BigWind blowing lots of hot air in Ohio (and Indiana)

 

Speaking up and speaking out are important – we are reminded of the phrase “you create your own future.” At the risk of seeming over confident, we think those who are speaking out in Ohio and in Indiana are truly creating a better future for themselves and their communities.

First things first. One Van Wert County Commissioner has stepped forward to publicly express what he thinks and we blogged about this last week. Todd Wolfrum was first elected County Commissioner in 2013. He is a practicing attorney who also writes a weekly column for the local newspaper pertaining to estate planning and other legal matters of interest to the public. Commissioner Wolfrum also sits on the local hospital board, the Community Investment Corporation and he is President of the Regional Planning Commission. His main interests are promoting advanced education and the generation of business opportunities in the Van Wert area. In winning his current seat on the Board of County Commissioners, Wolfrum defeated the Superintendent of Vantage Career Center in a landslide – garnering 65% of the vote. Why is this important? Because the Vantage Superintendent is an outspoken supporter of industrial wind who has testified on behalf of wind. Vantage operates the wind technician training programs for local developers. Wolfrum’s credentials speak to the fact that he is not some crazy anti-wind nut to be ignored.

On July 2nd, Commissioner Wolfrum used his newspaper column to express his thoughts on wind. He questions what would happen if Sub HB 190 were to pass (which it won’t) giving local commissioners more authority over siting and setbacks. He states that after giving Iberdrola a 70-80% tax reduction through PILOT because Van Wert County had chosen to be designated as an Alternative Energy Zone, the Commissioners realized they had made a mistake and they rescinded their AEZ designation going forward. Now, they speculate that if a developer wanted to get a tax break, they would have to come up with a proposal and put it up for a vote – but who would be eligible to vote? Everyone in the County? “It does not seem appropriate that areas that stand only to benefit from a taxing scheme be allowed to vote to burden another area.”….” I don’t know a definition of fair that would allow Van Wert City voters, an overwhelming majority of the school district, to determine this issue for Liberty Township.”…”But, imagine if we started giving tax breaks to incentivize a hog farm to locate next door to you?”…” If you are in the pro crowd, I would advise against trying to pressure us to force windmills on a population that, as of now, does not want them.” …” And perhaps there is no way to win support. But if a majority of people in a zone for a proposed wind farm cannot be convinced to accept a tax plan, then someone will need to explain why it should be forced on them over their objection, because that is really the only thing that has been proposed to date.”

This is something to think about as the legislature continues to grapple with how to deal with the renewable mandate. Before December 31, 2016, the General Assembly (Ohio) must do one of three things: eliminate the mandates, continue the “temporary freeze” or resume the mandates. Governor Kasich has said he will not accept the elimination of the mandates. But, resumption of the mandates will put pressure on communities where developers want to build. Almost every community with the exception of Hardin County and perhaps Seneca will, like Logan County and now Van Wert, object to the burden of hosting an industrial wind facility or granting tax incentives for doing so. Why mandate a source of power generation that requires tax incentives that most are unwilling to support in their community? The reality of Ohio is that we rank 7th nationally in population density and we are not a suitable place for the development of industrial wind. Perhaps, Commissioner Wolfrum has made that point a little clearer for our legislators.

In Indiana, the story is the same. Multiple counties are pushing back hard and “A wind-farm aversion is driving a handful of other rural counties – including some that already have turbines – to put moratoriums on any future development as local debate unfolds. “They’re losing favor all over the state,” said Campbell, who’s now working with like-minded opposition in other communities. Ben Kenney, of the Indiana Office of Energy Development is reported to have pledged that “the state won’t push for wind-energy projects where they’re not welcome. “ via:  http://www.batesvilleheraldtribune.com/news/local_news/wind-farms-whipping-up-opposition-across-rural-indiana/article_c0e2464e-b771-50a9-a4ac-14cd84f738d2.html  

How about it in Ohio? We think the Ohio Public Utilities Commission and the Ohio Power Siting Board has one of the worst records of facilitating wind development over the objections of Ohio communities who do not want them. And now comes the appointment of Vorys attorney Howard Petricoff to the Public Utilities Commission. Word on the street is that Mr. Petricoff has demonstrated a poor record of acting in the public interest during his career representing wind developers and others in the electricity business. In fact, the Statehouse news reports are that “The top Democrat on that Senate panel, Sen. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland), likewise wants hearings on whether Gov. John Kasich’s nominee is the best fit for the office…. As the committee’s ranking minority member, Sen. Williams said in an interview she is “not impressed” with the governor’s selection.” Petricoff’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at 1:00 in the Senate Finance Hearing Room. 

Tuesday is a double header of sorts in that oral arguments will be heard in the Ohio Supreme Court on Champaign County’s appeal of the OPSB approval of Amendments to the Buckeye Wind project. The Court will convene at 9:00 a.m. sharp and anyone who is able to attend is encouraged to do so. A show of support for Champaign County and the Townships would be appreciated.  The County and Townships assert two points in their appeal:

A. The Board’s approval of Applicant’s amendments in its Order of February 18, 2014 and its Order of May 19, 2014, without holding a required hearing was unreasonable and unlawful, as such amendments would result in a material increase in the environmental impact of the facility or a substantial change in the location of all or a portion of such facility.

B. The Board’s approval of the amendments in its Order of February 18, 2014 and its Order of May 19, 2014, without hearing was unreasonable and unlawful, as it denied Appellants County and Townships the only opportunity to be heard.

If the Court finds in favor of Champaign County and the amendments are sent back to the OPSB for a hearing, it is presumed that property line setbacks would be applied to the EverPower Project. A separate pending appeal from Union Neighbors United in connection with the extension of the certificate for Buckeye I has not been scheduled for a hearing.

Recent maddening news is that the wind lobby (aka Big Wind) is ramping up their $$green$$ machine to go after more of everything: more “purchased” politicians to deliver more federal tax credits and more local tax incentives; more lenient conservation rules; more renewable mandates; more biased news reports; blah blah blah. American Wind Action (“AWA”) has been born. “AWA, a nonprofit 501(c)(4) advocacy group, can engage in political campaign activities as long as those efforts are not its primary activity. At its launch, it claimed an “initial seven-figure budget.” Enfield declined to specify just how much AWA has raised so far or where it will target its funding. But he indicated the main focus will be states where pro-wind-energy policies such as tax breaks and minimum requirements for renewable energy appear to be at risk.” Look for AWA recruits in your neighborhood or under a rock at your area career center and defend against them because, as we said at the outset, “You create your own future.”….

The U.S. wind energy industry is the fastest-growing new source of electricity in the country. But it’s not resting on its laurels, especially in an election year.

Hence the launch of American Wind Action, a group that will promote the benefits of wind energy to the public…

“We will be working to identify and activate supporters of wind energy to encourage action from their elected officials, and we will educate the public about the actions and positions those officials take on wind energy…

Source: Turbine industry aims to keep tailwind blowing

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