existing process is unfair to citizens, violates our constitutional protections and undermines the work of the Ohio General Assembly.
Governor John Kasich
State of Ohio
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-6117
Dear Governor Kasich:
The undersigned residents of Ohio communities affected or threatened with industrial wind development wish to bring to your attention the untenable situation we face due to the failure of the Ohio Power Siting Board (“OPSB”) to protect the public interest. We assert that the OPSB has not adopted rules that adequately and faithfully implement the requirements of siting statutes. Moreover, it has acted in ways that contribute to public confusion resulting in the loss of due process. The actions and omissions of the OPSB have abridged our fundamental constitutional right to be protected and secure in the possession of our property. We call for legal reforms to curb the errors and failures in the Board’s administration of the wind power siting program over the past six years.
For example, the OPSB was supposed to complete a mandatory five-year review of its rules through a proceeding it initiated in July 2012; to this end it issued orders adopting new rules in Case No. 12-1981-GE-BRO. Throughout that rulemaking proceeding, OPSB invited the input of utilities, wind developers, parties who recently filed applications, and their attorneys. However, the Board never notified or solicited the input of members of the public who intervened in OPSB matters. The Board did not even notify intervenors who were extensively involved in the development of the Board’s original wind power siting rules in 2008-09. Furthermore, the Board never filed notice of the proposed or final rules in the Register of Ohio, presumably because the OPSB and PUCO are exempt from the notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements of R.C. Chapter 119. In sum, while the Board’s recent rulemaking was open to utilities, wind developers, other regulated entities, and their attorneys, the process was entirely “under the radar” as far as the public was concerned.
Furthermore, under Ohio law, agencies such as the OPSB must file newly adopted rules with the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (“JCARR”) so that the rules can be evaluated by the General Assembly based on specified legal criteria. Yet, although the OPSB adopted its new set of rules on February 18, 2014, the OPSB has not filed its newly adopted wind power siting rules with JCARR and is thereby denying the public an opportunity to address the mismatch between the OPSB’s rules and the requirements specified by the Ohio General Assembly.
Time and again OPSB’s hearing process has proven hostile to public participation. Before approving a power siting certificate, the Board must hold both a “public hearing” at which any interested party may be heard and an “evidentiary hearing” at which only the applicant, Board Staff, and approved intervenors may participate. But the Board representatives conducting public hearings refuse to answer questions about the project and refer members of the public back to the wind developer for responses to their questions. In evidentiary hearings, the Board routinely imposes a discriminatory double standard by requiring intervenors (usually members of the public) to submit live expert witness testimony while allowing developers to submit reams of documentary information as “evidence” without expert support.
The Board delegates the oversight and conduct of both hearings to an Administrative Law Judge employed by the PUCO, who then prepares the written decision and certificate for the Board’s approval (usually at a single meeting with minimal discussion). No Board member participates in the hearings, which calls into question the depth of the Board members’ understanding of the issues they are called on to decide.
From the perspective of local property owners, who strongly object to the placement of wind farms near their homes and property, we must spend our time and our own money to do the job that the OPSB should be doing for the public and yet we feel we are being undercut by the OPSB at every turn. The net result of OPSB actions works to effectively deprive us of any meaningful opportunity to be heard. At the same time, the OPSB is issuing, over the strong objections of local property owners and local government officials, more certificates authorizing the construction of new wind farms that intend to violate the minimum setback requirements in current law. In other cases, the OPSB is allowing certificated wind farms to evade the General Assembly’s new setback requirements by improperly extending the life of those certificates before the effective date of the setback requirements.
Contrary to the statutory requirements enacted by the General Assembly, the OPSB is complicit in and protective of unfair and unreasonable wind industry practices. Examples include:
- Permitting legal notice of public hearings to appear at times when the public is least likely to see them;
- Scheduling public hearings at times the public is least able to attend;
- Allowing wind companies to conduct required pubic information meetings without specifying the location of proposed wind turbines;
- Allowing wind companies to meet the Board’s public notification requirements using maps that lack necessary detail, such as roads or parcel boundaries, to enable landowners to assess the potential impact on their properties;
- Enabling wind companies to negotiate unfair and one-sided contracts that obligate the signer to waive impacts they often do not understand; that burden the entirety of a property for up to 45 years; that are negotiated using a divide and conquer strategy ; that include no right of rescission; and that include onerous and overbroad confidentiality clauses. Oftentimes, the property owner is elderly and may not be in a position to understand or negotiate in his or her best interest.
- Failing to establish clear and enforceable standards for audible noise and instead allowing the use of vague “design goals” that fail to consider worst-case impacts;
- Failure to establish any standards at all for inaudible low frequency noise emissions;
- Refusing to consider a report from a Wisconsin power siting proceeding that cited new scientific findings regarding low frequency noise from wind turbines and concluded that there is now enough evidence to classify low-frequency noise and infrasound from wind turbines as “a serious issue, possibly affecting the future of the wind industry.”
- Failing to require that setback waivers be obtained from all adjacent property owners as required by law;
- Failing to require wind developers to specifically articulate the alleged benefits accruing to the described project area and, instead, accepting alleged benefit claims that pertain to unrelated and distant communities even though the impact/burden of the project is borne by the local property owners;
- Failing to accord due weight to local governments who object to applications on the basis of harms to the community’s economic health and welfare or cultural identity;
- Failing to adopt rules for siting industrial wind turbines near public and private recreational areas, including Indian Lake as well as numerous golf courses and equestrian facilities;
- Extending certificate expiration dates without following the statutory requirements for amendment of certificates, such as the requirements for investigation by the OPSB staff and for public hearing to consider substantive changes in the assumptions underlying the original certificate;1 (1 Chief among these changes is the dramatic increase in blade length which increases vibration and low frequency emissions as well as recent medical studies concerning related health effects. )
- Failing to consider cumulative impacts in areas where multiple projects are sited;
- Failing to require developers to establish a complaint resolution protocol acceptable to the community prior to issuing a certificate; and
- Blaming insufficient funding/lack of resources to fully carry out their duties.
As the Ohio Supreme Court has stated, “It is axiomatic that the federal and Ohio constitutions forbid the state to take private property for the sole benefit of a private individual.” Norwood v. Horney (2006), 110 Ohio St.3d 353, 365. Yet that is exactly what the Power Siting Board has repeatedly permitted to occur. The constitutionally protected property rights of Ohioans are being harmed in favor of industrial wind development. These massive industrial power plants are being imposed in rural residential communities by private for-profit developers. The developments are structured as limited liability companies owned more often than not by foreign private equity firms. These industrial power plants are not public utilities and are not empowered with the right of eminent domain but, through the faulty administration of the law by the Ohio Power Siting Board, that is effectively the result. Ohio’s administration of wind power development is unregulated under the guise of regulation.
We request that you halt further consideration of any industrial wind power application until lawful rules are established, eliminate the exemption from rulemaking due process currently afforded to the Ohio Power Siting Board under Revised Code Chapter 119, and require that any application for certificate amendment or extension be subjected to the due process of meaningful public notice, a full investigation, and a fair hearing. If the State of Ohio is unable to administer a fair regulatory program that protects her citizens, siting decisions must be returned to local zoning and control.
Signed by Residents of Ohio
Lt. Governor Mary Taylor
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-6117
President Keith Faber
1 Capitol Square, 2nd Floor
Columbus, OH 43215
Speaker William Batchelder
Ohio House of Representatives
77 S. High St
Columbus, OH 43215
Chairman Tom Johnson
Public Utilities Commission of Ohio
180 E. Broad St.
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Thank you for your immediate attention to this effort. We ask that all signatures be sent to us by November 10th.
(11-3-14) This past Friday the Vorys law firm filed a motion in opposition to two residents in the Blackfork Wind case. Blackfork Wind, proposed for Crawford and Richland Counties, seeks to amend its Certificate of Approval by adding two new turbine models. The Amendment was filed on September 12th – three days before the property line setback law became effective. The Teflon team at Vorys makes an aggressive effort in the attached motion to assert that none of the residents’ claims “stick”. They assert the two citizens live too far away to be eligible to intervene even though one resident is ½ mile from a turbine and will experience shadow flicker. Then Vorys claims that in the event the Ohio Power Siting decides the citizens are eligible to intervene, their argument that the project should be subject to the property line setback should be dismissed because the legislation (HB 483) was not yet effective on the date the application for Amendment was filed.
On June 26th, 684 citizens from affected communities signed a letter to Governor Kasich, Speaker Batchelder and Ohio Senate President Faber expressing appreciation for the passage of HB 483 extending setbacks from property lines. The Ohio Power Siting Board has the ability to establish setbacks at any distance. The original laws established the original setbacks as “minimums”. Even Senator Seitz admonished the OPSB to not default to the minimum when considering wind power siting cases. But more compelling is the plain language of HB 483 that reads as follows:
“(ii) Any amendment made to an existing certificate after the effective date of the amendment of this section by H.B. 483 of the 130th general assembly shall be subject to the setback provision of this section as amended by that act. The amendments to this section by that act shall not be construed to limit or abridge any rights or remedies in equity or under the common law.“
This language does not say applications filed before the effective date of the law are exempt. It says amendments made to projects after the effective date shall be subject to the new setbacks.
The Vorys firm represents wind developers in numerous projects across Ohio including Timber Road, Scioto Ridge, Buckeye Wind and Blackfork Wind. Citizens should be watching closely to see whether the Ohio Power Siting Board upholds the law as it was written by their elected representatives. This is not Washington, D.C. where the President can subvert laws through executive action. This is Ohio where the General Assembly and the Chief Executive Officer, the Governor, are in overwhelming control of the state government. Unelected administrative agencies like the OPSB must not be allowed to subvert the actions of elected officials at the behest of wind industry attorneys.
(10-29-14) We enjoyed three recent news reports that were worth sharing. Fox Business reports that the states with the largest use of wind power have the highest utility bills. They note private investors are encouraged to hold on to their own money while the government (you and me) provides the life support for wind through the Production Tax Credit. The outcome of the election may pull the plug on the PTC. Enter the League of Conservation Voters. Fox reports “It would be an understatement to say that the outcome of the 2014 elections is important for wind energy producers. In an effort to see PTC friendly Harry Reid as Majority Leader, the wind industry has essentially turned the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) into their own personal Trojan horse.
Much of the LCV leadership has deep ties to the wind energy:
- Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) serves as the Treasure of the LCV.
- Peter Mandelstam, former AWEA board member and founder of Green Sails wind energy company also serves on the LCV board.
Unsurprisingly, much of the LCV’s campaign activities have been aimed squarely at renewal of the PTC. The organization brags that it will spend over $25 million supporting pro PTC candidates and attacking their opponents before November elections. Should LCV’s campaign fail, loss of the PTC could prove fatal to some wind companies. “
We have seen Ohio LCV hand at work in Ohio with LCV support of Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Columbus) who opposed SB 310. We are quite certain that we shall see more of the Ohio LCV as the legislature’s Study Committee gets up and running. Julie resigned from the OLCV board of directors on May 31, 2014 after it became clear the board would have no substantive input into the organization’s advocacy for wind.
Elsewhere, media reports are shining a spotlight on a new study from the Adam Smith Institute which, following nine years of examination of wind performance at 22 UK wind developments found:
“Most significantly, it found that the system would be only running at 90 percent of capacity or higher for 17 hours a year, and at 80 percent or higher for less than one week a year; conversely, total output was at less than 20 percent of capacity for 20 weeks of the year, and below 10 percent during nine weeks a year. The most common power output of this 10GW model wind fleet is approximately 800MW. The probability that the wind fleet will produce full output is vanishingly small,” the authors note. The consequence is that many more wind turbines will have to be built than is often assumed, as the capacity of the fleet can’t be assumed to be synonymous with actual output.
The findings will deliver a body blow to governmental claims that their current target of generating 27 percent of energy from renewable sources – mostly wind and solar – by 2030 is credible.”
In the world of solar, repeal of the in-state requirement for the purchase of renewable energy meant that both wind and solar energy could be sourced from out of state providers who often sell at lower prices. As a result, the Indianapolis Speedway is seeking to become qualified by the PUCO as a renewable energy provider to Ohio. Gives new meaning to ‘the speed of light’!!
The costs of renewable energy policies are a concern of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. In a 2014 White Paper, the NBCSL expresses concerns that the use of distributed generated, like solar panels, could unfairly shift the burden of meeting the costs of the grid to low income and minority people. In some areas, utility companies are discussing raising electricity charges – for the “fixed costs” of the grid, for everybody to make up for revenues they say they’re losing to rooftop solar. In Wisconsin, for example, the investor-owned utility Wisconsin Public Service Corp. wants to hike monthly fees from $10.40 to $25.” A copy of the report is attached.
(10-27-14) This past week the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) issued two orders granting requests for rehearing of previously denied appeals. Earlier, the OPSB had granted a motion to extend the Everpower project despite the fact that the rules call for an application and hearing and, further, any extension should be considered an amendment of the original certificate. If an amendment had been required, Everpower would have been subject to new setback requirements. By granting the extension as a ‘motion’, the OPSB enabled Everpower to avoid the new setbacks. UNU objected to this decision but was overruled. UNU appealed the decision and requested a rehearing on the matter. The request for rehearing was granted. As we have reported before, the status of the OPSB’s rules are in question due to procedural issues. The decision to grant the rehearing in this case means nothing more than the OPSB wished to take some time to consider the issues raised in the appeal. The OPSB will not meet again until late November which would be the earliest that the matter could again be considered. (Order attached)
Likewise, the OPSB granted a rehearing on the Greenwich Wind appeal in Huron County. Again, the OPSB takes pains to say that they are not ruling on the merits of the appeal. They simply want to take more time to consider the issues raised in the appeal. (Order attached)
In Logan County, Everpower objected to a request by an Indian Lake property owner to intervene in the case regarding an amendment to the Scioto Ridge Wind project. Everpower maintains that a homeowner residing and recreating within ½ mile of the project is not impacted and therefore should not be granted status as an intervenor. The Rudolph Reply brief asserts that Everpower’s objections are nothing more than “proof of how out of touch they are with the community”. Well said.
We were amused by recent claims by the Ohio Environmental Council made in support of proposed federal emissions limits on coal-fired plants “saying the rules could spur already rapid [solar] development in the state.” WHAT??? After crying that a freeze on renewable mandates would ruin the fragile solar market in Ohio, the same folks are now boasting “that Solar energy deployment is increasing rapidly in Ohio, growing an average of 47% annually over the past three years, according to Environment Ohio.” Nice to see such a good demonstration of why mandates are not needed.
Lots of energy (pun intended) is beginning to rev up around the Congressional elections and the lame duck Congress. Many believe a big push will be made to renew the now expired federal Production Tax Credit and make it retroactive. We guess the Halloween season is as good a time as any to bring back this zombie subsidy. Forbes magazine has a good article on why the subsidy is not needed. We also include a press release and some news coverage of two rallies in Ohio this week by Waste in the Wind – a coalition of senior advocates, Tea Partiers and a former Oklahoma Congressman. This group came to Ohio to ask taxpayers to contact their Congressman to object to any Lame Duck Congressional Action on the PTC. We will join the chorus after the election. In the meantime we urge everyone to vote. It is so important – and true that you create your own future. Many counties will have wind cases going to the Ohio Supreme Court. Everyone has a stake in the outcome of this election. We ask for a fair and impartial consideration of the issues surrounding industrial wind development. We think a vote for French and Kennedy will bring that about.
(10-23-14) Last week the PUCO issued a rule to implement the portion of Senate Bill 310 that called for the elimination of the in-state mandate for renewable energy. In its deliberations on how to fashion the rule, the Ohio Environmental Council and the Sierra Club argued that the in-state mandate elimination was only a two-year elimination and that any rule must reflect the temporary nature of the in-state repeal. The PUCO rejected OEC and Sierra’s arguments but we found the language used in their order was interesting:
“The Supreme Court of Ohio has held that, [f]ollowing a primary rule of statutory construction, we must apply a statute as it is written when its meaning is unambiguous and definite,” and that “[a]n unambiguous statute must be applied in a manner consistent with the plain meaning of the statutory language, and a court cannot simply ignore or add words.”
Fair enough – we agree. We wonder, then, how the PUCO/OPSB could have gotten so far off track when establishing other siting rules for noise, ice throw, recreation areas, complaint processes and everything else called for in the law. Hmmm…
And speaking of the Sierra Club, the latest issue of Fortune Magazine reports: “Environmentalists and renewable-power providers fear that Ohio could be the spearhead for pushing back other states’ mandates for renewables. Despite five years of relatively robust investment in renewables here, the presence in Ohio of two of the nation’s largest utilities (AEP and FirstEnergy), along with the legacy coal industry (Ohio produced 26,000 tons of coal in 2012), makes it a prime battleground for the struggle between clean energy and cheap, dirty coal. “This is ground zero,” says Sierra Club Ohio energy director Dan Sawmiller.”
The Fortune story features efforts by Honda to ‘appear’ environmentally responsible. The people in and around Russell’s Point can see Honda’s green totem quite clearly. In the article Honda reports that its turbines provide 10,000 MW hours a year or 10% of the plant’s energy needs. They say it is a “good bet” Honda will be adding more. No wonder Honda favors state mandates that keep the price of their renewable energy credits elevated and shifts some of their costs to Ohio consumers and ratepayers
Meanwhile, over at GM, the story is solar with a huge installation at Lordstown. We note again that the “appearance” of being green is important to the automaker and it is a point of pride that the solar panels can be seen from the Ohio Turnpike. The 8,500 panel array is a 2.2 MW installation designed to supply 1.5% of GM’s needs at Lordstown.
In Van Wert and Paulding Counties, the Northwest Ohio Wind Project originally proposed by National Wind and then sold to Trishe Wind has now been sold again to Starwood Global Energy who plans to build 100 MW by 2015 and another 250 MW sometime thereafter. We included an old article describing the 59 turbine project which was approved by the OPSB in 2013.
And last, Everpower/Terra Firma owner, Guy Hands is seeking a new communications director. For those of you who might be interested, Hands describes what he is looking for: “The City can be a jungle, as we all know, so I want resilience and someone with the hide of a rhino. I want an early bird and a night owl, someone who rises early and can stay awake until the wee small hours. Someone with leopard-like instinct, able to take a considered approach and make decisions based on what the situation demands. I want someone who can keep an eagle eye on the issues impacting our business and who isn’t afraid to swoop in and seize an opportunity that presents itself. Finally, like a giraffe, someone who is willing to stick their neck out. And of course, someone who is a bit of a monkey and can appreciate my humorous side.”
(10-21-14) Attached is the brief filed with the Ohio Supreme Court by Joe Grant, an intervenor in Everpower’s Scioto Ridge project. Like other appeals filed in Champaign and Huron Counties, the issue of inadequate setbacks is a primary concern. In this instance, the brief makes a compelling case that the Ohio Power Siting Board approved turbines which represent a danger of ice throw as well as blade shear to neighboring non-participating properties. Further, the OPSB failed to consider the adverse impact to Indian Lake State Park. OPSB had knowledge of the distance which blades and ice could be thrown but defaulted to the state minimum’s which were later changed by the legislature. It may be useful to look at the timeline of events. In April, 2014 the Everpower project was approved; in May, 2014 an appeal was filed with the OPSB; in June, 2014 the appeal was denied while at the same time the bill revising setbacks was enacted; in July, 2014 Mr. Grant filed a notice of appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court; in September, 2014 the new setback law became effective and in October, 2014 the attached brief was filed. It is certainly difficult to understand why the OPSB pursued their course of action in light of what they knew.
We were intrigued by two recent posts. In the first, a University of Vermont looks at how wind industry messages are changing. Arguments promoting wind that are now found to be fading away include: wind promotes energy independence (maybe people figured out electricity isn’t made from foreign oil); wind promotes local economic gain (jobs are temporary construction jobs) ; and wind opponents are only concerned about aesthetics. As concerns about health impacts are rising, the NIMBY arguments sound less credible and so big wind is now falling back on the evils of climate change to justify their existence.
We need look no further than to the American Wind Energy Association’s recent blog post on the Top Ten Reasons Americans Support Wind:
1. It is free
2. Promotes local manufacturing jobs
3. Supports other blue collar jobs
4. Landowners benefit
5. “Captures Our Imagination”
6. Clean Air
7. Conserves Water
8. Is Beautiful
9. Fights Climate Change
10. Provides “unexpected” economic benefits like tourism
Having waded through this swamp of AWEA’s arguments, it was refreshing to read a rebuttal of sorts from the Heartland Institute that asserts electricity costs have skyrocketed in windy states; manufacturing jobs are principally located outside of the US; and other jobs created come at the expense of existing jobs. As for being beautiful and capturing our imagination….well that sounds pretty dumb to us!
(10-17-14) On Monday night, the Brown County Board of Health in Wisconsin voted to declare the Shirley Wind Project to be a human health hazard. The approved motion states:
“To declare the Industrial Wind Turbines at Shirley Wind Project in the Town of Glenmore, Brown County, WI. A Human Health Hazard for all people (residents, workers, visitors, and sensitive passersby) who are exposed to Infrasound/Low Frequency Noise and other emissions potentially harmful to human health.”
This is an important step forward in the debate about industrial wind setbacks and the effects of low frequency noise. Readers of Wind News will recall that the study of LFN by four acousticians was underway at Shirley when Union Neighbors United intervened in Everpower’s Buckeye Wind II before the Ohio Power Siting Board. One of the researchers working on the Shirley Wind study was Everpower’s noise expert, David Hessler. On the witness stand at OPSB in November, 2012, Hessler responded to a question from UNU’s attorney about LFN as follows:
Q: Low-frequency noise cannot be ruled out as a potential problem at wind farms, can it?
A: Yeah, up until recently my belief was that it could essentially be ruled out, but I’m changing my mind on that a little bit.
Hessler was changing his mind because of what he was learning at the Shirley Wind project. (The full report is included in the attached motion.)
The OPSB hearings closed on December 6, 2012. On December 12th , the Shirley Wind study was concluded and on December 24th the report was issued. That report concluded two important points.
- “An important finding on this survey was that the cooperation of the wind farm operator is absolutely essential. Wind turbines must be measured both ON and OFF on request to obtain data under nearly
identical wind and power conditions to quantify the wind turbine impact which could not be done due to Duke Energy’s lack of cooperation.”
- “A most interesting study in 1986 by the Navy reveals that physical vibration of pilots in flight simulators induced motion sickness when the vibration frequency was in the range of 0.05 to 0.9 Hz with the maximum (worst) effect being at about 0.2 Hz, not too far from the blade passing frequency of future large wind turbines. If one makes the leap from physical vibration of the body to physical vibration of the media the body is in, it suggests adverse response to wind turbines is an acceleration or vibration problem in the very low frequency region. The four investigating firms are of the opinion that enough evidence and hypotheses have been given herein to classify LFN and infrasound as a serious issue, possibly affecting the future of the industry. It should be addressed beyond the present practice of showing that wind turbine levels are magnitudes below the threshold of hearing at low frequencies.”
On January 17, 2013, UNU requested that the record in Buckeye Wind II be reopened to allow inclusion of the Shirley Wind Report. (See attached Motion) Everpower objected and the OPSB denied the request. Now the Health Department in Brown County, Wisconsin has determined the Shirley Wind project is a health hazard to “residents, workers, visitors, and sensitive passersby.” The Health Department’s decision was made public on a local radio talk program. We have provided the link to the radio program.
The radio program makes several important points. First, the State of Wisconsin controls the siting of industrial wind turbines and local governments are unable to put restrictions on them unless they are deemed a health hazard. The mere designation of health hazard will not shut down the turbines. However, it will force the debate and the wind industry will have to present evidence that LFN does not cause adverse health impacts. It is believed they will not be able to refuse to cooperate as Duke Energy did previously. That will be a tall order. The radio program host asserts that the wind industry “can no longer put smarmy editorials in newspapers around the state that obfuscate the real issue which is what the wind lobby has done again and again and again.” “They are not going to be able to do that this time.”
(10-14-14) Attached are two motions filed by Everpower this week. One is in opposition to UNU’s request for a rehearing on Everpower’s motion for an extension of their Buckeye Wind I certificate. We do not know when the OPSB might rule on the motions due to the complexities of their rule making (or lack thereof). The second motion filed by Everpower concerns Scioto Ridge and their opposition to a local homeowner’s effort to be granted intervenor status. The homeowner has a vacation home at Indian Lake and the viewshed in the area will be severely compromised. The OPSB was required by law to address the siting of industrial wind turbines near recreation areas and they failed to do so. The imposition of a buffer zone for all kinds of recreational areas is a logical thing to do but the OPSB never did it. This is one area where citizens from all over Ohio find fault with the existing rules and any proposed revisions.
During consideration of SB 310, the Ohio Manufacturers Association was actively engaged in opposition to freezing the mandates. A number of large employers in Ohio took issue with the OMA and yesterday they made public that they have left the OMA and started their own organization. We think this is big news and have included a press report about the matter. Hopefully, the voice of these large employers will ring in the ears of legislators who want to keep government mandates on private business.
The legislative committee to study Ohio’s renewable and alternative energy mandates is now complete. House of Representatives Speaker Bill Batchelder, R-Medina, appointed six members Thursday to the Energy Mandates Study Committee. His appointees and six from the Senate, announced three weeks ago, have pivotal roles in deciding the fate of Ohio’s energy standards, which were frozen in May.
Here are Batchelder’s appointments:
• Peter Stautberg, R-Cincinnati. Stautberg, chairman of the House Public Utilities Committee, is co-chairing the review committee, along with Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, who co-sponsored the bill that initiated the freeze. Stautberg lost his seat in the Republican primary in May, so his term runs out at the end of the year. A Stautberg aide told me that committee meetings are planned to be held before the year’s end, although it’s unlikely that the report will be issued then. Stautberg’s seat will be filled by another representative when his term ends, and one of the five other sitting members will likely replace him as co-chair.
• Ron Amstutz, R-Wooster
• Lou Blessing III, R-Cincinnati
• Christina Hagan, R-Alliance
• Jack Cera, D-Bellaire
• Michael Stinziano, D-Columbus
The 12-person committee has eight Republicans and four Democrats. Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Tom Johnson is the 13th member, although he cannot cast a vote. The committee must issue a report by the end of September 2015.
Our first impressions are that Christina Hagan understands and is sympathetic to setback concerns. Julie Johnson and Tom Stacy have met with her a number of times over the past few years. Rep. Stautberg will be leaving the legislature at year end because he lost his primary. He currently sits as Chairman of the House Public Utilities Committee and it is possible he could be succeeded by Rep. Hagan. Rep. Stinziano is smart and represents the OSU area where a number of ardent renewable energy activists are. OSU currently has a contract to buy some of the wind generated in Van Wert County. We suspect Stinziano to be a formidable opponent. Rep. Blessing is a question mark. He supported SB 310. But his father who previously served in the legislature has been a huge wind proponent and may represent some wind companies. The senior Blessing testified a number of times in support of mandates.
(10-13-14) A great deal of important activity has taken place across Ohio this past week. We invite you to go to the website of the Ohio Power Siting Board for more information as it is not possible to attach all relevant materials for each wind project.
Everpower Scioto Ridge
Greenwich Wind Park Huron County
Blackfork Wind Crawford/Richland County
We have also attached an article we have mentioned before from a science journal on health effects. This article is an effort by medical professionals to better organize the body of evidence pointing to wind turbine adverse health impacts. To the extent doctors worldwide can approach their diagnosis in a consistent way and document symptoms in a consistent manner, a more credible effort can be made to assess health impacts. Those who have operating turbines in their communities should make this document known to local physicians.
(10-6-14) As we have previously reported, the Ohio Power Siting Board revised its rules for siting industrial wind turbines and rescinded the old rules in February, 2014. A number of concerns have been raised about the OPSB rule revision process, including the fact that the public was pretty much excluded from participation in the process. The law requires OPSB to file all revised rules with the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Revision (“JCARR”) prior to the changes becoming effective. The OPSB failed to do this and it has been a matter of some confusion as to what rules apply. Moreover, given that new laws on setbacks are now in effect, the rules proposed last February are not up date. Chaos. Today JCARR announced that OPSB has made a filing on rules 4906 – 1- 01 through 4906 – 17 – 07. The proposed changes can be viewed at the Register of Ohio website. We understand that JCARR has up to 65 days to review the rules. During that time the public can file comments. Once we have studied the proposed revisions, we will share our concerns.
On a related note, we attach correspondence of interest from Senator Seitz in support of the Greenwich Wind opponents who are seeking a rehearing in their case. Senator Seitz expresses concerns about how OPSB has interpreted certain provisions addressing setbacks.
A recent story on Pennsylvania’s decision to review the contributions of industrial wind contained two rather surprising points. Everpower representative, Michael Speerscheider, is quoted as saying, “In today’s markets, there’s no real way to value what wind brings to the energy mix,”. Good grief. Worse yet, the article states that: “According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, each wind turbine kills 26 bats and four birds on average each year. With 720 turbines currently installed, that amounts to 21,600 mortalities.” Good grief again. It strikes us that this number is much higher than what Everpower proposed in its application.
In the “better late than never” category, a letter from Vestas to the City of Falmouth from 2010 has come to light. The letter indicates that both noise and danger of ice throw are possible and the City of Falmouthwas requested to accept/acknowledge that any impacts would be their responsibility and not the responsibility of Vestas. The manufacturer states in the letter that, should noise be an issue, the only mitigation would be to turn the turbine off with a resulting impact to power production. Falmouth has been much in the news over the years due to excessive noise and community complaints. It seems local elected officials knew ahead of time that there would be trouble.
And in the “we told you so” category, Siemens reports that wind energy is simply not competitive in the US without public subsidy. We note that Michael Speerscheider of Everpower continues to contend otherwise.
(10-02-14) Interesting news has been reported around the country and the world in the past few days. Pennsylvania and Oklahoma are both taking steps to review wind energy in their states. In Oklahoma a real estate developer calls the expansion of wind “a time bomb just waiting to go off” despite the aggressive efforts of wind lobbyists to kill any legislative oversight or reform. This article is a “must read” and thanks to Mike Burton for bringing it to our attention. We are all the more grateful to Senator Seitz for seeing the problems on the horizon instead waiting until 1,700 turbines had been built such as in Oklahoma.
Closer to home in Pennsylvania, calls for a review of wind have been answered by the establishment of a legislative review committee to study impacts to landscape, wildlife and the grid. Everpower’s Michael Speerscheider states he is happy to participate but fears the study’s outcomes will be biased. He fears the way the study was legislated indicates a foregone conclusion unfriendly to wind. That EXACTLY what he and other wind lobbyists said about the Ohio study. We will probably hear the same thing soon from the Oklahoma wind lobby.
The UK’s Telegraph is reporting that a new study by scientists at the University of Munich which has been published in a science journal called Open Science indicating long term low frequency noise exposure may damage hearing. The report is careful not to say this effect has been proven but it does give reason for further study and it does say the type of low frequency noise in question is like that emitted from industrial wind turbines.
We also share a news item from Huron County about the resolve of citizens to fight the proposed Greenwich Windpark. The protests from this area along with the folks at Blackfork Wind, Hardin Wind, Scioto Ridge, Timber Road and Buckeye/Champaign all reflect a protest against sloppy and ineffective regulation like that described in the Oklahoma news report. As the article says: “To ensure the opportunity didn’t slip away, lawmakers promised little or no regulation and generous tax breaks. But now that wind turbines stand tall across many parts of the nation’s windy heartland, some leaders in Oklahoma and other states fear their efforts succeeded too well, attracting an industry that gobbles up huge subsidies, draws frequent complaints and uses its powerful lobby to resist any reforms. The tension could have broad implications for the expansion of wind power in other parts of the country.” We hope so!
(09-28-14) There is much activity in the world of industrial wind. In Maine, First Wind is seeking approval to use the new taller turbines which are now measuring 574 feet tall. Elsewhere, the wind industry’s principal insurer, GCube, has released its first ever “insider” report on losses and claims called “Breaking Blades”. Among the report’s findings are that “with an estimated 700,000 blades in operation globally, there are, on average, 3,800 incidents of blade failure each year. Lightning strikes are still one of the most common reasons for failure. The report explains that the first strike often impairs the lightning protection system such that the second strike can destroy the blade. In some cases, corrosion protection is insufficient causing detachments of blades from the main hub assembly and, in some cases, causing third party liability claims from human injury. Vibration is also cited as an ongoing reason for blade failure. We have discussed various vibration concerns from longer blades as a cause of low frequency noise.
Flying Magazine has an article this month on the death of an Ag Pilot whose family was awarded $6.7 million following the pilot’s collision with an unlighted met tower. The article notes that “The meteorological evaluation towers, known as METs and equipped with small wind anemometers, have been cropping up all across the country as investors seek to cash in on the wind energy craze. By keeping them just below 200 feet, wind farm entrepreneurs save the money, time and hassle of registering them with the FAA – while putting ag pilot’s lives at risk.”
Meanwhile, Everpower has sent its latest Newsletter to local leaseholders advising them that they are considering offering to make one-time upfront payment of the entire 20 year lease payments if the leaseholder would prefer to get their money up front. The amount of the one-time payout would be less than what the landowner would receive over the life of the project but would be appealing to some leaseholders who may have urgent financial needs. Everpower is seeking a bank that might assist them in this initiative.
On the Ohio Power Siting front, we attached the coverage on the Huron County Greenwich project and a recent community meeting where Tom Stacy, Kevon Martis and Mark Shieldcastle presented. Shieldcastle, former State of Ohio wetland wildlife manager who is now with the Black Swamp Observatory, expressed his frustration with the wind industry for using “junk science” to evade true protection of wildlife. In Champaign County, the Urbana Daily Citizen reports that the County and Township governments did not file requests for rehearing of the OPSB’s decision to grant Everpower’s certificate extension. Presumably, these governments have their hands full with their two other active suits.
(09-25-14) This week several filings have been made with the Ohio Power Siting Board. Union Neighbors United has requested a rehearing on the OPSB’s approval of Everpower’s motion to extend the certificate expiration date in Phase I of Buckeye Wind. Ohio law requires that extensions be granted only after applications to amend a certificate are investigated, subjected to hearing and appeal and some due process accorded to the public. UNU asserts Everpower is seeking to avoid due process because any delay in obtaining the extension would subject them to the new setback rules which require measurement from property lines. The attached UNU application for rehearing makes the case that Everpower is simply attempting to avoid these new requirements. Moreover, UNU points to the Blackfork Wind and the Paulding County Timber Road III projects (also represented by the Vorys law firm) that filed similar extension requests in order to get around the new law that seeks to protect the property rights of landowners in and around the footprint of a wind project.
It is important to note, again, that the OPSB has failed to properly adopt its revised rules because they were not submitted to the Ohio General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review. This means that the whole issue of what rules even apply to any wind development are up in the air. The ones who lose in the chaos are citizens who are trying to protect themselves and their communities. The OPSB has heaped insult on top of injury by not only leaving in question what the rules are, but also unlawfully suspending the rules for project extensions in order to accommodate the wind developers who are trying to duck the laws. What a mess.
The Greenwich Wind project in Huron County is yet another example of the regulatory chaos. The Omega Corporation, one of the entities impacted by the Greenwich Wind project, filed to extend the time period for the community to intervene in this project. They were denied. We have also attached their application for a rehearing of the Board’s denial. This is another indictment the OPSB and its failure to faithfully and fairly implement the laws regarding wind development. Further information on this and all other wind cases pending before the OPSB can be found on the OPSB website.
We will keep you abreast of what happens next in this drama. It is complicated but very much worth taking the time to understand because the future of a number of Ohio wind developments hangs in the balance.
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