Sunday, October 28, 2007

Open Letter to Governor Kathleen Sebelius

(The following letter was submitted in October 2007 to the Governor of Kansas by J.P. Michaud, resident of Ellis County)

Dear Governor Sebelius,

I was encouraged to read yesterday in our local paper, the Hays Daily News, that your obligation to protecting the health and welfare of the people of Kansas was first and foremost in your mind in supporting the decision to deny the permits for Sunflower Electric's new coal plants.

However, I must ask why that same concern does not appear to extend to the more than 100 families in Ellis County whose, health, homes and livelihoods have been threatened by efforts to site a massive wind energy development inappropriately close to residential settlements.

You pointed out that only 15% of the energy generated by the proposed coal plants would be used by Kansas, while 85% would be sold out of state, while Kansas would bear 100% of the local environmental impact. The same is true for Iberdrola's (CPV Wind Hays) development in Ellis County. Local residents would see their local environment devastated, lose millions of dollars of real estate value, have their health threatened, their quality of life diminished and the scenic beauty of their community destroyed forever, only to have the bulk of the power and the profits exported.

I am not going to argue that wind energy is a huge corporate boondoggle for taxpayers, that it is the most expensive and inefficient form of electricity generation, that it cannot replace any conventional generation because of the fickle nature of wind, that it is only feasible because of massive tax incentives provided to foreign corporations, that wind turbines rarely operate long enough to recover the carbon footprint of their installation, etc, etc.

However, I am going to argue that wind energy has an undeniably large environmental footprint that demands appropriate sites be selected for wind turbines.

The state should not turn a blind eye when large scale energy generation of any kind is proposed in the wrong place as local governments have neither the resources nor the expertise to regulate developments of this magnitude.

The proposed site for Iberdrola's project was selected on the basis its proximity to power lines and the covert scheming of a handful of (mostly non-resident) landholders. There was no independent environmental impact study, no economic impact study, and no consideration given to the rights of neighboring landholders. Both our local zoning board and our county commission are rank with corruption and conflicts of interest that should be sufficient to convene a grand jury investigation.

They completely ignoring the interests of the community at large in the hopes of profiting their own families. Our recently adopted zoning regulations (imposed specifically to facilitate wind energy development) are so inadequate that they contain only 1.5 pages that supposedly 'regulate' wind energy development – compared to 26 pages on signs! Add to this the fact that we have absolutely no comprehensive plan for zoning as recommended by state guidelines and it is not surprising that David Yearout, a member of your own energy council, saw fit to remove himself from the process, so much of his template was deleted from our regulations.

I understand and applaud your commitment to renewable energy. However 'renewable' does not mean 'without impact' – either socially, economically or environmentally. All forms of energy generation have impacts and must be carefully sited so as to minimize these impacts on our population – not simply to maximize the profits of greedy developers.

On behalf of myself and the more than 750 signatories of the Ellis County Wind Farm Moratorium Petition, I request that you weigh in on this issue and defend the innocent families of Hays Ellis County who are now facing the imminent threat of a new application from Iberdrola, carefully gerrymandered to exclude a perfectly valid protest petition that defeated their initial application.

Please tell Iberdrola that, while we support wind energy, we value the health and welfare of our people even more. The wind blows just as hard across the 20 sections of vacant land in southeast Ellis County where almost nobody lives.


J.P. Michaud
1189 180th Ave.
Hays, Kansas

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