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Rancher describes experiences associated with wind farms

Rose Bacon, member of the Governor's Energy Task Force and a rancher who owns property in the Flint Hills, spoke about the vulnerability of communities facing proposals from international companies that want to build commercial wind farms in rural areas. She pointed to the lack of “teeth” in regulations, and the attractive tax write-offs granted to wind energy companies, and the inexperience of local officials in dealing with such monstrous deals, depicting a state-wide scenario akin to the “wildcatter days in the oil business.”

LINDSBORG -- Rose Bacon, member of the Governor's Energy Task Force and a rancher who owns property in the Flint Hills, spoke about the vulnerability of communities facing proposals from international companies that want to build commercial wind farms in rural areas. She pointed to the lack of “teeth” in regulations, and the attractive tax write-offs granted to wind energy companies, and the inexperience of local officials in dealing with such monstrous deals, depicting a state-wide scenario akin to the “wildcatter days in the oil business.”

“I can vouch for this in our community. You have neighbor against neighbor, you have friend against friend, you have people quit their churches. You have people who used to sing in the choir that don't.

One of the reasons is the techniques used -- this was brought out by the task force - one of the guidelines is open communication,” said Bacon.

Bacon said open communication is not what typically occurs when wind energy companies move in. She said that in the communities where a commercial wind farm is constructed, citing Gray County and counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin, that most of these communities show little or no growth.

“Think about it. If... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

LINDSBORG -- Rose Bacon, member of the Governor's Energy Task Force and a rancher who owns property in the Flint Hills, spoke about the vulnerability of communities facing proposals from international companies that want to build commercial wind farms in rural areas. She pointed to the lack of “teeth” in regulations, and the attractive tax write-offs granted to wind energy companies, and the inexperience of local officials in dealing with such monstrous deals, depicting a state-wide scenario akin to the “wildcatter days in the oil business.”

“I can vouch for this in our community. You have neighbor against neighbor, you have friend against friend, you have people quit their churches. You have people who used to sing in the choir that don't.

One of the reasons is the techniques used -- this was brought out by the task force - one of the guidelines is open communication,” said Bacon.

Bacon said open communication is not what typically occurs when wind energy companies move in. She said that in the communities where a commercial wind farm is constructed, citing Gray County and counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin, that most of these communities show little or no growth.

“Think about it. If your hotels are full when construction is going on, are those local workers?” asked Bacon.

Bacon told the group of citizens at the Lindsborg Safety Center Tuesday evening that when a wind energy company comes courting a community, a “Pandora's Box” is opened, pitting neighbor against neighbor.

“One of the things we continually found in the wind prairie task force was the wind industry would give us one set of facts. The facts or information we found from independent sources was often totally different,” said Bacon.

One issue Bacon addressed was health and safety -- noise, lights, ice, fires, rescue.
She said the wind industry touts that these are not problems, but she took issue with the wind industry's stance.

Bacon said 22 fires originated by wind turbines have been documented since 1999, usually from overheated bearings.

She said that emergency services of any community in which a commercial wind farm is located would have to be upgraded to include training and equipment to rescue workers from the tops of turbines should the need arise. She asked who would pay for this, the county or the wind energy company?

Bacon spoke about property rights and eminent domain.

“If you lease, chances are one or more of your neighbors is going to have to deal with eminent domain. Now these are private, wind development companies, however, once they sell that power to a power purchaser, they can go to the energy commission and as in Butler County, in two weeks and a little bit of paper work...they had the power of eminent domain to go across adjacent landowners' property with power lines, with trenches, with no public hearing,” said Bacon.

Bacon said that she receives calls all the time from people wanting to buy agricultural land for farming or ranching or building a home, who want to know where the commercial wind farms are planned.

“They do not want to be anywhere near them (the wind farms),” said Bacon.

Bacon is most passionate about protecting the prairie, particularly the Flint Hills, but also the Smoky Hills that Gamesa Energy has shown continued interest in developing.

“I don't want to see them on any unique piece of prairie or any unique ecosystem. You have wonderful things here, Maxwell Wildlife Preserve, the hills, you have wonderful things here. You cannot replace, you cannot fix, native ground. You cannot redo ‘virgin.' It doesn't work,” said Bacon, who pointed out that the Native Tallgrass Prairie is the most endangered ecosystem in North America, with two-thirds of the nation's remaining Tallgrass Prairie located in the Flint Hills. She called the Tallgrass Prairie “an inverted rain forest” that absorbs carbon and converts essential oxygen.

“If you are talking green energy, this is it,” said Bacon.

In addition to Bacon's presentation, Larry Patton, dean of fine arts at Butler County Community College, highlighted the steps the Butler County community took in establishing a wind farm in that county. Patton said Butler County had a comprehensive plan and in his opinion, county commissioners there rejected the tenets of their own comprehensive plan to allow the Elk River Wind Energy facility to be built. As in McPherson County, the 8,000 acres were owned by a few landowners, in this case, four, with only one of those a local landowner living in the county. Eighty-two county citizens living near the Elk River project opposed its construction.

“We had 82 local losers and one winner in the Elk River project,” said Patton. “Federal, state and county government failed to protect the landowner rights of all the neighbors to the Elk River project,” said Patton.

Patton and Bacon encouraged the entire community of McPherson County to get involved in this issue, pointing out that if these turbines are installed in northern McPherson County, they will be visible for at least 20 miles.

“I thought Elk River was going to be bad, the visual effect. It's worse than I thought it was going to be,” said Patton.

Margie Stewart, professor at Washburn University, spoke about the importance of getting involved at the grass-roots level. Stewart emphasized the need to establish equal footing in discussions about a community's direction regarding wind energy. She said that once a large, international company approaches a county, the local citizens and their rights are relegated to “responding to the corporate agenda.”

“From that point on, we local people are playing catch-up,” said Stewart.

As far as tourism and the proposed scenic byway that affects the Lindsborg area and the proximity of the proposed wind farm to Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, the speakers agreed that the misplacing of commercial wind farms in the state's scenic areas would detract significantly from the tourism industry.


Source: http://www.mcphersonsentine...

NOV 1 2005
http://www.windaction.org/posts/575-rancher-describes-experiences-associated-with-wind-farms
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