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Majority of attendees back wind farm

Nearly 100 people attended West Virginia Public Service Commission's hearing on the Pinnacle Wind Farm, Thursday afternoon at the Mineral County Courthouse, with all but one of more than two dozen speakers backing the project for its economic impact, clean energy and even visual appeal. ...The deadline for a decision on the project is Jan. 11. If approved, WindForce officials hope to have the wind farm operational by the end of 2010.

KEYSER - Nearly 100 people attended West Virginia Public Service Commission's hearing on the Pinnacle Wind Farm, Thursday afternoon at the Mineral County Courthouse, with all but one of more than two dozen speakers backing the project for its economic impact, clean energy and even visual appeal.

A second hearing early in the evening drew a crowd of about fifty people.
John Rosenberger of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said wind turbines offer "good, clean energy for the nation," and the 23 proposed for the top of Green Mountain just west of Keyser promise jobs and tax revenue for the local economy.

"The estimated $131 million project offers tremendous economic develop opportunities for this area," he said.

Michael Albert, chairman of the three-member Public Service Commission, noted that Thursday's hearing was not about gathering evidence regarding wildlife impacts, wind velocity or turbine efficiency - issues that will likely be addressed next month at a week-long evidentiary hearing in Charleston - but rather to gauge "how the project is perceived in the community."

"We're here today to listen to the public," Albert said. "This is a forum for... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

KEYSER - Nearly 100 people attended West Virginia Public Service Commission's hearing on the Pinnacle Wind Farm, Thursday afternoon at the Mineral County Courthouse, with all but one of more than two dozen speakers backing the project for its economic impact, clean energy and even visual appeal.

A second hearing early in the evening drew a crowd of about fifty people.
John Rosenberger of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said wind turbines offer "good, clean energy for the nation," and the 23 proposed for the top of Green Mountain just west of Keyser promise jobs and tax revenue for the local economy.

"The estimated $131 million project offers tremendous economic develop opportunities for this area," he said.

Michael Albert, chairman of the three-member Public Service Commission, noted that Thursday's hearing was not about gathering evidence regarding wildlife impacts, wind velocity or turbine efficiency - issues that will likely be addressed next month at a week-long evidentiary hearing in Charleston - but rather to gauge "how the project is perceived in the community."

"We're here today to listen to the public," Albert said. "This is a forum for you."

A majority of the audience for the afternoon hearing was comprised of workers who would help clear the access roads, build the foundations and erect the 400-foot turbines. Iron workers, electricians, carpenters and heavy equipment operators acknowledged that the jobs will be temporary over the nearly year-long construction phase, but said that's the nature of their work.
"Part-time jobs are what we do," said Mineral County resident Bobby Rice, an iron worker. "It will bring work to this area."

Charles Weber, who helped construct the Lookout wind farm in nearby Somerset County, Pa., offered perspective on the size of the workforce needed to build such a project. When the company distributed gift cards and turkeys to the workers at Thanksgiving, he said he traveled to the site with 250 birds.

"That gives you an idea of the numbers we had up there," he said.
Weber also noted that his hotel bill alone amounted to $20,000 over the length of the Lookout project development.

Also benefiting from the Pinnacle project, said Lawrence Adams of Fairfax Materials, are support businesses like his, which provided concrete for a wind farm in Grant County. Turbines are anchored by foundations up to 35 feet deep, each constructed of about 600 yards of concrete. A typical concrete mixer truck carries eight yards of concrete.

"It brings a lot of jobs to our area," Adams said of wind farms. "It's a great project."

It wasn't just construction workers supporting the project, though. Several representatives of CME Engineering in Frostburg testified in support, noting their involvement in developing site-preparation designs for Pinnacle. Bill Llewellyn of CME said he has been working on the project for five years.
"I've turned over just about every rock there is to turn over on this site," he said. "It's a super site."

Also speaking in favor of the project was a representative from NewPage paper mill, which is partnering with US WindForce to develop the Pinnacle project. Bill Hoffman, superintendent of Pulp, Power and Recovery at the Luke mill, noted that six of the turbines will be located on NewPage property.
"We are pleased to be involved with a project that's helping to support the growth of sustainable energy...," he said. "Our involvement in renewable energy projects, such as the Green Mountain project, allows us to continue to meet the expectations of our customers to further our environmental stewardship efforts."

Several speakers noted the positive effects wind provides in the effort to make the United States less dependent on foreign oil, and to reduce greenhouse gases.

Rachel Martin of Grant County said wind energy helps reduce reliance on coal, which contributes to global warming. "It may not be totally perfect in every way," Martin said of wind, "but we have to start somewhere."

Gary Wilson of New Creek said he is one of the property owners who would lease their land to the Pinnacle owners. Describing himself as "a lover of West Virginia's great outdoors," he said the project is good for the country, good for him, and good for the local economy. "I believe this project represents the most productive use ... of my land," he said.

Local Realtor Terry Stephens responded to arguments that have been advanced against the Pinnacle project, saying that tax credits offered by the federal government provide an incentive "to do what's right." Noting the charge that wind farms don't pay the taxes promised, he said that is a matter for state and county tax officials. "You levy the taxes, and they'll pay it," he said.

Stephens also disputed the notion that the turbines will detract from the region's mountain views, and property values. He said his firm recently sold three properties along the Allegheny Front at a premium price, and all three "wanted to see the (Grant County) turbines from their lots."

Ridgeley Mayor Richard Lechliter, the first to testify, also addressed that view-shed issue. After noting the many economic benefits the project will provide, he said one man's eyesore is another's beacon.

"I and most people I know find the sight of wind turbines visually appealing," he said.

Also testifying in support of Pinnacle was Rick Linthicum of the Mineral County Development Authority, who described the project as "good economic growth."

The lone dissenter at Thursday's afternoon hearing was retired Potomac State College biology professor Paula Piehl, who said she would "speak for the organisms that can't speak for themselves." Piehl expressed concern about bird migration through the area, particularly at night and on cloudy days, when birds will fly beneath the clouds, and possibly into the turbine's blades. "This ridgeline is unique...," she said. "It is part of a fly-way for bird species."

Noting an ongoing lawsuit in another community, Piehl also questioned whether WindForce would remain committed to funding its promised community benefit fund, set to be established with an initial $50,000 donation, and $20,000 a year subsequently, for the life of the project.
Members of the PSC and their staff will tour the Pinnacle site today. The commisison will conduct its evidentiary hearing - the culminating hearing on the project - beginning Monday, October 26, at the commission's office in Charleston. The PSC has blocked off the entire week to conduct the hearing, if necessary.

The deadline for a decision on the project is Jan. 11. If approved, WindForce officials hope to have the wind farm operational by the end of 2010.

"This is not the end of it," PSC Chairman Albert said of Thursday's hearings.


Source: http://www.newstribune.info...

SEP 25 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/22356-majority-of-attendees-back-wind-farm
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