Commentary by Marita Noon
If Hillary Clinton becomes our next president, one of the changes you can expect is an invasion of industrial wind development in your community that has the potential to severely damage your property values, ruin the viewshed, impact your sleep patterns, and cause your electricity rates to “necessarily skyrocket” – all thanks to your tax dollars.
The Democratic presidential candidate frequently references her pledge to install 500 million solar panels. Her website promises: “The United States will have more than half a billion solar panels installed across the country by the end of Hillary Clinton’s first term.” And, while we know she wants to make America “the clean energy super power of the 21st century,” finding her position on wind energy is not so obvious. Perhaps that is because, as more and more people learn more about its impacts on their lives, its support continues to wane.
More and more communities are saying: “We don’t want wind turbines here.” For example, in Ohio, a wind project was “downed” when the Logan County Commissioners voted unanimously to reject EverPower’s request for a payment in lieu of taxes to build 18 wind turbines – though since then, the developer is taking another bite at the project, and the locals are furious. In Michigan, the entire Lincoln Township Board opposes a plan from DTE Energy to bring 50 to 70 more wind turbines to the community – despite the fact that four of the five members would profit from easement agreements they’d previously signed.
While not one of her top talking points, a President Hillary will increase the amount of taxpayer dollars available to industrial wind developers. At a July 2015 campaign stop in Iowa, she supported tax incentives and said: “We need to continue the production tax credits.” Previously, she claimed that she wants to make the production tax credits (PTC) for wind and solar permanent. (Note: without the PTC, even the wind industry acknowledges it won’t “be able to continue.”) She frequently says: “I want more wind, more solar, more advanced biofuels, more energy efficiency.” Remember, her party platform includes: “We are committed to getting 50 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources within a decade.” And: “We believe America must be running entirely on clean energy by mid-century.”
So, if your area hasn’t been faced with the construction of the detrimental and dangerous turbines, you can expect that it will be – even if you live in an area not known to be windy. That’s the bad news. The good news is the more wind turbines spring up, the more opposition they receive – and, therefore, the more tools there are available to help break the next wind project.
Rather than trying to figure out what to do on your own, John Droz, Jr., a North Carolina-based physicist and citizen advocate, who has worked with about 100 communities, encourages citizens who want to protect their community from the threat of a proposed wind project to maximize the resources that are available to them.
Kevon Martis, who, as the volunteer director of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, has helped protect citizens in 7 states, told me: “Nothing makes it harder for a wind developer in one community than if the neighboring community already has an operating wind plant. Once they can see the actual impacts of turning entire townships into 50 story tall power plants, they can no longer be led down the primrose path by wind companies and their agents.” Martis’ equitable wind zoning advocacy has been extremely effective. In his home state of Michigan, wind has been on the ballot at the Township level 11 times since 2009 and has never won. In Argyle Township, in Sanilac County, Invenergy spent $164,000 in campaign funds in the 36-square-mile township, yet the people prevailed at the ballot box.
Two communities in Vermont have industrial wind on the ballot on November 8 and it is playing a big role in the state’s gubernatorial race where many Democrats are pledging to vote for the Republican candidate, who opposes more wind energy development. There, the foreign developer is essentially offering a bribe to the voters to approve the project.
Martis uses a concept he calls “trespass zoning” – which he says is a “de facto subsidy extracted from neighbors without any compensation.” Because the definition of trespassing is: “to enter the owner’s land or property without permission,” Martis argues that wind turbine setbacks, that cross the property line and go to the dwelling, allows the externalities of wind development – noise pollution, turbine rotor failure and its attendant debris field, property value loss, and visual blight – to trespass. He explains: “Where the wind developer can use these unleased properties for nuisance noise and safety easements free of charge, they have no reason to approach the neighboring residents to negotiate a fair price for their loss of amenity. Trespass zoning has deprived wind plant neighbors of all economic bargaining power. It has donated their private property to the neighboring landowner’s wind developer tenant.”
Droz agrees that zoning is important – as are regulations. He believes that since an industrial wind project is something you may have to live with for more than 20 years, it seems wise to carefully, objectively, and thoughtfully investigate the matter ahead of time. Droz says: “In most circumstances, your first line of defense is a well-written, protective set of wind-energy regulations that focus on protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the community. They can be a stand-alone law, or part of a more comprehensive zoning document.”
Mary Kay Barton, a citizen activist from New York State, began writing about the industrial wind issue more than a dozen years ago when her home area in Western New York State was targeted by industrial wind developers. Wyoming County was slated to have more than 2,000 industrial wind turbines strewn throughout its 16 Townships. So far, the massive projects have been limited by the outrage of residents to the current 308 turbines in 5 rural districts. Barton told me: “We wouldn’t even be talking about industrial wind if cronyism at the top wasn’t enabling the consumer fraud of industrial wind to exist with countless subsidies, incentives and renewable mandates.”
Minnesota citizen energy activist, Kristi Rosenquist, points out: “Wind is promoted as mitigating climate change and benefiting local rural economies – it does neither.”
Through his free citizen advocacy service, Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions, Droz tries to make it easier for communities to succeed when dealing with industrial wind energy by learning lessons from some of the other 250 communities – including those near Martis, Barton, and Rosenquist – that have had to deal with it.
At WiseEnergy.org, Droz has a wealth of information available including a model wind energy law that is derived from existing effective ordinances plus inputs from numerous independent experts. He advocates a wind energy law that contains carefully crafted conditions about these five elements:
- Property value guarantees;
- Turbine setbacks;
- Noise standards;
- Environmental assessment and protections; and
Droz, Martis, Barton, and Rosenquist are just four of the many citizen advocates that have had to become experts on the adverse impacts of wind energy – which provides negligible benefits while raising taxes and electricity rates. Because of their experiences, many are willing to help those who are just now being faced with the threat.
Because I’ve frequently written on wind energy and the favorable tax and regulatory treatment it receives, I often have people reaching out to me for help – but I am not the expert, just the messenger. These folks are dealing with it day in and day out.
Here are some additional resources they suggest:
If the threat of industrial wind energy development isn’t a problem for you now, save this information, as it likely would be under a Hillary Clinton presidency.
Barton explains: “My town was able to stop the ludicrous siting of these environmentally-destructive facilities by enacting a citizen-protective law back in 2007. Since then, however, Governor Cuomo enacted what I refer to as his ‘Power-Grab NY Act,’ which stripped ‘Home Rule’ from New York State communities and placed the decision-making process regarding energy-generation facilities above 25 MW (that translates: industrial wind factories) in the hands of five unelected Albany bureaucrats. Other states are sure to follow Cuomo’s authoritarian lead. I urge people to be pro-active! Get protective laws on the books now – before corrupt officials steal your Constitutional rights to decide for yourselves.”
Think about your community 20, 40, 60+ years from now.
“There was a time when the environmental movement opposed noise pollution, fought industrial blight, and supported ‘little guys’ whose quality of life was threatened by ‘corporate greed,'” writes Martis. “But that was a long time ago, before wind energy.”
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy – which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.