Testimony before Brown County (TX) County Commissioners

Mr. Robert L. Cook, a wildlife biologist and former Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) provided this testimony before the Brown County Commissioners Court. Mr. Cook supports his recommendation that a wind farm tax abatement not be granted on wind projects in the county.

Brown County Judge Ray West and Brown County Commissioners:

Ray, as you know, I was born and raised in Brown County.  My Dad's ancestors and the Cook family have owned land and lived in northwest Brown County for ~125 years.   My wife and I recently retired and moved from Austin back to Brown County, however, we have personally owned land and paid taxes in the May ISD in Brown County for over 30 years.  In addition, we now own a home and live 2 miles southwest of Brownwood off the Brady Highway.

I appreciate the difficult decision that the wind farm tax abatement issue has thrown into the lap of the Brown County Commissioners Court.

Regarding this matter, I would like to make the following points:

First, I respectfully take this opportunity to state my complete and total opposition to the Brown County Commissioners Court providing tax abatements to the companies building these wind farms.  I believe it is totally uncalled for, unjust, and does not provide for the good of the residents of Brown County.  Please do not provide tax abatement for the wind companies to build in Brown County.  These companies will be using our roads, utilities, services just like the rest of the citizens of Brown County and should pay their own way.

Second, as you are aware I recently retired as the Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), and by profession, I am a wildlife biologist.  I have followed the controversy of wind farms across the state of Texas and the nation very closely and while I was the Executive Director at TPWD our science staff working closely with landowners, wind farm companies, and several conservation organizations to create voluntary guidelines regarding the site selection of wind farms to reduce the negative impact of wind farms on wildlife, especially birds.  Please note that I said "reduce", not "eliminate"; wind farms kill birds.  There have been several wind farms across North American that have been documented to have killed thousands and thousands of birds annually.  There is no question that wind farms kill birds; lots of birds.  However, in view of the strong political support bought by lobbyists hired by the wind farm companies, there currently is insufficient data to stop the construction of wind farms on a biological basis, and, as you know, there are no regulations to protect wildlife, or the "view shed", or the neighbors negatively impacted by wind farms. Regulations on wind farms are badly needed and they will come in time. Our state elected officials are remiss in that they have not already provided needed regulation of the wind farm industry.  Hopefully, our state elected officials will address this issue ASAP in the upcoming Legislative Session.

Finally, this business of the "view shed" is very important to the vast majority of the citizens who will receive no benefit from the wind farms.  By site location requirements, wind farms are highly visible to the citizens of Texas.  However, people just do not want to see them on the horizon; they do not want look at them!  I believe this is especially true if the County Commissioners Court provides tax abatements to the wind farm companies....which means that all those citizens who receive no benefit and who do not want to look at them are required to make up the difference in their taxes to pay for roads and county services which the wind farm operators use daily.....and they have to look at them everyday.  In addition, it is apparent that property values of surrounding lands from which wind farms are visible are significantly reduced.  Brown County is blessed in that it is a scenic, beautiful landscape with numerous beautiful vistas.  Please do not encourage/support the construction of wind farms, which, in many folks' opinions, will ruin those beautiful vistas and reduce property values.

I am a strong supporter of private property rights.  If a landowner wants to built a wind farm or a single power generating propeller on his property, I support him having that right to do so as long as it does not harm his neighbors or the citizens of the county, or the environment/natural resources......and as long as it does not cost me additional money for him to do it. I respectfully request that you DENY any/all tax abatements for wind farms in Brown County. 

Thank you.

FEB 1 2008
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