Saturday, June 30, 2007

Wind farm is all about the money

The following letter by J.P. Michaud, Ellis County resident, was printed in the Hays Daily News, on June 29, 2007:

Opponents of the wind project have recently been subjected to a series of scathing public allegations from Dana Kraus, whose hope was to retire with the money from his windmills because, “I don’t have a 401(k).”

I publicly challenge Dana to accompany me to the 400-foot met tower on Palmer land with a notary public and measure its shadow so we can triangulate its height. If it is not in excess of 300 feet, I will pay him $1,000 in cash which he can use to start a retirement plan.

To my knowledge, there have been no unlawful actions reported against project proponents. Public shaming with signs, print and the Internet to be sure, but nothing illegal and all based on facts that are matters of common knowledge and public record. Otherwise, I am sure we would all be facing lawsuits by now. In contrast, opponents have had our signs defaced, suffered several costly acts of vandalism on oil leases, and one suspicious fire in a business immediately following a petition drive there. We also have received anonymous threats and “poison pen” letters — we have simply not sought to portray ourselves as victims in the media to the extent that proponents have.

I venture that if the project’s supporters fear harassment, it is fear borne out of guilt for their own selfish greed.

We have heard proponents speak vehemently about the social benefits of wind energy and how we should embrace it to save the planet. It is cleaner electricity than that produced by burning coal. It will help reduce global warming. It will bring economic development to the community. It is the socially responsible course of action. For these reasons, they have established the Ellis County Supporters of Wind to “educate” the community.

So why was this group not formed at the project’s inception? They would have had three years to “educate” us. But regardless of whether one believes these claims, it is hard to accept them as motivation for the project.

The real motive is profit — both corporate and personal. Is anyone naive enough to believe that Disgen/CPV/Iberdrola would push this project simply to benefit our community?

After the demise of Enron, its subsidiary Enron Wind was acquired by General Electric and quickly set the tone for aggressive wind energy development in the USA. Around this time, Disgen began as “single-asset” LLC corporation. The single asset? A pile of leases and easements covertly obtained by Krista Gordon entitling them to conditional land uses. Notably, this single asset will soon be rendered worthless if their application is denied. No wonder Krista is scrambling.

Why would Iberdrola pay $67 million for a collection of land use entitlements? As Kristen Sullivan put it to me, they have the “tax appetite” for this kind of project. They have the large capital expenditures necessary to fully exploit all the federal tax breaks in ways that smaller corporations cannot, tax breaks totaling about $160 million.

Envision your tax dollars going down a pipeline directly to Spain. Iberdrola is also responsible for massive carbon emissions worldwide and is therefore highly motivated to obtain carbon credits however possible, the most attractive being obtained from government-subsidized wind energy developments. You have to be a big international player to trade carbon credits on the world stage and we are poised to become another poker chip in their stack.

Of the 15 or so people who have attended the first few supporters’ meetings, virtually all have a family or corporate interest in the project. I suspect we could learn more from them if they educated us on how to manipulate local politics for personal gain. The local profits go to seven families, and 58 percent go to Dana Kraus’s family (details here in the post “Corruption in Zoning”), while 100 families will have their quality of life destroyed and their properties devalued. Still, they publicly compare opponents to Nazis and expect us to believe that they are doing this for the good of the community and to help save the planet.

We know better. It is all about the money — these are people seeking financial gain with complete disregard for their neighbor’s health, investments and peace of mind.

Submitted by:
J.P. Michaud
1189 180th Ave.
Hays, Kansas

Friday, June 29, 2007

Another Wind Farm Petition Reaches County Clerk’s Desk

The following article by reporter Kaley Lyon was printed in the Hays Daily News on June 29, 2007:

Another petition regarding the proposed Ellis County wind farm was presented to the Ellis County clerk Thursday. This one requests a complete moratorium on the project and consists of 760 signatures.

The document does not protest wind energy, but requests cautious and balanced deliberation before the county proceeds, states the cover letter, which is endorsed by the Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition.

“The objective is to have, similar to any other project of this magnitude, a proper, government-commissioned, independent impact assessment of the economic and environmental consequences of this,” said J.P. Michaud, one of three people who submitted the petition. “It’s not an unreasonable demand.”

The signatures represent adults in Ellis County, Michaud said, and most were obtained in person, either by solicitation or petition drives.

A total of 96 signatures, however, were obtained online at the ECEAC Web site, 55 of which were not later obtained in hard copy.

About 100 signatures were collected during the ECEAC’s presentation May 2 at Fox Pavilion, he said.

“Before May 2, we had fewer than 50 (signatures),” Michaud said. “So in two months, we’ve collected over 700.”

The objective of the petition is not to protest wind energy as a whole, but to request assessments prior to decision-making, Michaud said.

“We’re not saying no to wind energy,” he said. “We’re saying that the zoning board is supposed to have a comprehensive plan in place for such a development, and they do not.”

The citizen petition requests four assessments be completed: an assessment of net economic impact, fair and equitable compensation packages for affected landowners, environmental hazards and community liability.

County Clerk Alberta Klaus said the petition will be delivered to Ellis County commissioners on Monday.

What the petition says:

We, the undersigned, request a COMPLETE MORATORIUM on the proposed Hays Wind Farm Proposal until such time as the following comprehensive assessments can be made by qualified persons or agencies without financial interests in this project:
  1. Assessment of net economic impact of this project on the community and all affected residents.
  2. Assessment of fair and equitable compensation packages for affected landowners whose property values will be depressed.
  3. Assessment of the numerous environmental hazards posed by this development to the entire surrounding community, including impacts on human and animal health, water table contamination, air quality issues, noise and visual pollution, and all the localized impacts associated with the construction phase of the project.
  4. Assessment of community liability in “worst case scenarios,” either economic or environmental.
The cover letter that accompanied the petition reads as follows:
Dear Sirs,

Please find attached a petition from the citizens of Ellis County requesting a moratorium on wind energy development in the county until such time as a qualified, independent assessment of all impacts, both environmental and economic, can be commissioned by an appropriate government authority.

Our petition has been signed by 760 adult residents of Ellis County. The majority of these signatures have been collected by members of the Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition through direct personal contacts with members of their community. A small fraction was obtained online at our website (listed separately).

This is not a petition opposing wind energy, but rather a request for cautious and balanced deliberation before we proceed with a very large industrial development that will permanently alter the character of our community.

Thank you,
Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition

Call to Action: Get Involved!

Citizens wishing to contact the Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition about their rights or concerns regarding any environmental impact, zoning, or citizens rights issue in regard to preserving the environment of Ellis County, may write to us at P.O. Box 464, Hays, KS 67601, or directly contact these individuals:

  • Tim Davis, Co-Chair of ECEAC, todavis{at}, 785-623-3590
  • John Schmeidler, ECEAC Co-Chair, jschmeidler{at}, 785-259-4314
  • Jacinta Faber, Media Liaison, 785-628-8817
Additionally, any Ellis Co. citizens concerned about the lack of a comprehensive zoning plan in Ellis County or the zoning irregularities should make their opinions known by attending Ellis County Commission meetings (Commission Room at the Courthouse, 1204 Fort Street, Hays, Kansas), held every Monday, and the Ellis County Planning & Zoning Meetings, held every month. Concerned citizens should also write letters to their county commissioners directly by mailing to 1204 Fort Street, Hays, Kansas. The three current commissioners for Ellis County are:
  1. Perry S Henman, Ellis Co. Commissioner, 1st District (western Hays, the city of Ellis & western Ellis Co.)
  2. Dennis J Pfannenstiel, Ellis Co. Commissioner, 2nd District (central Hays & central Ellis Co.)
  3. Vernon L Berens, Chairman, Ellis Co. Commissioner, 3rd District (eastern Hays, Victoria & eastern Ellis Co.): 785-735-9364, 785-735-2883

Approaching Green Energy Progressively

As an ecology major at the University of Kansas, I am keenly aware of the need to reduce the negative human impact on our environment. To be successful in reducing greenhouse gasses and preserve our non-renewable resources, we have two choices: make more through renewable resources or use less energy.

On the surface, wind energy seems to be a logical solution. Free power from the wind, right? Well, not exactly. Wind energy is currently quite expensive and must be heavily subsidized by the government, with our tax dollars, to compete with traditional energy production. In addition, it is not as reliable since it cannot be effectively stored, and the wind doesn’t blow all the time. This means wind energy will never be anything more than a minor supplement for our energy needs.

Germany has over 20,000 wind turbines and leads the world in wind energy production. However, they are only able to produce 4.2% of their energy potential (48 gigawatt potential, 2 gigawatt production). To date, not one single coal-powered or other traditional power plant has been replaced. In fact, Germany has stopped subsidizing wind power and future development will cease. Obviously, wind power proved to have little impact there.

So what is a progressive, effective solution to the energy problems we have? I propose that instead of spending so much money to make more energy, we use just a fraction of that money for conservation strategies that have little to no effect on our day-to-day lives.

Here’s an example. The federal government currently subsidizes wind developers approximately $1.25 million for each 1.5 MW turbine (data extrapolated from Keith Martin, Chadbourne and Parke, LLP). Iberdrola, the international corporation that has proposed the wind project in Ellis Country, would receive over $160 million from the United States. As taxpayers, we collectively cover that cost and then again pay for the electricity that it produces in our energy bill.

Now, instead of subsidizing a large foreign utility corporation, what if the federal government bought each house in Ellis county ten 15-watt compact fluorescent bulbs? These bulbs, which last an average of 5 years, would produce the same amount of light as 75-watt traditional light bulbs, but use much less energy per bulb. Based on average usage and production figures, this strategy would save enough electricity to replace two wind turbines (with energy left over) and would only cost the government $312,000. The rest of the energy could go elsewhere, and by using less energy in our households, we would save money in our electric bill.

Additionally, all of the problems and controversy associated with placing and taking down these massive structures is eliminated as well. Ultimately, we would conserve space and scenery, money, and energy. This is just one idea. There are many other ways of reducing energy consumption with little change to our daily lives.

We need to seriously consider what our goal is and pursue that goal earnestly. If our goal is to conserve energy, reduce the usage of fossil fuels and emissions of greenhouse gasses, we should look more to saving energy rather than producing more to feed our habit. Investing in conservation has a much larger impact at a much lower cost when compared to the construction of wind turbines.

If, on the other hand, our goal is to eliminate a little guilt concerning our excessive energy usage and to boost the earnings of a few multinational corporations while we are at it, it looks to me that wind turbines are the best things going.

Alex Bittel
Lawrence, Kansas

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Our Signs Vandalized

You might expect that our local wind energy proponents, who own more than 10,000 acres, could afford to put up their own signs promoting their cause, rather than scrawling their messages across ours.

Irvin’s sign before:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Irvin’s sign after:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Jan Werth’s sign before:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Jan Werth’s sign after:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Not when turbines are placed next to towns and residences

Submitted by Paul Faber, the following was also printed in the Hays Daily News, June 2007:

Once in a while you hear from an old student — sometimes second-hand — that you actually made some contribution to the student’s education. It’s most pleasant, of course, when the student seems to have actually understood what you were trying to teach and is finding it meaningful.

But it probably happens almost as often that the student will say something like, “I have always remembered when you taught us that the earth is flat,” or some other thing that you never in your wildest dreams tried to teach.

In fact, a few students studying logic sometimes seem to get the point just backward about fallacies. Fallacies are mistakes in reasoning. They look like logical arguments, but if you study them under the microscope you find there is a flaw in the reasoning.

We teach about fallacies so that people will avoid them in their own thinking and writing and speaking, or at least so we think. But every once in a while we run into someone who studies fallacies and thinks he ought to start using more of them.

The feeling that I’ve run into people who prefer to use fallacies has returned recently.

In the ongoing debate about the application for a conditional use permit for CPV Wind Hays, an application, that is, for legal permission to erect near Hays about 130 400-foot tall structures with wind turbines on top, a fallacy of relevance has popped.

Fallacies of relevance occur when someone puts forward some purported evidence for a position when that evidence is actually not relevant to the truth or falsity of the position. The evidence itself may very well be true, and it might even be emotionally appealing. But it just does not offer logical support for a position.

Here is an example of that sort of fallacy in an exaggerated form. Suppose that I claim that Mitt Romney will be our next president. When asked for my evidence I say, “Because coal is black.” It is true that coal is black, but it is just not connected to, not relevant to, the truth or the falsity of my prediction about Mr. Romney.

Here is an example of the fallacy that is a little less obvious. Suppose someone says that global warming seems to be happening and that therefore the county ought to grant CPV Wind Hays’ application to build the industrial wind complex near Hays.

Now global warming does seem to be happening. The evidence in the argument — the premise, as it is called — is true.

And there is a connection between global warming and the desirability of wind-generated electricity. Though I will not go into that whole connection, the mechanisms producing global warming are now well-known, even if known somewhat imperfectly, and the use of wind promises to be an alternative to some coal-fired power plants.

But that reasoning, even if we were to develop it in detail, shows at most (and even this is in dispute) that developing wind power is a good idea.

It does not show that this particular development of wind power is a good idea.

To say that global warming is happening and therefore we ought to build this particular wind project next to Hays is a fallacy.

It is like saying, “Open heart surgery is a good thing. Therefore you ought to have open heart surgery.” The “location” of the surgery — the person, his or her medical condition, and his or her need for the surgery — are crucial to the determination of whether or not this particular use of open heart surgery is something that ought to be done.

Similarly, using the wind to generate electricity is a good thing. But as is the case with heart surgery, the location is important.

Given the health and safety risks, the aesthetic considerations, and the unjust burdens it places on those who would reside near a turbine, the location is crucial.

Many of us support using the wind to generate electrical power, but we do not support putting them next to residential areas when there are better alternatives available.

Politicians from the eastern part of Kansas may state that the dying towns of western Kansas should be happy to host a minor level of economic development. And it may be rational for some people to accept the risks of industrial wind development to stave off the dying just as it is rational for some people to accept the risks of open heart surgery.

Wind power may be good.

But that does not prove that the CPV Wind Hays proposal to put those turbines next to Hays is a good idea. It’s not.

Submitted by Paul Faber
Hays, Kansas

Paul Faber has been teaching philosophy at Fort Hays State University for 20 years.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Mere List of Names Does Not Constitute a Petition

Submitted by J.P. Michaud:

In keeping with its continued sloppy coverage and biased reporting of the wind energy project, the Hays Daily News reported last Wednesday on the submission of a “petition” by supporters of the project. They need to buy Kaley Lyon a dictionary. From Webster’s unabridged: “Petition: A formally drawn request ... to a group of persons in authority ... soliciting some favor, right, mercy, or other benefit.”

Their list of names presented by Krista Gordon (in favor of building the industrial wind complex) cannot be considered a petition in any sense of the word as they are not signatories to any formal request addressed to anyone in authority. Theire prepaid, mail-in responses simply expressed general support for wind energy and the supposed “millions of dollars” it would bring to Ellis County.

This is a zoning issue dealing with the appropriateness of land use in a specific location (despite the apparent inability of zoning board members to grasp this charge).

In the Hays Daily News coverage of their "petition," there was no mention in the proponent’s letter of support regarding this project’s specific location beyond “Ellis County.” That could mean the 20 sections of land in the southwest corner of the county where almost nobody lives — and where I suspect there would be little opposition to siting the project.

Therefore, their list of names is completely irrelevant to the crux of the controversy: the siting of this project on top of 100 families that don’t want to live with it. Proponents have produced a list of supporters of wind energy in the most general of terms, not supporters of this project’s proposed location. Theirs is just one more cheap publicity stunt by Krista Gordon.

Contrast this to our citizen’s petition from our coalition we will be submitting soon. Ours was obtained largely by word-of-mouth, knocking on doors and other personal forms of contact. Ours has a clearly stated request addressed to the county commissioners — a moratorium on wind energy development within the county until an independent and unbiased assessment of all impacts can be performed. So vague is the statement of supporters that it is possible to agree with it and also agree that a moratorium is needed. In fact, a number of their signors subsequently signed our petition — without contradicting themselves in any way.

Closer examination of their list of “supporters” reveals many apartment numbers (most reflecting temporary student housing), apparent names of children, at least one deceased person, and even the name of one of our supporters who cannot understand how his name appeared on the list.

We doubt that more than a tiny fraction of people on their list would be willing to step forward and actively protest any decision to reject this project.

On the other hand, our list represents a large number of people who have already shown they are willing to commit considerable time and financial resources to defending this community against corporate exploitation and creating a sizable political backlash if this project is approved.

Submitted by:
J.P. Michaud
1189 180th Ave.
Hays, Kansas

Monday, June 25, 2007

Why it's not in the best interest of Ellis County, city of Hays, or local residents

The following letter was published in the Hays Daily News, June 2007, submitted by Barbara-Jean Ottley, MD, a physician and resident in Hays, Kansas.

I feel as if our community has been kept in the dark about the 130-plus wind turbine facility to be located in Ellis County. I am a neurologist in the Hays community, a taxpayer and a voting constituent.

After doing a bit of research regarding wind turbines, I believe all of us residing in Ellis County need to be involved in making the decision of whether or not we should permit a wind turbine facility to be located 5 miles from the city of Hays. I am an advocate of wind and solar power. I believe wind power is an excellent manner in which to generate electricity.

But, I do not believe it is in the best interest of Ellis County and the city of Hays to have this facility within 5 miles of our community.

I especially do not believe it is safe for landowners to live within 1 to 2 miles of the wind turbines.

The literature available on the medical consequences related to “wind turbine syndrome” indicate there are numerous symptoms reported by inhabitants living in close proximity to the wind turbines. The long-term effects due to constant exposure to low-frequency noise generated by wind turbines is not fully and completely known. Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine lists the symptoms from this syndrome as: chronic sleep disturbances, nausea, problems with concentration and learning, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), exhaustion, anxiety, irritability and depression.

In susceptible individuals, wind turbines have been noted to cause vertigo (sensation of spinning or turning), imbalance, motion sickness, nausea and triggering of seizures.

An international research group, the Vibroacoustic Disease Project centered in Portugal, has extensively published on the effects of low-frequency noise on the cardiovascular, pulmonary and neurologic systems. The ongoing research from the late 1980s describe Vibroacoustic Disease as including fibrosis (the laying down of fibrous thickening in the form of collagen) in the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems and seizures and cognitive changes in the brain caused long-term exposure to low frequency noise (less than 500 Hz), most of which cannot be heard. (Wind Turbine Syndrome by Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD, Aug. 2006). Sound waves of certain wavelengths resonate inside the body, setting up vibrations to which the body responds by reinforcing its tissues with extra collagen, causing thickening of the pericardium (membrane around the heart) and cardiac valves, fibrosis of the lungs, and proliferation of the supporting (glial) cells in the brain.

How long will it take before the inhabitants of Ellis County experience these effects?

Is it correct that our three elected county commissioners will be given the responsibility of determining whether this facility will be located near the city of Hays? I have been informed that at least 100 homeowners will be living in close proximity to the wind turbines. How will we compensate them for any medically related events suffered by them from vibroacoustic disease and wind turbine syndrome?

I can only hope our county commissioners will vote responsibly and vote “no” on allowing a wind turbine facility to locate within a few thousand feet of homeowners, and a few miles from a populated city.

This is not a decision that should be made by a few. As a physician and a concerned citizen of the Hays community, I would like to ask our community be involved in making the decision of allowing an industrial wind turbine facility to locate within a few miles of our city.

Our Kansas Legislature should be required to set up a panel of experts to review the data and medical information available on wind turbine facilities. As a community, we need to request a moratorium be issued to allow time to study the safe issues, both medical and environmental, relating to wind turbine facilities.

Also, do we in Ellis County fully understand the other non-health related factors that might come about by close proximity to wind turbines? How will these structures affect cell towers, phone signals, Doppler radar, cardiac pacemakers, increased stray voltage, fire hazard, ice throwing from the blades, changes in our wildlife and environment, and lastly the property value of the homes located within a few miles of these structures?

As concerned citizens, I urge you to write to your representatives, senators and governor asking why no state or federal law has determined the safe distance in which to live next to a windpowered turbine.

It is our right and our duty to fully be informed before we allow a new industry the right to change the world in which we live.

The health and welfare of too many Ellis County inhabitants is at stake at this moment.

Are we willing to accept this risk?

Submitted by:
Barbara-Jean Ottley, MD
2740 Thunderbird Drive
Hays, KS 67601

Friday, June 22, 2007

An Open Letter to Patrick Lowry, Editor and Publisher of The Hays Daily News

I am writing to express my disappointment in the HDN’s coverage of the industrial wind project. I am disappointed at many levels and will begin by questioning the wisdom of assigning a novice reporter to what is arguably the biggest story to come out of Ellis County in years. Ms. Lyon is a very decent person but seems to lack the experience or the chutzpah that a veteran reporter might need to investigate a story of this magnitude.

Secondly, I question what business the HDN has in endorsing a controversial industry moving into Ellis County. Aside from the belief that any government subsidized industry tends to distort the market, along with concerns about whether this project will even break even, how is it that the HND is willing to take a stand on either side? It appears to readers that it has affected the objectivity of your reporting. By making this endorsement early on in the debate, it has in a sense put you out on a limb. Some people have suggested to me that this breach of journalist ethics could be explained by your receiving some preferential consideration from CPV, such as a lucrative advertising contract. I have no idea whether this has occurred or not, but this scenario would perhaps explain this breach of journalistic ethics.

Finally, by ignoring the conflicts of interest in the development and implementation of zoning, you are doing a disservice to the community. I urge you to go to and study the Ellis County Adopted Zoning Regulations. There is repeated mention of a comprehensive plan, a plan which must be in place prior to inviting a half a billion dollar industry into Ellis County. We have no comprehensive plan! This is disturbing. Without a vision for the county, industry can be placed willy- nilly with nothing to stop it. Why has the HDN ignored this issue?

It is not too late for the HDN to begin investigating the problems with our zoning. This is the first big challenge we as a county have encountered since zoning was established. Though the task is unpleasant, the HDN could actually help the community not only now but in the future by uncovering the problems with our zoning.

Jacinta Faber

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Citizens in Opposition to the Location of the Industrial Wind Complex Make History

PRESS RELEASE: For Immediate Release, June 21, 2007
Contact: Jacinta Faber, Media Liaison, (785)-628-8817

Yesterday morning, Wednesday, June 20th, on the second floor of the Ellis County Court House, history was made:

Citizens brought in the first ever protest petition since the county's adoption of zoning regulations and procedures. The protest petition was submitted by the Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition, ECEAC, to Alberta Klaus, County Clerk.

The purpose of the protest petition is to allow citizens to express opposition to the land use application submitted by CPV Wind Hays for the construction of a wind project south and west of Prairie Acres.

The protest petition, as stated in the zoning regulations, is a tool for affected citizens living within 1000 ft. of the proposed land use area. It allows citizens a chance to influence land use decisions made by the county commissioners. The protest petition is successful if the land owners of at least 20% of the land area surrounding the project sign the petition.

The successful completion of this step means that if the county commissioners are to approve the wind project, the vote must be unanimous. At the time of submission, between 65% and 70% of the land area had been covered by the protest petition.

The petition was completed despite what ECEAC co-chair Tim Davis called "an injustice." According to the county zoning rules and regulations, a list of affected land owners was to have been submitted along with the land use application by CPV Wind Hays.

"The list,” according to the Procedural Guide, “must contain the names and mailing addresses of all the owners of property within the notification area. This list shall be obtained from an [sic] licensed abstractor."

But CPV Wind Hays provided no such list. Without this list of land owners, the ECEAC worked from the map of the proposed project published in the Hays Daily News on May 2 and finished the petition.

From the beginning, the ECEAC's purpose has not been debating the virtues of wind power or the effects of global warming. The opposition has been strictly about inappropriate usage of land in Ellis County.

Due to major irregularities in the zoning rules and regulations, and with no comprehensive plan in place for the placement of industry, the protest petition is an important tool the people of Ellis County have to protect themselves from ill-conceived land usage.

The Ellis County Commission meets each Monday in the Ellis County Courthouse and can consider the CPV Wind Hays application at its next meeting or a subsequent meeting.

Submitted by our Coalition's Media Liaison, Jacinta Faber

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Corruption of Zoning in Ellis County

Details of wind turbine easements, conflicts of interest, and chronology of events

With the help of others (especially Keith P.) I have been able to detail the corruption evident in the zoning process that led up to the conditional use application for a wind energy development here in Ellis County. In addition to the facts listed below, there have been multiple apparent errors of procedure, irregularities of process, and improper conduct on the part of zoning board members while they were supposedly acting in the interest of the general public, but these are probably best left for our legal council to address as most are legal technicalities of a rather tedious nature.

Wind Turbine Easements (according to data obtained in March, 2007)

These are the direct beneficiaries of the wind energy project, broken down as a percentage of the total turbines landholders with easements would have expected to receive at that time. Although a breakdown by property would be more detailed, we have compiled a breakdown by family to highlight the conflicts of interest on the zoning board. We have also included the York College easements in the those of the Kraus / Bemis extended family because this land was held by the Kraus family at the time of the project’s inception and subsequently inherited by York College.

  • Kraus / Bemis family 59 %
  • Gottschalk family 18 %
  • Stadlman family & trust 6 %
  • Johnson, N. 6 %
  • Befort family 4 %
  • Weilert family 4 %
  • Carrasco, C. 2 %
Conflicts of Interest

The primary conflict of interest arises from the key roles played by the zoning board chair and former co-chair, Lance Russell (step son to Harold Kraus) and Jo Kraus, in drafting the zoning regulations that facilitated wind energy development in Ellis County so as to directly benefit their extended family. These regulations contain more verbiage governing sign construction than governing a $500 million dollar industrial development covering 1100 acres. The same regulations limiting landholders to two and a half story buildings permits the construction industrial turbines 40 stories tall within 1000 feet of people’s homes – whether they object to them or not.

Jo Kraus, while serving on the zoning board, repeatedly represented the landholders with easements while petitioning support from the city commissions of Hays and Ellis. Lance Russell’s abstinence from voting on the board at this point does nothing to reduce his conflict of interest arising from his pivotal role in bringing this project to Ellis County.

In addition, it is illegal for paid public officials to serve on the zoning board. As chief of the Ellis County Fire Department, zoning board member Dick Klaus has a conflict of interest in that county public works, including the fire department, stand to benefit directly from the proposed payments to be made by Iberdrola.

Zoning board member Gene Bittel has publicly stated his desire to have turbines on his family's land north of I-70. A zoning decision to permit turbines in Ellis county would represent a direct benefit to his family in this regard, and yet another conflict of interest for this zoning board.

Given that these facts are all a matter of public record, it becomes quite clear that:
  1. the zoning regulations were drafted to facilitate wind energy development in the county and
  2. at least four members of the zoning board had apparent conflicts of interest and were therefore serving their own interests, or their families’ interests, rather than the interests of the residents of Ellis county.
Concerned residents need to ask themselves these questions:
  1. How much of this land is owned by absentee landlords or will be ceded to out of town residents? (answer - quite a bit)
  2. How much of the direct proceeds from this project will really be spent in Ellis County - now, or 5 years from now? (answer - very little)
  3. How much future income will be lost to the county because of this project superseding other more profitable uses of this land? (answer - a lot)
  4. Who is naive enough to believe that money paid to these leaseholders will somehow 'trickle down' to benefit the community of Hays?
Chronology of Events

  • Sept. 15. Easement agreements were recorded at the county court house by landowners hoping to site turbines on their properties.
  • Oct. 10. An email was received by Hays City Commission from David Yearout, a member of the governor's task force for wind development in western Kansas, announcing Mr. Yearout's offer to make a presentation on county-wide zoning.
  • Oct. 24. An article in the Hays Daily News reports that a zoning consultant (David Yearout) had offered to help the county prepare for zoning.
  • Feb. 2. Hays Daily News publishes an article on zoning and how it affects neighbors and their rights.
  • Feb. 28. David Yearout discussed countywide zoning at the County Commission meeting. Among those present was Lance Russell.
  • March 26. County Elections. Zoning becomes a campaign issue.
  • March 28. Hays Daily News: "Commission warms up to county zoning".
  • March 28. David Yearout discussed county-wide zoning at the County Commission meeting. Lance Russell was among those present.
  • May 9. Resolution No. 2005-15 creates a planning commission and appoints Jo Kraus for one year and Lance Russell for three years.
  • May 23. First meeting of the Joint Planning Commission, Lance Russell chair, Jo Kraus co-chair. Mike Graf introduces David Yearout.
  • May 25. Jo Kraus represents landowners with signed easements at the Hays City Commission meeting.
  • August 9. The prospect of a wind farm west of Hays is first presented to the Ellis County Commission.
  • August 15. Hays Daily News reports that Fort Hays State University is looking into wind turbines to power the university.
  • August 19. Hays Daily News reports that the city wants details about wind turbines.
  • August 18. Meetings with Krista Gordan and interested parties were held at the house of Dana and Jo Kraus for discussion of the proposed development. Jo Kraus approaches city and county officials and informs them that she will "represent the landowners" with interest in the development.
  • August 21. Hays Daily News reports that Fort Hays State University is considering building a small wind farm. Disgen has been scouting the area and collecting wind data in Ellis County and applied to KCPL for a supply contract. Wind power quietly accumulating data about an area of Hays - "not so quiet anymore". Potential project would include 40-50 towers.
  • August 25. Hays Daily News reports that the city will consider support of a wind farm. Jo Kraus once again represents interested landholders at the City Commission meeting.
  • August 26. Hays Daily News reports the wind farm gets OK from the city.
  • August 29. High Plains Journal publishes article on the possibility of a wind farm west of Hays and quotes one landholder, Harold Kraus, who states that he has leased land for wind turbines and relates his dream of seeing all ridgelines in western Kansas covered with windmills and exporting power to more populous areas.
  • October 5. Hays Daily News reports that Disgen did not get the KCPL contract.
  • October 10. Hays Daily News reports "Wind farm won't happen".
  • October 21. Hays Daily News reports that Kansas needs rules for wind farm developments.
  • June 6. Hays Daily News reports that the public in Ellis County "does not want zoning".
  • June 28. Joint Planning Commission votes to approve zoning 5 -2, despite overwhelming opposition expressed by the public in attendance.
  • June 30. The terms of Jo Kraus and Gene Bittel expire, Gene Bittel is reappointed, Jo Kraus is not.

A full chronology of Hays Daily News articles on the wind energy project can be found here:
  • March 10. Leo Dorzweiler resigns as County Commissioner citing "unscrupulous tactics" in the zoning of Ellis County and a "dictatorship approach".
  • May 18. An article in the Hays Daily News is particularly informative regarding conflicts of interest and states that “Wind-specific regulations originally were drafted by the Ellis County Public Works Department, the county counselor and Distributed Generation Systems, said Public Works Administrator Mike Graf.” This would seem akin to asking the fox to help design your chicken coup. The same article reports that the motion to adopt the regulations was made by Jo Kraus, who vehemently denied any ‘pro-wind’ motivation. Right.
  • May 23. Dana Kraus, husband of Jo Kraus, publicly states his involvement in collecting wind data from anemometer towers, rendering him in effect an employee of Disgen/CPV and creating yet another conflict of interest for his wife as a zoning board member.
  • June 6. Ellis County Zoning board votes 6-1 to support the conditional use permit.
  • June 11. Hays Daily News announces the formation of the Ellis County Supporters of Wind that claims more than 1300 members based on a returns of a pre-paid mailer sent to a list of Ellis County registered voters numbering more than 17,000. We have obtained this list of supporters, but no information is provided regarding the number of returned ballots that contained negative as opposed to positive responses (our group mailed back quite a few). Furthermore, perusal of the list reveals many apparent names of underage children and college students who are only temporary residents of Ellis County. Given the goal of the ECSW is to ‘educate’ residents about the supposed benefits of this project, one is left wondering why the group was formed scant weeks before a decision is to be made by the County Commission.
The apathy of the local community on this immensely important subject appears absolutely abysmal. Using 2006 census data from the US Census Bureau for number of people over the age of 18 residing in Ellis County, and summing the proponents response with signatures obtained on our own citizen’s petition, it would seem that less than 9 % of adults in the county have registered an opinion one way or the other. Given the proponents share is roughly half of this amount, ‘immense popularity’ for the project, as claimed by Krista Gordon, would seem a gross exaggeration.

To Sign the Petition:
If you are an Ellis County, Kansas, resident and you wish to support a petition to prevent 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!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

We Are Saddened by the Zoning Board

The following letter from Rod & Pat Bittel was printed in the Hays Daily News, June 2007:

After witnessing the zoning commission June 6 during the “deliberations” of the conditional-use permit for the industrial wind complex, we were saddened to learn that the majority of this zoning board doesn’t believe that zoning is for everyone.

With the almost complete lack of discussion about the proposal and its effects on residents living in the area, the focus on this hearing was instead about the zoning board’s belief in property rights, wind energy and bringing money into the county. One member took the opportunity to punish those who were opposed to zoning last year.

He stated, “I’m a property-rights advocate, and that is part of why I voted no for zoning last year.” Another elaborated his yes vote by saying, “It seems like the people next to this project feel like they have a right to the land adjacent to them and I guess that disturbs me.” That would be fine, except these towers also will affect the people on the adjacent property.

Evidently, Gene Bittel hasn’t done enough research to know that the flicker, noise and electromagnetic fields will not be contained just to those properties receiving compensation.

One member voted in favor of the project because his high school science teacher said wind and solar was the energy of the future. And yet another even seemed confused about his role on the board and stated his opposition to the location of the complex as he voted for it.

In Monday’s paper, Krista Gordon of CPV/Iberdrola said, “I sincerely appreciate the vision and common sense of the public servants who have supported this project.”

How can these comments ever be considered vision and common sense?

With their decision, the Ellis County Zoning Board has now said that development takes precedence over quality of life and pretty much everything else. Although the stated purpose of our zoning regulations is to “promote the health, safety, comfort and general welfare of the citizens of Ellis County,” that apparently only applies when there is no money involved.

Your neighbor’s right to make money however they wish on their own property has more value then your right to live comfortably and safely in your own home.

Rather than considering the rights of the hundreds of Ellis County citizens who live and own property in this area, the rights of 20 individuals and businesses who own the land, (some who don’t even live in Kansas!) and a foreign energy company who stand to make millions of dollars were considered to have greater value than those who are raising their families in Ellis County.

If this project is to be considered for Ellis County, it should be built where it won’t negatively affect people.

Bittel stated, “If we say no to this opportunity, we’re going to say no to every development that comes to this county from now on. We just as well lock the doors so nobody will open them. And you can’t have future growth with that mindset.”

This statement and attitude effectively served notice to all residents of Ellis County. The invitation now has been issued to any industry looking for a home: feedlots, meat-processing plants, hog-confinement barns, smelter plants, adult entertainment clubs and automobile salvage yards on every corner.

Sorry, Victoria, we realize some might think it conflicts with the community image and the Cathedral of the Plains, but “The Porn Shack,” the 24-hour adult superstore soon to be proposed for the north side of the interstate, will bring money into the county. Expect a “yes” vote from your current Ellis County Zoning Board if this hypothetical should ever really occur.

Rod and Pat Bittel
1101 Noose Road
Hays, Kansas

To Sign the Petition:
If you are an Ellis County, Kansas, resident and you wish to support a petition to prevent 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!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Carrying out the trash

Humans, of course, typically live in groups. Economic and social cooperation produce benefits—such as greater wealth--and they produce burdens, which would include things such as the risk to one’s life that may be necessary to defend that increased wealth.

One of the perennial questions of human living is just how we distribute these benefits and burdens fairly. Even in a relatively small social group, such as a family, there are questions like who has to clean the bathroom and who has to carry out the trash. These are burdens of living together.

All of us know that there is no free lunch, that there is always some cost to pay or burden to bear to bring about the benefits that we desire. So fairness demands that we try to distribute the burdens in some morally acceptable way. Fairness requires that either everybody bears the burdens to about the same degree or that there is a proportionality between the benefits one receives and the burdens one has to bear.

The military draft during the War in Vietnam, for example, was criticized because of its unfairness in terms of benefits and burdens. The benefits of the hoped-for military success were seen as going to corporate America, while the burdens—the fighting, the miserable conditions, and the considerable risk of injury and death—fell disproportionately upon the urban and rural poor, those who could not afford to go to college and thereby receive a 2S deferment or whose family did not have the pull to get one placed in a National Guard unit.

Because of that unfair distribution of burdens we moved first to a lottery and then to a volunteer military. Now the burdens fall only on those who choose to take them on. This is based on a widespread moral belief that if one takes on a burden freely and voluntarily, then carrying that burden is not an injustice.

Right now in Ellis County we are facing another version of the question about who carries out the trash. If wind turbines are built, mounted on 400-foot towers, and tied into the electric power grid, it will be because of a massive amount of social cooperation.

And there may be benefits of this cooperation. First and foremost, there will be more electricity to be sent through the grid to power air conditioners and personal computers and a host of other things. This would benefit all of us, although the share for any one of us will be small.

Reportedly there will also be financial benefits to those on whose land the wind turbines and towers will be placed, and there will be other financial benefits—tax subsidies and profits—to the Spanish company that will own the project.

Just as there are benefits, there are burdens of this social enterprise. The noise and inaudible vibrations (sometimes called “infrasonic noise” or “low frequency noise”) pose considerable health risks, and there is some danger from lightning strikes and high winds. These are the health and safety burdens.

Many people, though not all, regard the placement of metallic machinery in otherwise pastoral and agricultural areas as ugly. A second burden, then, is the aesthetic.

Probably because of the health, safety, and aesthetic concerns, people typically do not like to live near turbines. And, of course, when fewer people want to buy a piece of property, the value of that property in a free-market economy goes down. So another burden is the decline of property values.

But notice that there is a difference between the way the benefits get spread around and the way the burdens do. The electricity, which is the benefit, becomes available, basically, to everybody on the grid, which is just about everybody. The lease payments go to some landowners. And then the profits go to Iberdrola, the Spanish company building the project, and to whoever its owners may be.

The burdens, however, fall on those who live quite near the wind turbines. The health and safety risks decline with distance until they are can really be safely ignored if the turbines are two or more miles from one’s residence.

The aesthetic burdens stretch a little further, though they are less intense to begin with. Turbines 400 feet above the high plains grasslands will be easily visible five miles away. In fact, the Spearville turbines are visible in Dodge City, 17 miles away, but at that distance they are pretty small on the horizon.

The decline in property values will depend, of course, on the use of the property and on the features of a piece of property that make it attractive to people. Some property is valued because of, for example, its ability to supply grass for cattle, while other property—residential property—is valued for its healthfulness, safety, and aesthetic attractiveness. The property value of lands leased for power generation will probably go up a bit, the value of grasslands or agricultural lands will probably not be affected, and the value will decline for property whose selling points include peace and quiet and the safety of country living.

The burdens of this wind turbine project, then, do not fall equally upon all members of society, nor do they fall in rough proportion as the benefits upon those who do stand to gain from the project.

Furthermore, those upon whom the burdens fall are not an all-volunteer army. No one who built or bought residential property in the area west of Hays had any idea that they were possibly taking on the burden of health and safety risks and so on.

Thus, this project is unfair. If the project is built as it is presently proposed, the non-leasing people who live near the project will bear the greatest share of the burdens without sharing in the benefits in a similar proportion.

Fortunately, there are a couple of remedies possible. The industrial wind project could be moved farther south and west so that it does not lay the burdens on the unfortunate families who would bear the burden of living right near the currently planned turbines. And then those who would still live near re-sited turbines could be fairly compensated by having their property purchased at market value. Then if there are people who buy that property and choose to live near the turbines, they would be accepting the burdens voluntarily.

Somebody has to take out the trash, and fairness requires that it be those who benefit most in the first place or those who freely choose to carry it out.

To Sign the Petition:
If you are an Ellis County, Kansas, resident and you wish to support a petition to prevent 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!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Fuzzy Logic of the Zoning Commission

Many were in attendance for the zoning commission meeting Wednesday night. The vote went off as expected, with the commission approving the conditional use permit for Iberdrola to place turbines at will in the project area.

The big surprise was the impoverished arguments provided by the commissioners in favor of this project. Let me give you some examples.

Gene Bittel, an ardent supporter of the turbines and a self-appointed representative of the western half of Ellis County, referred to those of us in opposition as being anti-progress. "This project will make hundreds of millions of dollars for Ellis County." After the meeting, I asked him how he came up with these figures. He said he did the math, and it is the people with turbines on their property who will be flooding money into our economy.

I pointed out that half the land owners do not live in Ellis County. He then said that our conversation should cease. Before he cut me off completely, I told him about our safely concerns. The new towers Krista Jo spoke of in Sunday's paper would be even larger than those that had previously been planned. According to the literature, these particular towers can only withstand 137 mph winds.

What if a tornado should show up again in Yocemento with these monster towers near people's homes? Not to worry according to Gene Gene The Wind Machine. If 137 mph winds should occur, our house on the prairie will be blown apart anyway. It was then that I had to agree that our conversation was over. By the way, city of Ellis pay heed, I see turbines in Mr. Bittel's future.

Next example, Barb Anderson asked Dick Klaus how the Ellis County Rural Fire Department would handle a fire 400 feet in the air (referring to turbines catching on fire due to lightning strikes). What would you do? Dick responded [and I am not making this up], "Nothing."� His reasoning is that there is just an electrical wire up there; if a fire should occur, it will simply burn itself out. We will sleep better tonight knowing that we are protected.

Yet another example of the fuzzy logic presented by the commission was the scolding the opposition received from Charlie Rohr. He excoriated us for fighting against zoning in Ellis County. This is simply not true.

I welcomed zoning to Ellis County. It was supposedly established for the protection, safety and well-being of the citizens of Ellis County. Now I find out differently. The regulations written for the wind project were written in a way to favor commercial interest and not for the citizen's protection, safety or well- being. Now who should be scolded?

The final example was when one of the commissioners recalled his eighth grade science teacher's prescient thoughts concerning the role of sun and wind to help meet our energy needs.

Too bad he was not also taught about proper setbacks for turbines, sound travel, property devaluation for homes near turbines, and honesty in establishing industry in Ellis County.

Submitted by Ellis Co. Resident:

Jacinta Faber
Hays, Kansas

To Sign the Petition:
If you are an Ellis County, Kansas, resident and you wish to support a petition to prevent 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!

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...

My goal here is to utilize all strategic property locations throughout the project area to post signs publicly denouncing the project shaming the zoning board (these latter to go up this week). Not sure why I lost so much quality resizing the last four.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Since we happen to own land directly facing the house of our zoning board chair, we thought he might like a sign of his own….

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Commissioners Overstep (or Misunderstand) Their Roles?

In Wednesday's zoning commission meeting, it seems that some of the members of the zoning commission may have not understood the purpose of their roles on the zoning commission.

Theirs is not an "energy" commission - nor is it a "determine the direction of renewable resources in general terms" commission. Their is a ZONING commission.

The work of a zoning commission should be all about LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.

One commissioner, Gene Jacobs, who voted FOR THE LOCATION of the proposed wind farm, may not have thought the location was the right location for a wind farm. But, he voted for it anyway. Huh?

“I strongly feel that this is the right direction,” Jacobs said, “It might not be the right place, but it’s the right direction.”

What? Mr. Jacobs, your job on the zoning commission is not to decide the "right directions" for renewable energy. You are not a member of an energy think tank.

Your job was to evaluate the use of a particular place. Place, not direction. Place!

We can only pray that our elected county commissioners DO UNDERSTAND what their roles are and WHO THEY REPRESENT.

Submitted by Pam Pohly

To Sign the Petition:
If you are an Ellis County, Kansas, resident and you wish to support a petition to prevent 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!

Put yourself in our shoes. Would you want protection to keep it from happening to you?

The following was submitted by Sheryl Butler to the Hays Daily News in June 2007

Wow, what a mess this wind controversy has become. Two and a half months ago, we were starting to concentrate our efforts on remodeling our home. Now, I’m not sure if we are even going to stay in it.

There seems to be some question as to whether or not property sales would be effected.

That’s right — property sales not property values. The property values term is used by industrial wind companies to try to convince everyone that the home values won’t be affected.

The tax value of our homes in this effected area, I’m sure, will remain the same. An appraised value will probably not change much because, as most people are aware, appraisals focus on square footage, the age of the home, general condition, number of bedrooms, baths, etc. and then the appraiser does a “comp” analysis on similar properties that have been sold in the county.

What will change, if this complex is allowed to come in, is the “sale-ability” of our properties.

For example, the appraisals that we had done on our property, did not include the very nice Wick horse barn that we have, that when originally built cost $38,000 in and of itself. The barn has eight stalls, wash rack, tack room, cement center aisle, etc. We were told that outbuildings, including barns, did not add value to the appraised value of the property but would add to the sale-ability of our property. In other words, the barn did not add to the price tag on an appraisal but would be a selling point of the property.

The same would hold true true for the negative effect of having a home within a quarter-mile of a 139-plus wind turbine complex. The appraised value would continue to focus on square footage, age of the home, etc.

But when putting the property on the market — the potential buyer pool would be limited — thereby reducing the “value” of the property. The wind complex also provides potential buyers of properties in the affected area, a bargaining chip to reduce the sale price.

It seems that when it comes to property in the country — property rights and infringement does not exist.

For example, for those of you in town, imagine that you were living in your dream home in Hays, Ellis, Victoria, etc. with the neighborhood views and common neighborhood sounds that were there when you purchased the home.

Now imagine that your neighbor is approached by a convenience store chain to purchase his property, which is started, unknown to you, and about 20 days prior to the zoning meeting, you are made aware of the situation. The convenience store is thought to be in a perfect place for people to by gas, snacks, drinks, etc. in spite of the inconvenience that it causes those living around it such as parking lot lighting, increased traffic and people, noise, etc. Yet it is the perfect location for this store.

Next, imagine that in addition to dealing with the frustration of the idea of living next to a convenient store, those out in the country or in other parts of town are wondering what your problem is. After all, the area could use a convenient store in this location. Some people, across town or out in the country even think you are selfish and as being jealous of the neighbor who made money off of his property. Some people will even tell you that they would love living next to this convenient store and don’t see what your problem is. Now, do you see what we “country bumpkins” are dealing with?

It is the same concept out here in the country — we just have bigger yards and the stores are about 400 feet tall and spin.

Please try to put yourself in our shoes and ask yourself if you would want protection from this happening to you.

Submitted by Ellis County Resident:

Sheryl R. Butler
779 Golf Course Road
Hays, Kansas 67601

To Sign the Petition:
If you are an Ellis County, Kansas, resident and you wish to support a petition to prevent 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!

Time to stand up against the almighty dollar

The following letter was written by Mary Barnes of Hays, Kansas, June 2007

The wind farm issue has left me feeling, well, numb.

My husband and I have lived southwest of Hays for nearly 26 years. We have raised our four children in the country believing that this was the best atmosphere in which to nourish young children.

On summer evenings we sit on the swing and listen to the owls hooting, crickets chirping and the frogs croaking. No one needs to say a word; we are just letting each other enjoy the peacefulness of the night air. Every once in a while you can hear deer or the horses walking around behind our yard or maybe the dog barking at the coyotes that are howling in the distance. On blustery winter days, we look at the wonderful blanket of snow that seems to go on forever.

In the mornings as we drive the kids to school, I tell my kids to look at the wonderful artwork that the Good Lord has given to us with His majestic sunrises and sunsets as we are heading back home. We don’t hear cars drive by, there are no street lamps to light up the blackness of the night, and there is nobody nearby having a party and playing their music too loud disturbing the absolute quietness. This is the life that we chose when we decided to live in the country all those years ago. It is simply beautiful, peaceful and tranquil.

We are now being literally forced to give all of this up for the almighty dollar? The proposed area to place the industrial wind complex will certainly take all that we have known to love about our country living and throw it into the wind where it will be gone forever.

The people who are against the complex are not against green energy.

We simply are saying that there needs to be a better site - a site that will not take away what we cherish or cause so much anger and friction between what were once good friends, neighbors and even our own families.

If the zoning board and county commissioners pass this conditional use permit, it will open the door for Iberdrola of Spain to put these turbines up anywhere in the county. This zoning is county zoning, not just the zoning southwest of Hays.

Fellow Ellis County residents, please beware. If this permit is allowed to pass, there will no place in Ellis County that will be safe from these turbines. The “wind” is the limit.

We are all people of the land; whether all we have is chicken to pet or a pony to brush (or dreams of owning one). Is this really what we want for our beautiful Ellis County?

The good people of Beaumont, Spearville and Montezuma welcome these industrial wind complexes, I for one, say let them have them. The grids are already in place. I am sure that these towns would love to have additional 47 turbines each.

The wind still is blowing there last time I checked. Why then are the “wind people” so adamant about the turbines coming to Ellis County?

Why are they willing to pit neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, family against family? Is it all in the name of being earth-friendly and wanting to lessen our dependency on fossil fuel? Or is it the almighty dollar rearing its ugly head speaking loudly and clearly? Sadly to say, I believe it is the latter.

Let the Ellis County community stand together and be able to say that we fought big corporate business and won.

Submitted by Ellis County Resident:
Mary Barnes
615 Munjor Road
Hays, Kansas

To Sign the Petition:
If you are an Ellis County, Kansas, resident and you wish to support a petition to prevent 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!

So Many Questions Still Unanswered

The following letter was written by Lyle Johnston, June 2007

CPV still has a lot of questions to answer.

I found the last meeting of the Joint Planning Commission quite informative, but I still have many questions on the subject. Of these questions, some should be investigated by the newspaper, but all these questions should be addressed by our government before they change Ellis County forever.

Let me first say that CPV’s pictures in the May 23 paper were almost comical. How can you take a picture from around a mile away from Yocemento and still have the elevator look so small? If you can see Spearville’s turbines from 10 miles away, then I would think that taller turbines that sit on a 150-foot bluff here in Ellis County would be very noticeable.

CPV should disclose information on the structural limits of these towers. What will a straight-line gust do to these, much less a tornado?

I still haven’t heard anything on the subject of possible fires.

These are questions that haven’t been directly answered, only answered with terms like “about,” “not far,” “roughly” and “should.” When I read the newspaper interviews, it’s almost entertaining to look for the very subtle wording in statements that excludes CPV from giving a definite answer.

Comparing Spearville to Hays is like comparing apples and oranges. Where are the $200,000 to $300,000-plus homes in and around Spearville that are sitting near them?

If it was such a great deal, why didn’t they put it 2 miles outside of Dodge City instead of over 17 miles away from Dodge and next to a small city of just 813 people (2000 Census)?

My most important questions involve taxes. Kansas Law KSA 79-201, Chapt. 79 (Eleventh) found at the state of Kansas’ Statues Web site (, I know it’s a dot-com reference, but I figure I would go out on a limb and trust the state of Kansas, titled Property Exempt From Taxation states “...all property actually and regularly used predominantly to produce and generate electricity utilizing renewable energy resources or technologies.”

How will this affect the tax base of our county? How much tax revenue will be lost to the county? Should we expand it countywide so nobody has to pay taxes anymore?

Out of the tens of millions that they will profit, the $250,000 or so that CPV will donate to Ellis County annually doesn’t seem so impressive anymore. According to the Ellis County Clerk, the 2007 Ellis County budget was close to $308,437,413. Even the $600,000 “gift” number will be only 0.2 percent of the annual Ellis County budget.

Is this project really worth tearing our community apart more than it already has? I implore residents of Ellis County to keep asking questions about this project:

  • Question what CPV says and does.
  • Question what your government says and does.
  • Hell, question what I say and do (please check my sources).
  • Question who stands to actually gain from this.
Submitted by:
Lyle Johnston
Ellis, Kansas

To Sign the Petition:
If you are an Ellis County, Kansas, resident and you wish to support a petition to prevent 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!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Wind Energy Development Policies are Flawed

(My response to a letter in Hays Daily News criticizing 'How Green is the Wind?)

I find it very disturbing that the Sierra Club, whose mission is supposedly the protection and preservation of wild areas, somehow views industrial wind energy plants as compatible with this mission. I can't believe I once actually gave money to these people. They are either gullible idiots, or complete phonies. Mr Volland is a member of Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club.

In last Monday’s paper Mr. Volland called my estimates of CO2 emissions associated with wind turbine production and installation ‘grossly exaggerated’ but cites nothing beyond propaganda from the wind industry in refutation. The wind industry has never calculated the true carbon footprint of a turbine, nor would it be in their interest to publicize it. There are a multitude of websites with far more objective information than those promoting the industry. What is truly exaggerated are claims of the American Wind Energy Association touting the benefits of turbines and completely ignoring their impacts on health and environment.

If wind power is "the most environmentally benign source of power commercially available today" as Volland claims, then why is the wind industry mounting such shrill opposition to bill HR2337 currently before the House Committee on Natural Resources? It merely sets out responsible guidelines for siting wind turbines to minimize impacts on wildlife and natural environments – something the wind industry claims to be doing already.

In the words of IWA Executive Director Lisa Linowes "The AWEA's objections to HR 2337 are either simple self-interested misrepresentations, or worse, indicate the industry is not capable of upholding its claims to be environmentally sound and cannot deliver sustainable value in the foreseeable future."

Of course the extraction and burning of coal has a carbon footprint that we should aim to reduce. The question is whether or not wind energy is a viable alternative that will truly help us achieve that objective. It may become a part of the energy solution, but it certainly will never be a very big part – and it hasn’t enabled the decommissioning of a single conventional power plant anywhere in the world. The tradeoff is that many thousands of acres of land are forcibly industrialized in order to produce a relatively small amount of unreliable power.

A very good argument can be mounted that the vast amounts of taxpayer money currently being spent subsidizing wind energy would be much better spent on cleaning up conventional power plants so that their CO2 can be captured and either sequestered underground or used to stimulate the growth of plants to be used for biofuels or other purposes. Let’s not forget that CO2 availability becomes the primary factor limiting plant growth once light, moisture and nutritional requirements are met.

Germany is the world leader in wind power, but has recently removed all government subsidies for it, even though it has yet to obtain 10% of its power needs from wind. A German study published in 2004 came to the conclusion that "…CO2-emission reductions caused by additional RES (wind power) generation could be achieved much cheaper by realizing the efficiency gains associated with the replacement of older thermal units with new capacity (mainly highly efficient combined cycle gas technologies) and upgrading existing thermal units." Reference: EWI / IE / RWI, 2004, ‘Macroeconomic, sectoral and ecological effects of the Renewable Energy Act (EEG)’ (report in German with English executive summary),

A 2005 study by two German economists concludes: "After a description of this subsidy’s structure (Germany’s Renewable Energy Act), we discussed whether the aims formulated in the act, namely climate protection, increasing the security of supply, restricting the consumption of finite resources and promoting technological progress in RES generation technologies, could be achieved more efficiently by other means. We found that every single aim could indeed be achieved in a more efficient way using other means…". Reference: Growitsch and Musgens (2005), cited in article above.

One is left wondering why Mr. Volland would even be reading the Hays Daily in Kansas City, or if perhaps he was recruited by our local ‘windies’ to shill for their cause.

To Sign the Petition:
If you are an Ellis County, Kansas, resident and you wish to support a petition to prevent 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!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Open Letter to Ellis County Commissioners: You Are Our Only Protection, Please Protect Us

Submitted by: Keith Pfannenstiel, Hays, Kansas

I have always believed in standing up for the little guy, rooting for the underdog and caring for the less fortunate. As such, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I have been vocal against this industrial wind project.

Many local citizens and I have stood together against a multi-billion dollar Spanish corporation and its representatives. Desperately trying to sell a misplaced project that has already inflicted incredible devastation on our county, the company has mobilized imposing resources to try and salvage their potential profit of millions, despite what long term liabilities it creates for the citizens of Ellis County.

The project has not even been approved, let alone built and they have pitted neighbor against neighbor, family against family. Both “sides” have seen friendships parted, threats leveled, and people making plans to leave the community, taking their businesses and families with them.

I’m sick of what this is doing to our community. Let’s call this what it is.

This is a big money issue, hiding behind the curtain of global warming politics, as if Ellis County is the last remaining hope of the world. (Pay no attention to the smooth sales woman behind the curtain!). I’m tired Toto, I just want to go home, back to the Ellis County I love and have spent my entire life in.

Unfortunately, given the magnitude of the threat to my community, I am compelled to continue. The Spanish utility giant Iberdrolla, through CPV Wind Hays, LLC (Who are these people anyway?) have made all kinds of wonderful claims, trust us they say, all without any kind of real reassurance they will make good on their promises.

There are so many unanswered questions, yet they push on, trying to get the project approved before they get into a position where they will be held accountable. Krista Jo Gordon gave us her word after all (like she will even be here when things fall apart). “Let common sense prevail” she implores, slickly disguised as one of us.

Finally, something I can fully agree with her on. Let’s do that, on just a single issue, for a moment. They say your property value won’t be harmed when it is surrounded by an industrial complex, eliminating most all the reasons people pay top dollar for certain property in the first place. With comparisons to Spearville and Beaumont, she makes the claim that “studies” have shown no property value loss and that goes for Hays as well. Using that logic, I’d like to trade my house and acreage here in Ellis County for something comparable on the beach in Malibu California, any takers? You have my personal guarantee that it will work out fine. I don’t know what kind of sense that is exactly, but it isn’t common.

When you get a loan to buy a house, you have to come up with a down payment, sign for collateral, get a credit report, an appraisal, give income verification, title insurance and on it goes, before you can even get to the place where you have to sign numerous forms to insure the bank isn’t going to be left holding the bag. I don’t care how trustworthy you are, your “personal guarantee” isn’t going to cut it.

Yet in Ellis County, we are poised to risk the entire wellbeing of our citizenry on little more than just that.

Under our current zoning regulations and the terms of this application, we have almost no real protection from the misplacement of this proposal. We have already begun to experience the ill effects and unanswered questions of this proposal.

It is high time we sort out the truth from the propaganda, take a step back, and examine these questions in detail.

Before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), snake oil salesmen made any kind of claim they thought would sell their product. “Ms. Gordon’s miracle healing turbine, guaranteed to cure baldness, eliminate headaches, aid digestion and make you wealthy!” These salesmen made fortunes selling people narcotics that made them feel better but harmed them with the adverse effects of the “medicine”, financial losses and the lack of real treatment.

There are no state or federal regulatory agencies watching over the wind turbine salesmen.

Ellis County commissioners, you are our only protection.

I ask you to please stop the destruction of our community. Stop this application until it can be thoughtfully examined and appropriately placed. Investigate the claims carefully. Create regulations to protect us. Stand with us, not the salesmen.

County Commissioners, Look out for all the citizens of Ellis County, especially the little guys.

This open letter submitted by:
Keith Pfannenstiel
Hays, Kansas

To Sign the Petition:
If you are an Ellis County, Kansas, resident and you wish to support a petition to prevent 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!

My thoughts: Why we need a suspension of activity on the wind project

The following letter was first submitted to the Hays Daily News by Margo Apostolas, a citizen of the city of Hays and the county of Ellis in Kansas:

I’ve signed countless petitions in my life for various moratoriums against various things. So, I know a little about signing these things. Most of the time I signed because I wanted to do something. When I lived in Boulder, Colo., I was happy to back plans to halt growth that would surely destroy the magic of that most magical of college towns. I regularly signed them during the Vietnam War.

I recently signed one to put a moratorium in place regarding the industrial wind farm proposed in Ellis County.

A moratorium is a suspension of activity. Ellis County needs a suspension of activity on the industrial wind farm project. Most of the families who are fighting for their homesteads have only known of this project since March.

Most of the residents of Ellis County have only known of this since March. The folks who stand to gain from this have known since, well, you tell me.

The following are some random thoughts I’ve had on this controversy.

Doing the right thing: Let’s face the dilemma. We, who consider ourselves liberal thinkers, hate fossil fuel and love to embrace alternatives. Wind is a good alternative.

Here’s the conundrum: Ellis County, a growing county in western Kansas, is not the best choice for this project. It seems especially ill-conceived, placed in a corridor that links two of the most populated towns in that county, an area already on the path to exurbia.

The smell of money: This is that humorous saying about the feed lot which is intrusive in a way we don’t really like to talk about. At the very least — and I mean the very least — the industrial wind farm project is a visual intrusiveness that smells of money.

A few of your neighbors are about to realize some real cash and many more of your neighbors are about to see the property values of their homes plummet as a direct result.

Blank check: My plan for funding our schools in Hays? Place gigantic wind turbines within the boundaries of the city of Hays parks system and properties owned by USD 489. I’m certain the good folks on 33rd Street bordering 7 Hills Park would have no problem with that, right? Oh, and why not set one up on that big empty space next to Roosevelt Elementary School. What’s it called, Sunrise Park? Our kids could have the privilege of attending class right underneath these benign behemoths. I’m certain not a parent would lodge a complaint, right? Don’t forget Frontier Park or the “home where the buffalo roam” across from Old Fort Hays.

The possibilities are endless.

The reality of NIMBY: This is an acronym for “not in my back yard.” It has come to be associated with folks who only have their own interests at heart in a situation, even if the “greater good” is ever looming. But, I think those of us who live comfortably within the confines of the city limits of Hays should, in good conscience, give some thought how we would react if this had happened to our own families.

So let’s just do that now. Imagine you are living in a semi-rural environment. You worked hard for many years to buy a home that suits your family’s lifestyle: closer to nature, no traffic, sunsets, etc., but close enough to the city of Hays or Ellis to easily commute to work.

Then, sometime in March, you go to your mailbox and there awaits a letter that will literally change everything. An industrial wind farm is being considered right next door to your home! Imagine the dinner conversation, “What? How high is 400 feet?” Your fourth-grader does some research and says, “That’s higher than the Statue of Liberty!”

What to do? Well, in hindsight (everybody’s favorite perspective), I guess you call a real estate agent, because this train has left the station. Your neighbors (who own, through an intricate amalgamation of family connections, a stunning acreage of land) have arranged to have these 40-story turbines erected on their accumulated properties right next door to your home.

Here are some other topics I’ve considered: David and Goliath, Magic Beans, Fear and Loathing in Hays America, 6 degrees of separation (everyone’s related) — omigod, is this the Spanish aristocracy?

Anyway, this is all I have to say. I think it’s time to give this really momentous undertaking more thought.

The wind has been here forever and it’s not going away. A little while longer to sort things out with civility is not going to kill us.

Margo Apostolas
Hays, Kansas
May 2007

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!