Monday, April 16, 2007

Hays Daily News: Fair & Balanced Wind Farm Coverage?

You be the judge. We already know from our supporters just how many letters protesting the wind energy development project have not been printed in the Hays Daily, and how many people have been apparently allowed only one letter without any follow-ups. Now we have the managing editor pretending to walk the middle ground in an opinion piece, all while undermining the position of opponents with a slew of half truths and fallacies.

In the piece, "Wind Giant Blows into the High Plains, by Ron Fields, April 13, 2007", Ron starts out talking about what a 'big dog' Iberdrola is (the Spanish corporation that just bought all CPV wind venture holdings) and implies how lucky Ellis County is to be 'picked from the litter'. We receive these nuggets of information, among others.

RF: "Iberdrola has 4,400MW of capacity in place, with another 15,000MW in development globally."
"To say Iberdrola is in growth mode is an understatement"
"They’re coming in with full force,” Belyeu said. “And I’ve heard that’s kind of their M.O."

So much for in-depth reporting. How about these quotes on Iberdrola that I translated from an article written about them in their home country entitled: Iberdrola: Neither Green Nor a Clean Player: "Of the large businesses in the sector, (Iberdrola) is one of the most invested in the generation of electricity from renewable sources, specifically wind power and mini-hydroelectric projects. Notwithstanding, these installations form only a small part of their generating facilities. During 2002, according to data released by their own company, generation from renewables did not reach 4% of their total production. The bulk of the energy sold under the ‘brand name’ Iberdrola is of nuclear origin, specifically 46% in 2002, and the rest was derived from coal and other fossil fuels (28%), large hydroelectric dams (18%) and ‘combined cycle’ cogeneration facilities. For Ecologists in Action, the company’s publicity of its tiny proportion of low environmental impact generation constitutes a blatant attempt to defraud consumers who, purchasing power from Iberdrola, believe they are utilizing electricity that will not generate any environmental problems."

"But the truth lies very far from the promotional statements. The accumulation of highly active radioactive waste directly attributable to the participation of Iberdrola in the operation of centralized nuclear reactors rose to 1.294 metric tons in 2002. The disposal of these wastes is not the responsibility of the company, but rather all citizens who pay and must continue to pay for their storage for the duration of their hazardous lifespan… To this must be added the production of radioactive wastes of medium and low activity that are stored in El Cabril (Cordoba) in a government installation. Ecologists in Action estimate that in 2002 the nuclear activities of Iberdrola sent to El Cabril 568 cubic meters of these wastes… "

"The company takes pride in the high proportion of its electrical generation that does not contribute to CO2 generation, yet their own emissions in the past year surpassed 13.5 million metric tons."

"For Ecologists in Action, renewable energies form only a small part of the business of Iberdrola, a company that continues to create a large environmental impact and that gives no indication of achieving any substantial reduction in the future."

So back to Ron Field's article… "There has been ample opposition to CPV Wind Hays’ proposed 135-turbine wind plant pitched for the west side of town, especially from folks in the immediate vicinity who won’t directly reap the benefits of a business arrangement with the company."

Precisely. And that's because there are only a handful of these 'benefit reapers'. Why don’t you perform some useful journalism Ron - maybe print for public view the financial contract for this deal so we can see exactly where all the money is going?

"One wonders why the windmill farm will be tucked so snugly against town. If there’s one thing northwest Kansas has, it’s space."

The easy answer to your question is two words: selfish greed. On the part of landowners for easy money, and on the part of the corporation who would love to use the existing Hays power grid to avoid costs of upgrading infrastructure elsewhere.

"Concerns over 24/7 “whoop-whoops,” aesthetics and property values are certainly valid and must be weighed against the overall economic benefit to the county and the region. But some concerns come across as sour grapes…"

Sour grapes!? I think you would have to actually receive some grapes in order to determine if they are sour or not. There is no compensation package proposed for those whose property values would plummet.

RF: "One gripe: The energy is being sold to Denver. Don’t we all want to export more of our locally produced goods and services? Isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t the idea to replace fossil-fuel generated power with renewable-sourced energy on the national grid?"

Actually, we have no idea where the energy will be sold - we don't even know how many times the WHOLE PROJECT will be sold - before the first tower goes in. It might be a good thing if the Hays Community were getting compensated fairly for this industrial mega-project, but we aren't. The huge environmental costs of harvesting this wind will all be borne locally, while the local share of direct profits from such projects (typically 3-4 %) will all go to just a few families. As far as replacing fossil-fuel generated power, wind energy CANNOT do that in its present form. Actual wind power production averages 1/3 or less of 'nameplate' capacity. They are realizing that in Europe right now after 20 years of follies and environmental tragedies.

Germany has 48 gigawatts of 'nameplate' wind energy generation capability but its ACTUAL USE in an average year is only 2 gigawatts, such is the unreliability of wind power. Here is a quote from the Chairman of the Federal Association for Landscape Protection in Germany: "Soon we "celebrate" the 20,000th wind plant, without replacing even one single small plant of conventional energy."

But you don’t have to go that far abroad. According to utility company records, power produced by the Montezuma, KS, wind complex during the heat wave of July last year - a period of peak demand - was only 3% of it's nameplate capacity. Wind power is typically not there when you need it - and turbines continue to spin needlessly when other power sources are online.

RF: "Another: Wind farms create an environmental wasteland. Isn’t this exactly the kind of project green folks have been clamoring over for the past 25 years? Is the evil in the morality equation harmful emissions that are decaying Mother Earth or fat, rich-guy wallets?"

Both Ron. I guess you didn't take any ecology during your journalism degree. Yes, 'green folks' have been clamoring for renewable energy, but this is not green power, it is inefficient, unreliable power generation mandated by ill-advised, if well-intentioned, government subsidies. The wind may be free, but each of these monster machines comes with a massive carbon and environmental footprint that far exceeds whatever carbon emission reductions are achieved by its operation, if any. Keep in mind, each tower installation causes geological disturbance to an area larger than a football field, and that's not counting all the access roads required. Other municipalities have demanded decommissioning bonds of $1,000,000 per tower - our agreement has no binding provision for any decommissioning whatsoever.

Keith Martin, Chadbourne and Parke, LLP, Financing Wind Power conference, Dec. 3-5, 2003, New York, N.Y. (a wind power developer, plying his wares): "Federal tax benefits pay as much as 65% of the capital cost of wind power projects in the United States." So Ron, maybe now you can see what kind of dog food your 'big dog' has been eating. In the words of Congressman Pete Stark of Hayward, who led the fight to terminate the investment tax credits for wind power generation in California, "These aren't wind farms, they're tax farms".

RF: "Another: This is a secret deal being pushed under the noses of an unsuspecting public. Nope. Our stories on this project date back to at least the fall of 2005."

From a quote by Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV within the Hays Daily's own story on the Aug. 27, 2005 meeting: "This has happened in seven days,” he said. “You’ve had a year and a half and we’ve only had seven days to consider it.” So apparently even the Commissioners felt ambushed at that time. And if, as a resident, you weren't fortunate enough to notice a series of blurbs in the Hays Daily, well too bad for you if you're uninformed, right Ron? That was fair public disclosure, in your book.

In fact, several of your early articles speak of failed proposals, and the only positive ones suggest a series of 40-50 turbines, a number that has somehow mushroomed to 140 and possibly more.

Here we have more than 50 families completely blindsided by the imminence of this obscene project and a zoning notification is sent out only to those people whose properties are within 1000 feet of a windmill! You can hear these things from more than a mile away and see them from 20 miles! Still seem fair enough to you?

And if this project is so great for Hays, why haven’t these landowners been active in publicizing its benefits to the community? I would contend that there are none. And that $600.000 'bribe' to the county by CVP, you ask? Regardless of any contract, this will be considered an 'unrestricted gift'. It would be a 'payment without consideration' - tendered in lieu of taxation. Which means there is no legal recourse for the county in case of default on the payment, since the payment is not linked to any requirement to provide a service.

RF: "I haven’t decided about the Hays wind farm, but I do know that we should be collectively salivating and aggressively investigating any chance to add to our economic diversity and stimulate growth."

Fine Ron, but this is not the kind of 'growth' we want or need. The fact is, Hays is one community in western Kansas that is already growing - without any help from industrial wind power development, thank you very much. And this is exactly the type of development that will stifle many other kinds of more desirable growth. It will spell the end of all residential development west of town. People will fly in to the Hays airport from Denver and think, "Wow - I'm glad I don’t live down there."

Ron says he's undecided about the wind energy project, but I think that in truth he is uninformed. Hopefully next time Ron will do some actual research before pretending not to have an opinion on a subject.

To Sign the Petition:
If you are an Ellis County, Kansas, resident and you wish to support a petition to stop this wind farm from being constructed next to Hays, Kansas, you can follow this link and leave your name, real address, and a single comment about your support of this petition. Click here now!

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