Friday, August 31, 2007

Letter to the Ellis County Commissioners

The following letter was mailed by Benjamin Faber to the Ellis County Commissioners on August 31.

Dear Honorable Commissioners,

In these days leading up to the vote on the Ellis County Wind Farm issue, I can imagine you have been swamped with letters and other attempts to sway your vote a certain way. One of these letters was brought to my attention, which was written by a local farmer who supports the development of a wind farm. As we live in a democratic society, I feel that it is my duty, and I know you also feel the same way, to stay informed on the current issues of our society, in this case, the wind farm. I know that by being elected by your fellow countrymen that you recognize the responsibility to listen to both sides of an argument and make your decision rationally. This letter is only an attempt to offer a rebuttal to the afore mentioned letter with the hopes that it will supply you with enough information to make a wise decision for the community.

One consideration you should take into account when evaluating the information provided to you is the source from which it comes. The previous letter cites various pieces of scientific information of varying complexity and topic. Most of this information lies in the field of acoustics, which is the physics of sound. The author of this letter is a farmer who, to the best of my knowledge, does not a degree in the area of physics. I, on the other hand, am in my third year of study as a physics major in college. I have studied the area of acoustics in depth in my classes and on my own. I appreciate the author’s attempts to convey scientific knowledge to you, but he did not do it accurately.

The rest of this rebuttal will be in the form of point/counterpoint.

Point #1: Increasing the setbacks is a violation of property rights.

The last time I checked the operations of government, the zoning regulations were designed to protect those who are not directly involved with making alterations to environment. This would include proper location of such features as landfills, hazardous industry and infrastructure needs (such as interstate highways, railways, etc.). Setting back a wind power generation complex is no different. It does not violate the rights of the property owner; on the contrary, the zoning regulations protect these property owners and all landowners and residents from my asking that a hazardous industry come operate on my land within 1000 feet of their property and residence.

Point #2: Vibro-Acoustic Disease is a myth.

This could not be further from the truth. In the letter to you, the author cites a study by Dr. Mariana Alves-Pereira, a distinguished Portuguese scholar in the area of medicine. Her reports have been published in various medical journals, like the influential journal Noise and Health. The findings reported in the previous letter will presented at the Wind Turbine Noise Conference 2007 in Lyon, France. She has over 25 years of work in the field of the medical effects of noise. Suffice to say, she is a well-respected expert in the area of low-frequency noise and its health effects. The study that the previous paper is drawing on is the study of a deep-water grain handling terminal, which is a terminal where ocean freighters unload their grain. The author of the previous letter confuses the deep-water terminals with those that unload considerably less amounts of grain from small trucks. The deep-water grain terminals handle loads on the order of thousands of tons from every freighter, where as the trucks may unload a ton of grain at a time. The discrepancy in the amount of low-frequency noise generated is phenomenal. In the book The Physics of Sound, Richard E. Berg and David G. Stork, Second Edition, it specifically says that rapidly moving objects, such as trains or cars also produce a significant amount of infrasound. Now an empty train car weighs about 50,000 pounds. The nacelle (power generating unit) of a wind turbine weighs as much as 22 loaded train cars. Now if the proposed wind farm contains about 125 turbines, then take the amount of infrasound by one 110 car train and multiply by 25. That is the amount infrasound generated by the whole field of wind turbines. The author says that the infrasound produced by the turbines would be considerably less than the infrasound produced by the interstate, plane or trains. As seen from the calculations, it would take 50 trains per day to generate the amount of infrasound generated by the proposed wind farm. It is hard to ignore facts like this.

The author also states that no case of VAD has ever been reported. This is completely umtrue. The author cites personal experiences of himself flying in the Navy and those of his colleagues. VAD comes in a variety of different forms, from mild to severe. The more mild symptoms are a general feeling of motion sickness and headaches. On the severe end, VAD has been seen to cause numerous cardiovascular and breathing problems. One condition required to develop VAD is a constant exposure to low-frequency noise. Logging 4000 hours of flight time is a long time, but it is in discrete events. The wind farm will always be there and always be generating power. In the Navy records of the flight crew that is constantly exposed to the infrasound of the plane engines you would find a preponderance of cardiovascular and respiratory maladies. These are consistent with the symptoms of VAD.

The lack of sleep is another common problem. The author gives another personal experience of being sleepy in college during the middle of the day. As a current college student, he has my sympathy. I too am tired during the middle of the day. However, as the author can surely attest, his lack of sleep at night was not due to an unbearable noise source. I, like most students, do not get much sleep due to other obligations, but when I do sleep, I sleep straight through the night. Those who are situated near wind turbines and cannot sleep give the general feeling of insomnia as their primary cause. This insomnia is brought on by the annoying vibrations of the windmills all through the night. I am sure that you yourself would not want to suffer through sleepless nights, so why should other people?

Point #3 We can threaten you with lawsuits to coerce you into approval.

The author makes an attempt to threaten the country with a lawsuit if he does not get his way. I think I have your agreement when I say that that is not a very noble and democratic solution to a problem. He says the medical evidence would not stand up in a court of law. I can assure you that it will. There is no reason to feel like you need to be pushed around and bullied into approving a measure that you are not sure of yet. He seems to be in the business solely for the purpose of personal gain and will not let hindrances such as the rights of others get in his way.

I hope this information I have provided in this rebuttal has helped you come to well-researched rational decision. From the material I provided I hope I have made it clear that all that is needed are proper setbacks from those Ellis County residents who do not wish to be subject to their effects. There is quite a bit of open space in Ellis County that would solve this problem. I urge you to make your decision wisely.

Thank you,

Benjamin J. Faber

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Who Would Be Accountable?

This letter is submitted by Jim and Luanne Kramer, residents of Ellis County, Kansas:

A recent HDN letter said opponents of the wind project are inconsistent because they opposed zoning. The author implied this makes them hypocritical. That is simply not accurate. Those opposing zoning when initially proposed and debated aren't inconsistent in supporting it now. They have no choice. Zoning is here; now people have to deal with it.

As we understand it, land-use freedom before zoning was quite different. A person had freedom to do as they wanted, but also had responsibility.

If use of the land somehow harmed his neighbors, he'd be liable to lawsuit. Before zoning, an outside developer would have responsibility should harm be brought about by an industrial wind project. But, with zoning, responsibility seems lost.

Who is responsible now? It doesn't appear to be the landowner, as long as he's using the land per zoning. Is it CPV/Iberdrola? Apparently not, because at the initial presentation in March, Ms. Gordon said they only consider projects for counties that have zoning in place. Therefore, zoning must cover them also. Is it Ellis County? Isn't that like suing yourself, since your tax dollars fund the county and its programs?

Who, then, takes responsibility? What recourse will affected residents have should harm come to them, their families, or their properties, as a result of this project?

For that matter, should harm come from future zoning applications? Once a facility like this is approved in Ellis County, we can be sure there'll be more wind complex permits coming in shortly. The responsibility question is there, begging for an answer.

Who? If this were merely a zoning question of someone wanting to build a house, or start a business, near another's property, the answer would be simple. But this is entirely different. Iberdrola doesn't know what size of turbines, yet. They could be 400 feet tall or taller still. They don't know the size of footings, yet. They may be 8 feet or 30 feet deep (who cares about the water table)? Total number of turbines isn't decided, yet. There could be anywhere from 100 to 140 (or more, who knows)? Final locations of turbines haven't been decided, yet. Do they even have boundaries finalized, yet? How on earth can they guarantee how far away from residences turbines will be until they decide?

How can Ellis County even consider a project of this magnitude without knowing these very important details?

Don't our zoning regulations require all of this in writing before a proposal is even considered?

In June, the acting chairperson quoted that the zoning regulations serve a number of purposes, the first of which is "To promote the health, safety, comfort, and general welfare of the citizens of Ellis County, Kansas."

All residents, whether they live within the project location, in Hays, or for that matter, anywhere in Ellis County, have every right to expect this statement is true, and followed to the letter.

All residents have the right to expect zoning to protect us and we should accept nothing less.

We truly want to believe zoning was adopted for that reason; not as a ploy to open the door for an already in-progress wind project, but it's getting more and more difficult to believe.

County residents have an obligation to object to and oppose this or future proposals they feel do not meet fundamental zoning rules and requirements.

We feel this conditional use permit to site an industrial wind facility in the proposed area should be denied. It does not meet the first requirement of our zoning commission's stated purpose.

Jim and Luanne Kramer
120 W. 37th St.
Hays, Kansas

Friday, August 24, 2007

Forcing Turbines on Landowners is Wrong

The following letter is submitted by Mary Barnes, a longtime Ellis County resident:

I have been reading The Hays Daily News Reader Forum and news articles regarding the conditional-use permit for an industrial wind plant submitted by CPV with great interest. You see, I live in the area slated for the conditional-use permit.

The comments regarding our need to lessen our dependency for fossil fuel are all true. But, what we absolutely need to recognize are the problems associated with the location of the proposed wind farm. After all, this is what the conditional-use permit is all about.

It is not whether we all agree on whether renewable energy is a good or bad thing, or whether or not any particular landowner will benefit financially. It doesn't matter how tall or short the towers will be, and it really doesn't matter what he said or she said or didn't say.

The one and only question that should be asked is if an industrial wind turbine project is properly suited to the area in which it is being proposed, especially when so many of the adjacent home and landowners are opposed to the towers being placed in such close proximity to their homes.

When zoning was adopted by Ellis County, the promise of zoning was that the people of Ellis County would be protected from intrusive and unacceptable uses of the property that surrounds their property.

Vernon Berens, Dennis Pfannenstiel and Perry Henman have only one question to answer when they vote on this conditional-use permit. Is the location appropriate for this massive project? Just more than 43 percent of the landowners have signed a formal protest petition stating that they do not want to live in an industrial park.

The actual percentage of landowners against this project is closer to 67 percent. Some of the formal protest signatures were thrown out. Those signatures were thrown out due to land that was in estate probate, or the legal owner of the property didn't write "trustee" behind their name. These are the landowners that live within 1,000 feet of where these intrusive machines are proposed to be built.

I use the word intrusive because there is no other way to describe how these 67 percent feel about being forced by others to live under conditions they had not chosen for themselves.

Conditions from which the county itself vowed to protect.

These are the questions that the county commissioners should consider in deciding this issue:

  • Should the 100 plus adjoining neighbors of the project be subjected to noise when country living is so peaceful and quiet?
  • Should the 100 plus adjoining neighbors have their view obstructed that they have come to enjoy and expect with living in the country?
  • Should the 100 plus adjoining neighbors have the wildlife they have come to enjoy watching begin to vanish?
  • Should the 100 plus adjoining neighbors need to worry about health concerns of their families and themselves and feel like guinea pigs in an experiment of let's wait and see if there really is any adverse health side effects of these turbines?
  • Should these 100 plus adjoining neighbors worry that if they try to sell their homes will they have to take a significant and dramatic financial loss?
  • Will that one reason (whatever that reason may be) those 100 plus adjoining neighbors had for making their home in the country be taken away from them?
  • Are we taking away any further development of the city of Hays with this controversial undertaking?
In my opinion, this area is too populated for this type of venture; too many lives will be forever changed and that change will be for the worse. There are other counties in this state that welcome this type of industrialism with open arms. This county and the people immediately adjacent to the project area do not welcome this project.

A yes vote by the county commissioners will be a violation of the zoning rules and regulations which were adopted by the commissioners.

A yes vote will force these landowners to live with an intrusion into their everyday lives which will be unacceptable and a destruction of the lives they have built.

I am praying that just one of these three gentlemen will have the courage to take a stand on what is their duty to protect the people of Ellis County and vote no on the conditional-use permit.

Forcing turbines on landowners is wrong.

Mary Barnes
615 Munjor Road
Hays, Kansas


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ellis County Commission Letter of Support for Disgen, Aug. 29, 2005

Here I have reproduced two key documents revealing the full extent of our previous County Commission's support for the wind energy project. They raise many interesting questions when considered in light of the current efforts by two of these same Commissioners to delay a decision on the project as long as possible. This delay effectively grants Iberdrola maximum opportunity to alter, remodel and repackage their sloppy application in the face of its imminent demise. These documents reveal the blind, unquestioning, and unconditional support granted to Disgen by Mr. Berens and Mr. Pfannenstiel while they were supposedly acting in Ellis County's best interests. The contents of the letter stand in stark contrast to many of these commissioners' more recent public and private communications to their constituents in which they have expressed (feigned?) concern about public health issues, loss of property values, etc.

The Letter:

Dale Osborn
Distributed Generation Systems, Inc.
200 Union Boulevard, Suite 304
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

Re: Proposed Ellis County Wind Energy Project

Dear Mr. Osborn:

On Monday, August 8, 2005 Mr. Eric Simons, Director of Business Development for Distributed Generation Systems, Inc. (Disgen) and Project Manager for the proposed Ellis County Wind Energy Project, presented Disgen's concept for this new wind farm at our regular weekly meeting.

From that presentation we understand that Disgen has been working on developing this project for the past two years, has entered into land agreements with numerous landowners for property amounting to almost 10,000 acres and has been gathering meteorological data for the past one and one half years. It is also our understanding that the wind data indicates that the project site, located directly west and south west of the City of Hays has an excellent wind resource and that as a result Disgen now wishes to pursue the actual construction of such a project depending on obtaining a contract to either sell the project itself or to sell the power from the project.

As the governing Board of Ellis County, we, the Ellis County Commissioners, are very interested in encouraging sustainable economic development that will benefit the citizens of our County. After hearing Mr. Simons' presentation it is our unanimous desire to express our support for Disgen's proposed wind farm to be built west and southwest of Hays. This support is offered regardless of whether the project is for the benefit of KCPL or Midwest Energy and regardless of size, as we also understand that the project can be anywhere from 50-200 megawatts. The Ellis County Commission will issue a Conditional Approval for the project within 30 days of successful contract award by Disgen, Inc. with the expectation that requirements identified in Attachment "A" and Attachment "B" will be provided as detailed. Final Approval will be issued by the Ellis County Commission within 14 days of compliance to Attachment "A" and Attachment "B" by Disgen, Inc.

We welcome your efforts in Ellis County and look forward to assisting you in bringing this wind energy project to fruition.


Board of Ellis County Commissioners

Dennis J. Pfannenstiel, Chairman
Vernon L. Berens, Member
Christopher S. Channell, Member




Unless otherwise specified, the following information shall be provided no later than commencement of construction. When field or design conditions require significant change in project scope, submittal shall be made within 30 days of change.

1. Provide site plan that details location of existing structures, location of proposed structures (including towers /turbines and buildings), location of homes within 1/2 mile of proposed project boundary, location of commercial structures within the project boundaries, locati on of existing electrical transmission lines and facilities, location of existing utilities and casements within the project boundary, location of underground pipelines or underground utilities within the project boundary, and location of proposed electrical lines.
2. Information detailing the type, size, maximum and minimum height, rotor size, rotor material, color, rated power output, performance, safety, and noise characteristics of each proposed wind turbine model, tower, and electrical transmission equipment.
3. Provide a Phase One Environmental Screening Report as per industry standards. .4. Provide an accurate computer generated visual simulation from vantage points as
agreed to by developer and Ellis County staff.
5. Provide tower/turbine details that assure tower shall not be lattice-type or other design that provide perches.
6. Turbine blades shall have a minimum ground clearance of 4O feet, at the lowest point of rotation and calculated for all directions.
7. Tower shall be setback from public roadways a minimum of one times the tip height plus 75 feet from the road centerline.
8. Tower shall be setback a minimum of 1,000 feet from existing residences.
9. Tower shall be setback from existing overhead utilities a minimum of one times the tip height plus 40 feet.
10. Tower shall be setback from adjoining property not under lease by the developer for the wind energy project a minimum of 500 feet to the nearest tip of the rotor for property.
11. Electrical lines shall be installed underground, except for connection to transmission lines or factors related to culturally sensitive areas that dictate aboveground installation.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Ellis County Zoning Regulations Examined

(submitted to Hays Daily News Aug. 3, 2007, by J.P. Michaud)

I wonder how many people interested in the wind farm debate have read the 184 pages of county zoning regulations. Bear in mind that these regulations were written by wind farm advocates Lance Russell and Jo Kraus (with assistance from David Yearout) for the specific purpose of attracting a wind energy project to Ellis County to directly benefit the Kraus family. The attraction? With issuance of a conditional use permit, most liability is shifted from the developer to the county authority that issued the permit. Injured residents must then sue their own county instead of, or in addition to, suing the company for any damages incurred.

Let’s start with some of the ‘Purpose’ statements of the regulations that seem quite ironic when viewed in the context of the multiple threats posed by wind energy development.

“To promote the health, safety, comfort and general welfare of the citizens of Ellis County, Kansas.”
“To conserve good agricultural land…”
“To regulate and restrict the height, number of stories, and size of buildings…”
“To provide for adequate light and air, and acceptable noise levels..”

Solid arguments have already been advanced why the wind energy development is completely incompatible with these primary objectives and would sacrifice the quality of life of all those living in its vicinity.

These regulations restrict residential construction to 2 ½ story buildings – but also permit the construction of wind turbines 40 stories tall within 1000 ft of existing residences. How can this possibly be considered fair and equitable treatment of the citizenry? It clearly sets the stage for blatant exploitation of rural residents.

Of further interest are the contents of “Attachment B” submitted by CPV corporation to the County Commission outlining ‘approval conditions’ for the wind energy project, conditions presumably found acceptable by our County Commission of August, 2005. These state that “Information detailing the type, size, height, rotor size, rotor material, color, rated power output, performance, safety, and noise characteristics of each proposed wind turbine” will be provided “no later than commencement of construction”.

So our friendly wind developers want a blank check to install turbines of any size or color, of any noise or safety specifications, as they see fit. But they promise to inform us of these minor details once they begin construction.

There are 5 separate references to a “Comprehensive Plan” within the zoning regulations that would presumably serve as a guideline for assessing the community impacts of any large scale development such as a wind park – and yet no such Comprehensive Plan exists. None. We’re told they are working on one. Another ‘carte blanche’ for wind energy.

Finally, there are a total of 26 pages of regulations on signs – how tall they can be, how many you can have, etc. etc. Regulations for wind energy development? Slightly less than a page and a half. Apparently massive towers with whirling blades that slice and dice birds and bats, draw lighting strikes, generate stray voltage surges, cause continual visual and auditory disturbances are less of an environmental concern to our zoning board than signs that advertise businesses or proclaim first amendment rights. (Note: Given these latter have been repeated targets of vandalism, what are the prospects for wind turbines that are 1000 times more intrusive than any 4 x 8 ft sign?)

Regulations for wind energy development in other counties consists of 50-60 pages and place responsibilities on the developer to ensure all manner of protections for adjacent properties, wildlife, ground water contamination, etc. Since our turbines can be any color Iberdrola wants (read massive advertising billboards), we might be better off to consider them signs and limit them to 7 ft in height.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Indecision, or more corruption?

(submitted to Hays Daily News by J.P. Michaud, Aug.2, 2007)

Personal communications with county comissioners by various people have all returned the same result: they have made up their minds on the wind farm issue, but they aren’t telling anyone - yet. It all smacks of deeper corruption of local politics. Why leave their constituents hanging and perpetuate the acrimony between opposing sides for no good reason? It plays into the hands of our would-be industrialists who are scrambling daily to salavage their corrupt business deal with unscrupulous tactics. Like continuing to ghost-write letters from supposed supporters. Like trying to buy off opponents one by one to invalidate their protest petition and whittle away at the opposition. Like trying to publicly pressure the one commissioner who has been forthright enough to state his reservations about the development.

I was greatly heartened to learn of the grass-roots opposition to Iberdrola’s aggressive and despotic wind energy development in Oaxaca, Mexico. The people of Hays and Ellis County could learn a lot about how to resist corporate exploitation from these impoverished, uneducated, and yet couragous and well-informed indigenous peoples. They seem to have better awareness of their impending environmental doom than many of our more educated and more affluent local residents who blindly accept all the false promises of wind energy developers at face value. I encourage everyone to download and watch the 13 min video “Windmills of Capitalism” available here:

Despite their tardiness in this matter, our county commissioners want to politicize their decision to the fullest extent possible when they do render it, as though they want the same attention the zoning board got when they rendered their biased and tainted recommendation. Why else would they try to get people to pack the Schenk building simply to hear them vote aye or nay? The only draw for the zoning board meetings was the opportunity for public input, which the commission has clearly rejected at this point. They want the spotlight for themselves – but only once they have all their theatrics properly orchestrated.

The county commission seems to be postponing the inevitable – but they can’t postpone the next election that will surely punish those commissioners who choose to support this project. There are only two possible explanations for this unconscionable delay: corruption or cowardice. Are they waiting for public attention to wane, or are they negociating more graft from the wind farm developers?