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State leads Champaign County down road to nowhere

Urbana Daily Citizen|November 20, 2009
OhioEnergy Policy

Testimony from Ohio Power Siting Board staffer Stuart Siegfried on Wednesday in Columbus left no doubt that Champaign County is a lost little dog in the state's fledgling process to begin certifying industrial scale wind utilities in Ohio. Siegfried showed a disturbing lack of understanding of OPSB's own process with regard to determining whether to certify Buckeye Wind's application to site 70 wind turbines of up to 492 feet in height on Champaign County's east side.


Testimony from Ohio Power Siting Board staffer Stuart Siegfried on Wednesday in Columbus left no doubt that Champaign County is a lost little dog in the state's fledgling process to begin certifying industrial scale wind utilities in Ohio.

Siegfried showed a disturbing lack of understanding of OPSB's own process with regard to determining whether to certify Buckeye Wind's application to site 70 wind turbines of up to 492 feet in height on Champaign County's east side.

Champaign County Assistant Prosecutor Jane Napier's probing questions pulled back the curtain on this Wizard of Oz sham to reveal a Catch-22 process by which intervenors' testimony need not be considered in the certification. Yet if our county engineer, for example, is concerned about assuring our roads are viable before, during and after this project, an OPSB staffer now says the engineer should have filed as an intervenor.

The OPSB can't have it both ways: indicating that intervenors' testimony won't be given the same weight as Buckeye Wind's application while saying concerned parties would have been wise to ... more [truncated due to possible copyright]

     

Testimony from Ohio Power Siting Board staffer Stuart Siegfried on Wednesday in Columbus left no doubt that Champaign County is a lost little dog in the state's fledgling process to begin certifying industrial scale wind utilities in Ohio.

Siegfried showed a disturbing lack of understanding of OPSB's own process with regard to determining whether to certify Buckeye Wind's application to site 70 wind turbines of up to 492 feet in height on Champaign County's east side.

Champaign County Assistant Prosecutor Jane Napier's probing questions pulled back the curtain on this Wizard of Oz sham to reveal a Catch-22 process by which intervenors' testimony need not be considered in the certification. Yet if our county engineer, for example, is concerned about assuring our roads are viable before, during and after this project, an OPSB staffer now says the engineer should have filed as an intervenor.

The OPSB can't have it both ways: indicating that intervenors' testimony won't be given the same weight as Buckeye Wind's application while saying concerned parties would have been wise to intervene.

Or maybe OPSB can have it both ways. OPSB is following rules set forth in a process under which Champaign County is the first - underline that, the first - county to potentially host a for-profit wind utility. Translation: guinea pig.

This utility will be owned by a company, EverPower, that is multi-national, unless they sell it later to some other investor backed group, who could sell it to another, and another. It will not generate electricity for locals and it will not reduce our electric rates. It will feed electricity into a grid that powers far-away cities.

If the wind is profitable enough, this could help Ohio meet its goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. Make no mistake, this is a political process. The vast majority of the OPSB happens to be those figureheads appointed to lead our state agencies by the governor who is in power, in this case Ted Strickland.

We don't question the need for exploring renewable energy in Ohio. But when a government sets goals without a proven framework for meeting them, you end up with the kangaroo court that Champaign County is suffering at the hands of the OPSB. When that same government, at the state and federal levels, rapidly throws mountains of cash at a theoretical solution to our energy problems, you end up fueling greed and, in the case of our county, pitting neighbors against neighbors.

It's highly debatable whether the alleged tax windfalls for Champaign County will pan out, and this is the only aspect of the project in which the greater community would benefit.

In fact, another OPSB staffer testified on Thursday that local fire/EMS departments should propose a tax levy to pay for equipment and training that they will need to respond to turbine emergencies because they have an "obligation" to respond. This means local taxpayers will be asked to pay for costs unique to turbine emergencies.

EverPower is estimating that $1.5 to $2 million in initial lease payments will flow in as a result of this project, as proposed. That is not a $1.5 to $2 million tax windfall to the county, as some rumors have circulated. It's money paid directly to leaseholders.

OPSB is in no position to question optimistic future taxation estimates by EverPower, nor does not care to. Meanwhile, the wind industry is lobbying lawmakers in Columbus to reduce these for-profit wind speculators' taxes.

The OPSB is being asked to make a decision that will affect Champaign County dramatically without all the state and local taxation information needed to justify such a monumental change that affects real human beings.

In light of the serious doubt placed on the financial viability of someday decommissioning the turbines (if that time comes), the concerns about potential devaluation of residential property and future residential development, the serious threat this project poses to Grimes Field and CareFlight service and the ridiculous OPSB-blessed minimum setbacks of 914 feet from inhabited structures (rather than the 1,640 feet recommended in one turbine manufacturer's own product specs), red flags should be going up all over Champaign County. Instead, minds are closing and battle lines have been drawn. In many ways, damage has been done to our local society.

But the frighteningly uncertain taxation issues should be the best reason for a moratorium to be placed on certifying any wind utilities in Ohio until it is known how the state intends to tax them.

Doing anything other than this is like walking into a room full of deep holes wearing a blindfold and expecting to escape unscathed.

The most disturbing part of this process has been the painful chasm that apparently exists between some farmers and their frontage-lot neighbors, who have been developing the agricultural land into residential parcels for 30 years or more.

According to testimony from the public hearing at Triad on Oct. 28, some of these generation-spanning local landowners see wind turbines as a way to send a message to their residential neighbors: shut up or get out.

If farmers hadn't sold those frontage parcels over the years and if zoning had prevented urban sprawl in our county, it would look more like Hardin County - where 200 proposed turbines are meeting virtually no resistance.

But the cow is out of the barn here on residential development, thanks to the industrialization of the region, first through International Harvester and later due to Honda (along with proximity to Columbus and Dayton), and a giant spinning turbine rotor will not turn back the clock - although it could endanger the property tax base our schools, libraries and services all draw from.

We had high hopes for the credibility of this state siting process, especially after the circus that developed in Union Township between 2006 and 2008.

It appears the state led us down the Yellow Brick Road to nowhere.


Source:http://www.urbanacitizen.com/

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