GREENWICH NEIGHBORS UNITED APPLAUD ENERGY MANDATE STUDY COMMITTEE’S REPORT
Greenwich Neighbors United (GNU), a group of property owners who joined together to coordinate efforts to voice concerns about a proposed industrial-sized wind turbine park in Huron County, applauds the report of the Energy Mandate Study Committee which recommends that there be no further escalation in the mandates until the impact of federal requirements are better understood. GNU had submitted a letter to the Committee on March 10, 2015, urging a repeal or indefinite suspension in the escalation in of Ohio’s electricity mandates. (A copy of the letter is below.)
The Energy Mandate Study Committee was created by Sub. SB 310 of the 130th General Assembly and consisted of a bipartisan panel of members of the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate along with the chairperson of the Ohio Public Utilities Commission. The Committee was tasked to study Ohio’s renewable energy, energy efficiency, and peak demand reduction mandates and the hidden taxes that the mandates force Ohio’s electric consumers to pay. After six months of testimony, members of the Committee released their report stating that the current pause in any further escalation in mandates and there hidden taxes should continue indefinitely due to the ongoing uncertainty over the federal government’s Clean Power Plan. The report said, “Prematurely enacting legislation to comply with a federal rule that may never go into effect seems irrational and could saddle Ohio ratepayers with extraordinary and unnecessary costs.” Without further action by the General Assembly, the mandates and their hidden taxes will begin to escalate each year beginning in 2017.
Kevin Ledet, Chairperson for Greenwich Neighbors United, said “We are pleased that the members of this Committee looked at all the facts, heard hours and hours of testimony, and sided with Ohio ratepayers. Mandates are extremely expensive, they hit poor people the hardest and the citizens of Ohio are the ones paying the tab while for-profit wind manufacturers reap the benefits.” Ledet said, “I’m glad the Committee made recommendations that benefit Ohio citizens, and I’m glad GNU participated in the process.” He cautioned that the report is not enough to protect consumers. “Now we urge the General Assembly and Governor Kasich to act quickly to prevent the resumption of the escalation in the mandates, their hidden taxes and the massive subsidization of wind farm developers that occurs through the mandates and at customers’ expense” he added.
TO: Members of the Ohio Energy Mandate Study Committee
FROM: Kevin Ledet, Chairperson, Greenwich Neighbors United
Cc: Governor Kasich, Ohio Power Siting Board
DATE: March 10, 2015
RE: Energy Mandates/GNU’s Story
I am writing on behalf of Greenwich Neighbors United (GNU) to urge the Ohio General Assembly to repeal or indefinitely suspend the annual escalation in compliance quantities specified as part of Ohio’s energy mandates, including the renewable mandate. GNU is a large and growing group of local property owners who have joined together to coordinate our efforts to voice concerns about a proposed industrial-size wind farm in Huron County. The proposed wind farm that brought forth our concerns and the formation of GNU is described in Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), Case No. 13-990-EL-BGN.
In the summer of 2014, many residents of Greenwich began to understand the real significance of the proposed wind farm development that would be erected in our backyard. The developer had filed an application for a certificate with the OPSB and was seeking authorization to install 25 wind turbines, each 490.5 feet tall with rotor diameters of up to 383 feet, and covering 4,650 acres of land. As we started to learn more about the dangers and harmful impacts of the developer’s invasion plans, members of our community began to frantically write letters and e-mail messages to the OPSB, many of which you can find in the “public comment” section of OPSB’s case file. Unfortunately and as the OPSB was moving the certificate application along quite quickly, it took us a while to realize that our concerns and interests were less likely to be taken into account unless we hired an attorney and intervened in the OPSB proceeding. We are a group of neighbors, many of us farmers, who did not understand the OPSB’s formal process or that the concerns expressed in our letters and e-mail messages might be ignored by the OPSB unless we became a “party” to the case. However, we did know that the wind farm that was being proposed would ruin our tranquil rural community and deprive us of our fundamental rights to hold and enjoy property. Along the way, we began to realize that that the OPSB was not looking out for us and it was going to be up to us to make sure our concerns were addressed before the for-profit wind farm developer was allowed to move forward.
As we came to better appreciate the risk of not being a party in the OPSB proceeding, we found a lawyer who was willing to help us at a cost we could afford. He filed a request to allow one of the affected property owners and our members to intervene after the intervention cut-off date so that we might have the rights of a “party”. He urged the OPSB to find that there was “good cause” to allow the late intervention. Despite the support we received for this motion from members of the public, this intervention request was rejected at the urging of the wind farm developer. And then the OPSB issued a decision authorizing a certificate without one mention of the safety and other concerns expressed in the hundreds of letters and e-mail messages that were submitted to the OPSB. With the help of our attorney and our determination to make sure that our concerns were addressed, we filed an application for rehearing contesting the OPSB’s decision. In the several months since we filed the application for rehearing, the OPSB has not addressed the legal and other issues we raised in our application but it did grant rehearing for the purpose of giving it more time to consider the issues we raised in our rehearing application. At this point, no decision has been made.
Over the past nine months, our neighbors have joined together to try to protect our beautiful, peaceful and safe community from being destroyed by a wind farm developer. Along the way, we have learned that:
1) The consistent and loud noise of wind turbines can cause health issues, including migraine headaches, vertigo, nausea, tinnitus, and sleep deprivation;
2) Birds and bats that help us manage bugs and pests are killed by the blades of the turbines;
3) Wind farms destroy the value of land and homes that are located near the windfarm;
4) Wind farm developers do little, if anything, to proactively disclose the details of their proposed projects to the property owners and local officials most negatively affected by their proposals and engage in leasing practices that can be predatory;
5) As we were writing to the OPSB and urging the OPSB to address our concerns, the OPSB staff, the wind farm developer and the Ohio Farm Bureau were, without any notice to us, working on a settlement agreement which ignored our concerns, a settlement agreement that was filed with and eventually adopted by the OPSB;
6) The so-called “benefits” provided to schools by wind farm developers do not overcome the destruction of the local tax base and the local community that is caused by wind farms;
7) There are safety issues, such as ice throws, turbine fires, and catastrophic turbine failure that can damage property, injure members of our community and injure people driving on roads near the wind farm property;
8) Local fire departments including our volunteer fire department do not have the equipment to address a turbine fire including fires caused by a lightning strike and, absent prudent setbacks, dry grain fields can rapidly spread a turbine fire to dwellings and other property;
9) The OPSB has approved wind farm proposals that treat the minimum setback requirement contained in Ohio law as though it is a maximum setback requirement and allowed developers to move forward even though most of the proposed turbine locations violate the minimum setback requirement contained in Ohio law.
10) The OPSB ignores the fact that the turbine manufacture’s minimum safe distance specification may be greater than Ohio’s minimum setback requirement.
11) The OPSB has not, since 2008, promulgated the rules that are, according to Section 4906.20(B) of the Revised Code supposed to contain reasonable regulations regarding wind turbine “… location, erection, construction, reconstruction, change, alteration, maintenance, removal, use, or enlargement and including erosion control, aesthetics, recreational land use, wildlife protection, interconnection with power lines and with regional transmission organizations, independent transmission system operators, or similar organizations, ice throw, sound and noise levels, blade shear, shadow flicker, decommissioning, and necessary cooperation for site visits and enforcement investigations”; and,
12) The OPSB is, contrary to the plain language in Section 4906.20 (C) of the Revised Code and despite protests from at least one legislator, allowing wind farm developers to evade the minimum setback requirements without the developer securing a waiver of the minimum setback requirement from ALL owners or property adjacent to the wind farm property.
GNU was formed to help educate the community and public officials about the risks of wind turbines and the developers who place profits above local interests. We have done this on our on time and at our own expense. We have held numerous public meetings, bake sales, raffled off home-made pies, held a chili rally, distributed yard signs, put informational brochures in pizza boxes, and held a soup and song event all to educate the community and raise funds to make sure that our concerns are responsibly addressed before a wind farm developer is allowed to invade and exploit our community.
Throughout our learning process, we have heard from experts on the subject of wind turbines and how harmful they can be on a community and how inefficient they are when it comes to producing electricity or helping the environment. As this committee studies the current energy mandates, we wanted you to know about our story and the degree to which real people with concerns about wind farm developments within or near their communities are struggling to get their concerns addressed in a timely and responsible fashion. We are a community, made up of mostly farmers, who have educated ourselves on wind turbines.
Based on the things we have discovered and our experience with the OPSB, we respectfully request that your report recommend that the General Assembly either repeal or indefinitely suspend any further escalation in the energy mandates compliance quantities. Allowing the annual escalation in the mandates, including the renewable mandate, to resume in 2017 before there are adequate substantive and procedural safeguards in place AND it is clear that the safeguards will be properly applied by the OPSB and other agencies will result in other communities around Ohio having to endure what we have been through.
As importantly, our state and Nation should not be subsidizing wind turbine developers and as taxpayers and electricity consumers, we should not be forced to provide financial support to wind farm developers that our invading our communities with little or no regard for the property rights which are supposed to be protected by our state and federal constitutions. .
Attached is our application for rehearing that was filed at the OPSB, along with many articles and letters to the editor that have been printed in our local papers.
We would be happy to host a local meeting of your Committee to let you see firsthand what is being proposed in our community and to let hear from the Ohio citizens who are paying a high price as a result of Ohio’s arbitrary portfolio mandates.
We hope this information is useful and we thank you for your consideration of our comments.