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In March, push comes to shove

We hope other Virginia localities watching these proceedings will profit from learning that currently unreliable wind power is green only for those who are allowed to siphon off government money at taxpayers’ expense and that as this high-cost energy is fed back into the grid, it will result in higher, not lower, electric bills for users. And we hope the cumulative anguish of Highlanders expressed during the hearings will give other decision-makers pause when they consider the real costs of wrongly-sited wind power.

Early in this new year, the debate over construction of industrial scale wind generation in Highland will arrive at a pivotal point. State Corporation Commission public hearings here in mid-March will re-examine old arguments and present new ones on a scale and in the kind of detail not yet experienced. The forces on both sides will rally for a showdown we predict will be as emotionally brutal as it will be enlightening.

In the end, we remain convinced, the entire state will see clearly that wind power may have its place, but is wrong for our mountains and that those who pursue it are driven not by concern for the environment, but by the opportunity to pocket huge profits offered by huge taxpayer subsidies. When the smoke clears, there can be no other conclusion. Whether reason will triumph over the leverage of powerful special interests remains to be seen.

Nothing much has changed in the nearly four years since Highlanders first learned they were targeted as guinea pigs for the burgeoning wind industry. Least of all the minds of two of our county supervisors who, against clear majority opinion and for reasons they refuse to divulge, are adamant they know what’s best for Highland better than... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
Early in this new year, the debate over construction of industrial scale wind generation in Highland will arrive at a pivotal point. State Corporation Commission public hearings here in mid-March will re-examine old arguments and present new ones on a scale and in the kind of detail not yet experienced. The forces on both sides will rally for a showdown we predict will be as emotionally brutal as it will be enlightening.

In the end, we remain convinced, the entire state will see clearly that wind power may have its place, but is wrong for our mountains and that those who pursue it are driven not by concern for the environment, but by the opportunity to pocket huge profits offered by huge taxpayer subsidies. When the smoke clears, there can be no other conclusion. Whether reason will triumph over the leverage of powerful special interests remains to be seen.

Nothing much has changed in the nearly four years since Highlanders first learned they were targeted as guinea pigs for the burgeoning wind industry. Least of all the minds of two of our county supervisors who, against clear majority opinion and for reasons they refuse to divulge, are adamant they know what’s best for Highland better than the people they represent. With exquisite narrow-mindedness these two men insist the possibility of unknown tax revenues from wind facilities is reason enough to risk permanently despoiling the county’s unique natural heritage, diminishing property values, endangering wildlife and breaking the spirit of many hundreds of Highlanders, native and newcomers alike, who live here for the values they can find practically nowhere else.

In nearby Grant County, W.Va., a very similar struggle is taking place. The difference is the developer there is not pretending to be a small family enterprise. NedPower and Shell Oil are combining to force through a 200-unit wind generating facility that dwarfs Highland New Wind’s current plans. As in Highland, adjacent landowners have gone to the courts seeking relief from such abuse that would, as here, fly in the face of that county’s long-standing vision of itself as a place for tourism, second homes, environmental recreation and cottage industry.
Opponents also allege Shell could shelter $100 million in conventional profits through the life of the project and then simply abandon the towers when and if the subsidies that make them profitable run out.

The SCC will not make its decision based on emotional issues, but we hope at least the true nature of corporate motives will be brought into fuller perspective in the course of our hearings. We hope other Virginia localities watching these proceedings will profit from learning that currently unreliable wind power is green only for those who are allowed to siphon off government money at taxpayers’ expense and that as this high-cost energy is fed back into the grid, it will result in higher, not lower, electric bills for users. And we hope the cumulative anguish of Highlanders expressed during the hearings will give other decision-makers pause when they consider the real costs of wrongly-sited wind power.

While these hearings should not have been expedited for the benefit of the McBride family, we are nonetheless optimistic the level of skepticism about subsidized wind power has risen statewide and nationally to the point that the bald assumption wind power is good because it creates no pollution no longer flies unopposed. Wind is no energy panacea and it is certainly no cause for sacrifice of a locality’s quality of life for the common good. In terms of national or global energy needs, wind is a drop in the bucket and always will be. In terms of the destruction it can wreak on people who lack the political clout to defend themselves, it’s seismic. In March, an organized and motivated opposition will have a virtually unrestricted opportunity to drive those points home.

A few years ago, wind developers could bully their way into about any place by impressing local officials with visions of tax dollars and a sense of national obligation. It’s not that easy any more — and it certainly won’t be that easy on March 13-14 in the Highland Elementary School auditorium, where Highland New Wind and our supervisors will need to make a far more detailed and persuasive case than they have managed so far.

Source: http://therecorderonline.co...

JAN 5 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/904-in-march-push-comes-to-shove
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