Seven years ago, a company came to Fayette County wanting to develop a Commercial Wind Farm in Posey and Fairview Townships. They claim they were “invited” by the people of Fayette County. There are a lot of farmers and homeowners in Fairview and Posey Township who would like to “un-invite” them and send them back where they cam from – except it’s difficult to tell exactly where they came from.
This company started out as Boulevard and Associates, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company and an affiliate of NextEra Energy Resources LLC, another Delaware company. Later, the name of this developer was changed to Whitewater Wind LLC for a few years. Now, the name has changed once again to West Fork Wind Energy Center. Florida Power and Light owns all this or vice-versa, it really doesn’t matter. Ask any attorney why companies like this form LLCs and change the name and ownership every few years. There’s a reason. Some day, this wind farm could very well be owned by a Chinese company called Wang Chungs Energy Park and there wouldn’t be anything Fayette County could do about it. Good luck with that when the wind turbines have reached their 25-30 year lifespan and it’s time to decommission the wind farm. Wind turbines don’t last forever and it will cost millions to tear them down someday. That’s a fact – they will have to be torn down someday when they have reached the end of their lifespan. Hopefully, our County Commissioners have done their job and insured that Fayette County will not be held responsible for the demolition costs involved with this future decommission project.
The farmers and homeowners in Fairview and Posey Township who do not want to be subjected to the drastic home and property devaluation, along with the well-documented health hand quality of life issues associated with wind farms, have the right not to have 600-foot tall commercial wind turbines in close proximity to their homes, farms and families. Commercial wind farms should be located where everyone wants them, not just a few people.
Not once in the last seven years has anyone from NextEra or the Fayette County Commissioners made an effort to talk to those of us who live in Fairview or Posey townships and try to understand our concerns. If an agreement was offered to increase the setback distance for non-participating landowners to 2,640 feet for wind turbine towers, it would be a place to start a dialogue. But any attempt on our part to initiate this discussion has fallen on deaf ears. NextEra and the Commissioners don’t care. Both sides want to ram wind turbines down our throats.
This is a serious problem nationwide, not just in Fayette county. The commercial wind turbine industry in North America would not exist if they did not receive $23 per megawatt-hour of power federal tax subsidy. That is why there is such a push nationwide to get these projects approved as soon as possible before the subsidy expires, and it very well could expire sooner than scheduled with a Republican-controlled House and Senate in Washington and our incoming Republican President.
The citizens of Fayette County who have studied this problem realize what a mistake our Commissioners, Fayette County Council, Area Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals have made by doing whatever NextEra tells them to do, instead of listening to the residents and taxpayers of Fayette County.
Our Fayette County elected officials, APC and BZA board members need to study our neighbors to the west in Rush County, and learn how to treat Fayette County citizens and taxpayers with the respect we deserve. The Rush County Board of Commissioners and various other Rush County officials actually listened to the people they were elected to serve and take their jobs seriously. They have stood up to NextEra and not laid down and become subservient like our Fayette County Commissioners.
Our Fayette County Commissioners, both past and present, could care less about the serious concerns raised by a commercial wind farm. The arrogance and ignorance they have exhibited the last seven years is appalling. The only information they are concerned with is what NextEra tells them. They will not listen to any input from the people who will have to live with these 600-foot tall monsters the rest of their lives and are well-versed in the negative impact of such wind farms.
In the last seven years there have been many, to say the least, “unusual” situations develop in Fayette County’s relationship with NextEra. One of the most “unusual” occurred Aug. 6, 2015 in the Connersville High School auditorium. This was a public hearing held by the Fayette County Area Planning Commission and the Fayette County Board of Zoning Appeals – the subject being the special exception permit being sought at that time by a developer called Whitewater Wind LLC. One of the Fayette County Commissioners present that evening had the audacity to wear, on her jacket, a button supporting the Wind Farm. I guess no one informed her it was improper for an elected official to show support for such a controversial subject at a public hearing. If this commissioner doesn’t understand the rules of decorum for an elected official any better than that, and obviously doesn’t prepare or understand what’s going on at the commissioner meetings, she should voluntarily step down or be removed from office.
The facts I presented at the Aug. 6, 2015 meeting of the APC/BZA Board, I present them once again as follows:
The Fayette County Commissioners signed an Economic Development Agreement with Whitewater Wind LLC on Dec. 16, 2014.Fayette County received a $40,000 payment from Whitewater Wind LLC in January 2015 for “legal fees.”Fayette County received a $52,000 economic development payment from Whitewater Wind LLC on July 21, 2015.As of Aug. 6, 2015, Fayette County had received a total of $92,000 from Whitewater Wind LLC.This $92,000 was received before the Fayette County APC and BZA boards met to approve the special exception permit sought by Whitewater Wind LLC on Aug. 6, 2015. Of course, the permit was approved by both APC and BZA$92,000 received before a vote is cast!An “unusual” set of circumstances, kind of like the Fayette County Highway Department being told by the Commissioners to widen gravel roads in Fairview and Posey townships recently. These roads haven’t been touched since horse and buggy days. These happen to be the same roads that will be used to build and service NextEra’s wind farm. These roads have been widened from 12 feet to 22 feet wide. This project being approved by the same County Commissioners that are bankrupt and have no money. A very “unusual” event, called a “coincidence” when asked for an explanation at a Commissioner meeting. There have been many “unusual” events concerning NextEra’s relationship with our dedicated, trusted Fayette County Commissioners in the last seven years that are hard to explain. Our Commissioners are dedicated to serving NextEra and trusted to do what they are told. To be lied to, disrespected and abandoned by some – not all, but some – of our county officials is hard to accept. Their duty as county officials is to put the welfare and best interest of Fayette County citizens and taxpayers first.
Citizens and taxpayers who live in Fayette County and think only Fairview and Posey townships are affected by this controversy are wrong. The next time it very well could be Harrison or Orange, Jackson or Jennings, Waterloo or Columbia, or God forbid, Connersville Township.
I have lived in Fayette County my entire life. I understand very well the severe financial situation this county, along with many other Indiana counties, are in. Then seven years ago, NextEra came to town and started painting the picture of financial salvation, and an easy way out, to our county commissioners. All our commissioners had to do was abandon the residents and taxpayers of Fairview and Posey townships to save the rest of Fayette County. All our commissioners and county officials have to do is follow NextEra’s instructions and ignore every valid concern myself and many other citizens have about the Wind Turbine Industry. Our concerns are not based on paranoia and misinformation. Our concerns are based on scientific research being conducted all over the world about the significant health problems for human beings subjected to living too close to commercial wind turbines. Our commissioners and county officials have chosen to ignore the facts and listen to whatever NextEra and their high-powered attorneys tell them, and put NextEra first.
There was a phrase used in 1776 when this country was formed, about “Taxation without Representation.” That’s currently what we have in Fayette County. We are all expected to walk into the Fayette County Courthouse every spring and fall, like good little boys and girls, and pay our exorbitant property taxes. In return for paying our taxes on time, we are treated with disrespect, arrogance and ignorance by some of our county officials. All the citizens and taxpayers of Fayette County better wake up and get involved, and start attending some of these commissioner, council and APC meetings, and see for yourself what is going on in Fayette County.
For our County officials to be respected by the people they serve, they have to give respect.
This is our county, not NextEra’s.
Joe Schultz is a Fayette County resident in Fairview Township and member of the Wind Project Concerned Citizens group. He wrote this guest column for the News-Examiner.