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Stutsman County officials acting correctly on wind farm issues

Stutsman County officials should not be cowed by a wind developer whose business model condones theft of wind rights or be misled by a state legislator. They are to be commended for trying to protect landowner rights and safeguard the reputation of a growing and beneficial wind industry. If only our Dickey County Commission, the North Dakota Public Service Commission and the Legislative Assembly would show similar leadership.

Statements made by Ted Weisman of Florida Power and Light and Rep. Mike Brandenburg, R-Edgeley, before the Stutsman County Commission ("Commission hears about wind farm operation, Feb. 18) merit a response.

Weismann said he is unaware of any county with similar setbacks that has a wind turbine - the implication being that, if Stutsman County implements setbacks, it will see no wind energy development.

FPL executive John DiDonato made a more explicit public statement in 2005 after Spring Valley Township in Dickey County implemented the state's first wind zoning ordinance that requires a five-rotor-diameter turbine setback from the boundary of a wind farm and allows a straightforward option for variances.

We responded to FPL's proposed siting of wind turbines within 150 to 350 feet of my neighbors' property that lay outside the project. Had turbines been constructed in those locations, FPL would have stolen my neighbors' wind rights without consultation or compensation - rights clearly recognized in state law.

For his part, Brandenburg falsely stated to Stutsman County commissioners, and to the House Natural Resources Committee, that our zoning stopped FPL's Dickey County wind farm and that FPL built its... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Statements made by Ted Weisman of Florida Power and Light and Rep. Mike Brandenburg, R-Edgeley, before the Stutsman County Commission ("Commission hears about wind farm operation, Feb. 18) merit a response.

Weismann said he is unaware of any county with similar setbacks that has a wind turbine - the implication being that, if Stutsman County implements setbacks, it will see no wind energy development.

FPL executive John DiDonato made a more explicit public statement in 2005 after Spring Valley Township in Dickey County implemented the state's first wind zoning ordinance that requires a five-rotor-diameter turbine setback from the boundary of a wind farm and allows a straightforward option for variances.

We responded to FPL's proposed siting of wind turbines within 150 to 350 feet of my neighbors' property that lay outside the project. Had turbines been constructed in those locations, FPL would have stolen my neighbors' wind rights without consultation or compensation - rights clearly recognized in state law.

For his part, Brandenburg falsely stated to Stutsman County commissioners, and to the House Natural Resources Committee, that our zoning stopped FPL's Dickey County wind farm and that FPL built its Langdon project instead. Brandenburg knows this to be untrue. I have corrected the record many times, including in this newspaper, as has Otter Tail Power Co.

The Sun's readers can go the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Web site (www.puc.state.mn.us/portal/groups/public/documents/puc_pdf_orders/009790.pdf ) to review why the MN PUC did not approve Otter Tail Power's power purchase agreement for FPL's Dickey County wind farm, thus halting the project. None of the reasons relate to setbacks, zoning or any other local issue. Otter Tail's government affairs department will also confirm that.

In a breathtaking distortion of reality and ethics, Weismann told commissioners that "if you have setbacks, you are taking away the rights of those that can have turbines and giving them to those that can't have turbines." FPL continues to present wind development as a zero sum game where some landowners must win the lottery, while others must necessarily lose. This is nonsense.

For example, Xcel Energy and the wind developer enXco have announced a 150-megawatt wind farm to be constructed in 2011 that includes our township. EnXco's contract provides generous payments to landowners who do not get a turbine, but whose wind resource contributes to the output of the wind farm. And enXco's project staff has raised no concerns with the setback provisions in our township zoning.

Also, Minnesota has had a state setback policy in place for years. Our neighbor has achieved much greater wind energy development than North Dakota, while protecting the wind rights of landowners and developers alike. (Indeed, Stutsman County officials will surely find it interesting that FPL is formally on record in Minnesota having requested larger setbacks for a competing developer's project than what the state requires.)

Finally, North Dakota state policy regulating oil and gas development has achieved a similar outcome for decades: allowing drilling to proceed, yet ensuring that multiple owners of the oil and gas resource are treated equitably.

Stutsman County officials should not be cowed by a wind developer whose business model condones theft of wind rights or be misled by a state legislator. They are to be commended for trying to protect landowner rights and safeguard the reputation of a growing and beneficial wind industry. If only our Dickey County Commission, the North Dakota Public Service Commission and the Legislative Assembly would show similar leadership.

(Crabtree ranches south of Kulm and serves as a Spring Valley Township official)


Source: http://www.jamestownsun.com...

FEB 27 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/19300-stutsman-county-officials-acting-correctly-on-wind-farm-issues
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