Events are spinning fast in the world of wind. In just one short week, much occurred in Ohio…
Apex requested the OPSB hearings on Seneca and Sandusky County’s Republic Wind be postponed while they “amend” their project. Speculation as to the reason behind the delay and the amendment include uncertainty over the outcome of hearings on HB 114 and whether property line setbacks will be reduced. Apex had anticipated the bill would be passed last spring, but setback changes remain unresolved. That being the case, it is believed Apex does not have the necessary Good Neighbor Agreements to move forward with their original plan. There is also talk of Apex moving the location of some turbines out of hostile townships to more welcoming townships. In the event the legislature gives township voters the right of referendum, would taking turbines out of the hostile townships ease Apex’s entry into Seneca County?
We understand further that two of the Seneca County Commissioners sought legal representation concerning the Republic Wind Project including the existing Alternative Energy Zone designation. Township trustees also sought legal counsel for the purpose of intervening in the case before the Ohio Power Siting Board. The County Prosecutor’s Office believed they would be unable to simultaneously represent the opposing interests of the County and the Townships and so the County hired its own lawyer. They hired Michael Settineri of the Vorys law firm who represents almost all of the wind developers in the state. WOW!
Apparently, Commissioner Mike Kerschner, who has been sympathetic to people of Seneca County never had a chance to object or participate in discussion about this move. Something is definitely rotten Seneca County. Radio ads are also being broadcast in NW Ohio against Kerschner by the ‘Economic Prosperity Project’. Readers may recall last March when this group sent out a mailer urging that “Republican legislators need to STAND UP to Bill Seitz” because “He is using his influence to prevent $4.2 billion from being invested in Ohio wind energy.” The address associated with the Economic Prosperity Project was registered to Innovation Ohio, a liberal think tank run by former Speaker Budish’s Democrat chief of staff, Keary McCarthy, and former top Strickland administration policy chief Jeannetta King. The “Economic Prosperity Project” is a new corporation registered to a former Strickland administration operative, too.
While these political shenanigans are playing out in Seneca County, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rich Cordray is making the rounds in support of wind. Cordray visited One Energy in Findlay where he expressed his support for wind. Next week he will be joined on the campaign trail by former President Obama. It is noted also that Cordray appears to be currying favor with farmers who oppose stricter controls on manure disposal in order to clean up Lake Erie.
In Huron County, the Greenwich Windpark project has been sold to a company called Swift Current Energy. A group of mostly Ivy League investment bankers looking to make a bunch of money. A series of articles below tracks a bit of history surrounding Swift Current. Readers may recall last year General Motors announced that it would purchase wind from two projects. One project was Northwest Ohio Wind in Paulding County and the other was HillTopper in Logan County, Illinois. The HillTopper project was a controversial project in Illinois where the original developer agreed to make payments to nonparticipating landowners on an annual basis and to establish a property value insurance program that would be managed through the Logan County tax assessor’s office to compensate homeowners should they experience a loss in the value of their property after the wind farm becomes operational.
The project never moved forward until recently when Swift Current purchased it and since late 2016 worked to redevelop the HillTopper project, including adding new project participants; redesigning and re-permitting the project; contracting the energy on a long-term basis; and raising financing for the construction and operations of the project. Enel Green Power is managing construction for the project and will be the long-term owner and operator of the wind farm. The HillTopper project has not been without some local controversy. We wonder if Swift Current will also seek to sell Greenwich energy output to GM. It is interesting to see that they were not deterred in buying a troubled Illinois project and getting it up and running by re-engineering the whole project.
In Ohio’s 13th Senate District, Rep. Manning is seeking to swap his seat in the House with his mother who is term limited in the Senate. This appears distasteful on its face. Neither Rep. Manning nor his mother, Senator Manning, have seemed interested in or sympathetic to the wind setback concerns of their constituents in Huron and Lorain Counties. We were interested to read about Rep. Manning’s opponent in the Senate race, Sharon Sweda. Ms. Sweda has served as president of the Lorain County Association of Realtors, chairman of the board for the Cleveland Area Board of Realtors and district vice president for the Ohio Association of Realtors. How would she respond to a question about the property value of a home where a neighboring 600’ wind turbine’s nuisance effects trespassed onto the homeowner’s property while also sitting within the strike zone for flying blade fragments? Someone should ask her on the record! She has nothing to lose by siding with the folks in the Greenwich Windpark footprint.
Lake Erie – Icebreaker
LeedCo and their Enviro buddies are making waves in Lake Erie over the Icebreaker project. Over the objections of many wildlife advocates who protested the placement of wind turbines in the middle of one of the world’s most important migratory flyways, the OPSB staff recommended approval of the project with conditions. In response, the backers of the Lake Erie wind farm and environmental and trade groups have agreed to proposed stipulations for the project in an Agreement. In addition to Icebreaker, parties signing onto the prospective plan include the Ohio Environmental Council, the Sierra Club, the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters and the Business Network for Offshore Wind. Now, in an effort to get the OPSB to back off the recommended stipulations, LEEDCo. Vice President of Operations David Karpinski says the stipulations “make the project un-financeable and therefore are fatal conditions.”
Migratory Bird Treaty Act Litigation
We hope the OPSB stands its ground and we also hope that they are aware of what is happening in other states with respect to the protection of migratory birds. The battle over the Migratory Bird Treaty Act has expanded again, with eight states including New York and California filing a new lawsuit challenging the Interior Department’s scaled-back interpretation of the law’s reach. In the suit filed this week, the states’ attorneys general assert Interior’s action endangers birds and “harms the states’ sovereign, ecological, and economic interests in robust federal protections of migratory birds from industrial and other human activities,” among other problems. Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New Jersey, Maryland and Oregon also joined in the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The lawsuit, as part of an effort to demonstrate that the states have the requisite legal standing, further asserts that “scientific, recreational, and birdwatching opportunities and aesthetic benefits … directly or indirectly generate economic activity and tax revenue for the states.”
Maybe Ohio’s Attorney General, Mike DeWine, who is seeking to become our next Governor ought to join the other 8 states in protecting Ohio’s greatest natural resource. How about it? No doubt the AG’s staff are currently advising OPSB on how to address the pushback on the recommended stipulations which Icebreaker finds objectionable. We think this is a BIG DEAL….
**and finally, if you are new to our site and haven’t heard, please read through our past few blogs. On August 26th, a Van Wert, Ohio turbine blade exploded. A 10 foot piece was launched at least 800 feet away….legislative decisions could impact YOU someday!**