Thursday, July 24, 2008

So Much Misinformation, So Little Time

Much to my chagrin, Thomas Jefferson’s political philosophy seems to be falling out of favor in modern America. It’s terribly unfortunate as Jeffersonian philosophy offers much. For example, we all know that Jefferson enshrined the “pursuit of happiness” in the national conscience. Jefferson said more about happiness though, take for instance; “I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.”

His wisdom doesn’t end there. Wrap your head around this Jeffersonian insight; “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” Unfortunately, with the commission election and the decision concerning the industrial wind development right around the corner, it seems most of what is printed regarding the two, particularly as they relate to each other, makes it seem Jefferson just formed his opinion recently.

Opinions are defended with information (though often not formed with it). Unfortunately, when the issue is as politically charged as the election and as controversial as the proposed wind development just outside of Hays, this information becomes twisted, sometimes violently so.

Though it is quite likely many people have taken Jefferson’s advice already (at least on this issue), for those of you still reading, I urge you to check out everything I say and look up the information I discuss from various sources , those reportedly neutral and those from both sides.

Let’s begin by pointing out that it probably won’t matter what the commission decides. There have been so many problems with this process that the application will undoubtedly end up in district (and possibly appeals) court. As a result, this process will most likely be repeated yet again in a year or so. As such, whatever is ultimately decided will be decided by the commission in place after the election. Speaking of which, now you know why the commission election is so political and so contested (not to mention why some opinions pieces are so venomous).

I get why it is tempting to distort the facts or only present one side of them. Some have stuff to lose while others have things to gain. Take T. Boone Pickens for example. He’s “been an oil man his entire life”, until he found wind. Why the sudden burst of what appears to be environmentalism? I don’t know Pickens, but I do know this; oil companies such as Exxon boast a profit margin of approximately 8%. Most estimates place his potential profit margin in industrial wind at or above 25%. It comes as no surprise, that being a good capitalist, Pickens wants in on wind.

Why then does his campaign sound so political? That’s easy: without the government subsidies and tax breaks, industrial wind couldn’t make money at all, let alone a 25% profit. Makes me think he’s not so much concerned about transfers of wealth so long as the wealth transfers to his account. Without our money (the government) transferring to his account, wind isn’t profitable, and without the profit he won’t build, so he’s depending on us to lobby the government. Sound familiar?

I personally don’t get why people are so down on oil anyway. Oil built this country and more specifically, oil built Ellis County. Ever wonder what Ellis County taxes would be without oil? Taxes on oil are responsible for a huge portion of the county’s revenue.

Let’s do a little comparison. If it is built, the proposed wind development will (hopefully) voluntarily pay $600,000 per year in lieu of actual taxes. If that same capital investment were in oil, that figure would be more on the order of $12,000,000 and that wouldn’t be subject to the companies’ “generosity”. I’m all in favor of alternative energy and finding renewable alternatives to exhaustible energy sources, but I’m not in favor of just any alternative. If you really wanted to eliminate the country’s dependence on foreign oil, wind is not the answer (an infinitesimally small percentage of electricity is produced by oil). If however, you are willing to do just about anything, I suggest replacing all motorized vehicles with horses. Unlike wind, this would actually work, but my guess is most of us would not support such a move, and as such, you are also on to my point that doing anything is not what we need.

Even if I grant you that wind is the answer, not only for the nation and the state and for Ellis County (all different questions), I still don’t understand the commissioners’ insistence on this particular project. Many people have posited that there is something happening behind the scenes here in Ellis County, much the same way that there is clearly something happening behind the scenes of Pickens’ new found support for wind energy. Again, I can’t say for certain what is happening, but let’s take a look at what is known.

There are four wind developments on the table for Ellis County. Most all players involved recognize that without additional transmission lines, only one project can currently be built. Everyone also acknowledges that the one currently under consideration is by far the most controversial and most contested. Given that only one can be built for sure why do two of our commissioners insist on unconditionally supporting the one project that is tearing our county apart? For that matter, why does a company claiming to be such “good neighbors” insist on pushing though the only one of their three projects that will leave division and hard feelings in the community that will last for generations? Why would either of them risk harming the growth and lifeblood of Ellis County by placing the one project so close to Hays?

Let me leave you with a final Jefferson quote. “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Though Jefferson was at times quite frustrated with the press, he was rightly more wary of a government that isn’t open, transparent or responsive to the people. As a fan of Jeffersonian political philosophy, I also share his belief in the power of “We the people”. As such, I am optimistic that the people of Ellis County will become informed, utilize common sense and hold their representatives accountable for their actions.

I urge you to find out what is happening in local government, not just with industrial wind, but with the budget, the rule of law and adherence to regulations, the county building proposal and other county issues. Talk to the candidates. Study their positions and past record. Support a candidate that offers common sense solutions, vision and leadership in government, not lingering questions.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Something to Hide?

(submitted to HDN July 16, 2008)

The recent decision of our County Commission to change their mind on requiring financial disclosures of appointed officials is surprising enough, but their reasons for doing so are mind-boggling. Board members threatened to resign if forced to disclose their financial interests.

Should we not view resistance to public disclosure as evidence of guilt? Are these not people whose resignations we should encourage, if not demand? As Commissioner Henman pointed out, the requirement was adopted specifically to address apparent conflicts of interest on the Planning Commission, and these are obviously the people opposing the requirement. When Dick Klaus says "You get people…on there for years and know a lot about the way (the board) works, you'd hate to lose them" he speaks for himself, not the community. Having personally witnessed 'how the board works' I would say these are specifically the people we need to lose – those that have been there so long they think they can do what they want without obeying their own rules or being held accountable for their actions. If they can't reveal their financial interests, they obviously have something to hide. Throw them out.

Dale Wing's assessment that financial disclosure will make for "an extremely difficult time in re-appointing members of the planning commission" is completely false. Many qualified people volunteered to serve on the board in June and were passed over so that Commissioners Berens and Pfannenstiel could re-appoint their pro-wind cronies – and now they have given these same people special permission to keep secret their leasing agreements with Iberdrola. How cozy.

The County Commission essentially thumbs its nose at state law by de-coupling the oath of office from financial disclosure. How can anyone objectively represent a community's interests in a development of this magnitude when they stand to gain financially from the developer's success? I have no appointed or elected responsibility and yet, as an employee of the state, I am required to make a conflict of interest disclosure annually – in case I might be conducting state research designed to benefit some company in which I hold a substantial interest. Why should people charged with drafting regulations to protect our community be let off the hook for public disclosure precisely when they are in a position to sell us all down the river for their own financial gain?

The obvious answer is they should not. This decision is an affront to open government and an insult to the citizens of Ellis County. And it is further evidence of the complicity of these commissioners in the corruption of county-wide zoning. As if we needed any.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Turbines can alter local weather

(submitted to HDN July 12, 2008)

There are many serious implications of wind energy development when it is close to rural or urban residences and we can be sure that those anxious to jump on the wind energy bandwagon haven’t considered more than a fraction of them.

We have heard about the problems with continuous noise penetrating people’s houses up to a mile away and causing chronic illness. We have heard about the shadow flicker and strobing that can induce seizures and declining property values as people flee formerly peaceful rural environments to escape this large-scale industrialization. We have heard about construction impacts and possible damage to water tables, soil profiles and natural vegetation, not to mention bird and bat kills and wildlife being driven away. But it doesn’t end there.

A recent study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres by Princeton scientists used computer modeling to simulate the effects of a large array of wind turbines (100 of them each 325 feet high and spaced 2/3 of a mile apart) in a Great Plains environment. Parameters were set to mimic wind speeds and weather patterns typical of Oklahoma. The objective was to identify possible impacts on local climatic conditions.

The study found that large arrays of wind turbines actually raise nighttime surface temperatures in summer. Cool air typically pools close to the ground at night, leaving hot air to circulate at higher levels. Turbines disturb this thermal stratification and encourage the mixing of the hot air higher up with the cooler air near the ground, thus raising surface temperatures and eliminating the cool air effect at night that is such a welcome respite during hot summer weather.

This important result adds to other studies in Europe that reveal local changes in climate due to large arrays of wind turbines. In the coastal plain of Denmark, moisture arrives as very low-lying cloud and fog cover that either condenses out onto vegetation or falls as gentle drizzle. The turbulence caused by large arrays of wind turbines diminishes this effect and has actually reduced soil moisture in the region, causing farmers to lobby the government to shut down turbines during spring months so that crops can receive adequate moisture during critical growth stages.

There are many, many implications to consider before we rush ahead blindly with a massive industrialization of this county from which there will be no turning back. With all due respect, few of our elected officials are qualified to evaluate the full impact of these projects on our community - beyond the shortsighted economic promises made by the developer. This would require careful, balanced analysis by a team of unbiased, independent experts. I find it ironic that we are supposed to accept turbines in the interest of diminishing global warming (a contention that is highly doubtful) in the face of real evidence to suggest we risk raising our temperature locally and possibly diminishing our rainfall.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Stacking the Deck

Once again, Commissioners Pfannenstiel and Berens have revealed their cronyism with wind farm profiteers by appointing and re-appointing Planning Commission members who are either known supporters of wind energy, or have familial ties to land leased for wind turbines. The public needs to know that a large number of other people volunteered for these positions – many of them educated citizens genuinely concerned for their community – not people simply trying to jump on the wind bandwagon for personal profit. None of these people, who might have provided more balance on the Planning Commission, people whom the commissioners may have assumed to be neutral or mildly opposed to the development in its present form, were allowed the opportunity to serve.

These commissioners clearly have no desire for a balance of opinion to be represented on the Planning Commission – they appear determined to railroad this project through over the dead bodies of any dissenters. The rumors of kickbacks and payoffs to these commissioners by wind interests are only rumors and cannot be substantiated. However, the balance of circumstantial evidence indicative of their corruption is becoming increasingly ponderous with every passing week they remain in office.

It does not matter much that Planning Commission members will now be asked to take an oath of office. It is merely one more confirmation that our appointed officials have not been following their own rules and regulations to date. Much damage has been done previous board members and doubtless many of those still present will make their conflicts public, but blithely continue with business as usual. Similarly, our two star commissioners will continue to ignore public concerns, make arbitrary decisions that benefit their friends and families, and mismanage the county’s resources and tax revenue until they are removed from office. The debacle of the Hadley Building deal should be evidence enough of their poor judgment and incompetence. Both Berens and Pfannenstiel have had multiple terms in office and a bounty of opportunities to benefit this community – clealy without doing so.

Whether you are Republican or Democrat, it is difficult to deny that political change is needed in Ellis County – not simply to restore responsible government, but to prevent the whole county and its future from being sold down the river on a ‘good faith agreement’ with a foreign company. I urge everyone to become involved in supporting alternative candidates for County Commission this fall. We must extinguish the apathy that has allowed corruption and cronyism to permeate local government and replace it with increased awareness and vigilance of its operations. And we must take full advantage of the only legal means to restore honest, responsible representation. We must support and campaign for deserving candidates and make it a personal priority to vote for change in November.

J.P. Michaud
1189 180th Ave.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Skywalker's Nightmare

A letter from Margo Apostolas that has been submitted to the Hays Daily News:

Do you remember the first Star Wars movies when Luke Skywalker first entered the cultural lexicon? He lived an agricultural existence on a remote planet with his uncle and aunt. Now, do you remember the way you reacted to the giant machines that attacked his peaceful, agrarian landscape? It was shocking and brutal not just because a war ensued and people died but how they arrived so suddenly without any real warning. There were no Jedi warriors in place on the local provincial/county commission looking out for the Skywalker Farm. Nobody sounded an alarm saying, “Your very way of life is about to be threatened! Take shelter and – MAKE PLANS!”

Someday, we will look back on how the commercial wind farm turbines erupted on our landscape and spread throughout western KS and other plains states without any real thought to how to manage something so beyond our knowing. Once it’s gone, it’s gone…MAKE PLANS!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

More Devious Zoning

Submitted to HDN, June 8, 2008

It appears that the Ellis County Planning Commission is going to schedule public input for their new wind energy ordinance (read blank check for wind companies) at their next meeting June 25 – in a room too small to hold the likely number of people attending, and starting an hour later than usual. This is a calculated move to limit their exposure to criticism and counter wind opposition.

We should not be surprised. With a couple of notable exceptions, the ‘movers and shakers’ in this zoning commission are not there to serve the public interest but their own. Their sole purpose in volunteering for the board was to grease the rails for their own scheme to profit from wind turbines, with the complicity of their two cronies on the county commission. They plan to approve a permit application gerrymandered to deny residents their statutory rights to a protest petition. An application that declares, in essence, that the project has no neighbors. They want their money for nothing and their turbines for free. Let everyone else pay the price.

These board members have consisted ignored or dismissed all cautionary information and painstaking research supplied to them by concerned citizens. They have made a complete sham of the public input process. They have admitted their own ignorance of acoustical measurements, but then declined offers from a county commissioner to pay for scientific consultation that would help them draft a noise ordinance. They insist of forging ahead with their ‘non-regulations’ in ignorance. But this is no longer inadvertent ignorance – it is now calculated and willful ignorance.

These people will not take an oath of office, as required by Kansas State statute. They will not publicly declare their conflicts of interest – they or their immediate families have all signed leases with Iberdrola, as have virtually all the outspoken proponents of the project. They will not recommend any regulations that might safeguard rural residents against this massive development. They prefer to trust Krista Gordon and Iberdrola to ‘do right by everyone’. They are unconcerned that a foreign company, beholding to no one, will soon control more land in Ellis County than anyone else – all without purchasing a single acre! They themselves will likely have to ask permission from Iberdrola to hunt on their own land.

If nothing is done, this zoning commission will open the floodgates for rampant, uncontrolled industrialization of this county. No less than four projects (!) are now in the planning stages that will probably span more than 30,000 acres. Do citizens not deserve some prudent oversight and authority over this rampant, unregulated industry? If these people are not stopped, there will be no turning back and their legacy will last for decades, stifling all other forms of social and economic development around Hays. They will turn Ellis County into a sprawling industrial wasteland where no one in their right mind will want to live.

J.P. Michaud
1189 180th Ave.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

New Wind Application is an End-Run Around Zoning Law

The new wind energy application by Iberdrola uses a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to delineate carefully selected sub-parcels of land within legal parcels for a Conditional Use Permit. The intent is to deny neighbors their rights to a protest petition, a right they have already successfully exercised under zoning law.

The stated intent of zoning is the protection of the property rights and quality of life of all residents. There is a statutory requirement in Kansas for inclusion of a protest petition clause in all county zoning regulations. It is implicit in zoning regulations that CUP applications apply to complete legal parcels, or the protest petition statute would be pointless. Those seeking to host turbines are now essentially claiming to be their own neighbors, and trying to deny adjacent landholders their legal status as neighbors. Is this not unscrupulous?

Nowhere in our zoning regulations does it say anything about protecting people’s right to profit from any development that might happen to come along, as Gene Bittel would have us believe. He expressed concern about passing wind energy regulations that might harm someone’s (or his) ability to profit from turbines. He fails to understand that the purpose of zoning is exactly the opposite – to protect existing real estate investments and quality of life from unsuitable developments that will detract from their value and harm innocent people.

It is clear from the folly of the last zoning board meeting that at least four, if not five, of the board members are dead set on gutting the ordinance submitted by concerned residents to regulate wind energy. They won’t take an oath of office (as required by law) or publicly disclose their conflicts of interest (as explicitly stated in the zoning regulations they themselves adopted) because they are all planning to profit from wind turbines however they possibly can. They have consistently represented their own families’ financial interests instead of the interests of the people of Ellis County. And they certainly don’t want to change the 1,000 ft. setback because that would spoil their plans to eliminate a protest petition by pulling turbines back just a bit more than 1,000 ft. from their property lines.

Iberdrola’s new application seeks to circumvent the spirit and intent of zoning law and will certainly be vulnerable to legal challenge in district court. If the County Commission grants them a waiver for early submission and then approves this application, they will be exposing the county to the same legal action that will target Iberdrola.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Moral Imagination

The following has submitted by Jacinta Faber to the Hays Daily News. It has been slightly revised from the form that was posted on April 21.

A gentleman named G.J. Warnock described empathy as “moral imagination.” He viewed putting oneself in another’s shoes as one of the components of a moral compass leading to the good life. I am married to a philosopher, and as a family, we have spent many an evening around the dinner table discussing what living the good life means. When our kids were younger, our son tended to equate the good life with the number of toys he owned. His acquisitiveness was scorned by his older sister, who thought that there must be more to living the good life than acquiring things. She seemed to be more on the path of developing her moral imagination.

The industrial wind project is challenging the moral imagination of Ellis County. The situation reads as follows. First, there are one hundred plus families who are located in or on the border of the wind project and who feel threatened by having an industry located close to their homes. Second, we have land owners who want as many turbines as possible on their land to augment their income. Lastly, we have a wind company which is determined to place the industry in the same spot where a formal protest petition, as designed by law, was able to stop the first go around.

How can Ellis County use its moral imagination to resolve this conflict? Shouldn’t zoning take care of the situation? After all, as stated in the regulations, the chief purpose of zoning is, “To promote the health, safety, comfort and general welfare of the citizens of Ellis County, Kansas.” Can laws promote empathy in people? Much of the time we have selfish motives for keeping the law. We tend to keep to the speed limit to avoid paying a fine, not to expand our moral conscience.

In our zoning laws, for example, a 1000 foot setback for turbines from residences is required in Ellis County. If you have taken a trip east lately, you probably have seen the Smoky Hill Wind Project. The towers inspire awe in most people due to the incredible size of the blades spinning in the Kansas sky. Now imagine having one of those turbines 1000 feet from your doorstep, or as seen in the latest proposal from the Hays Wind Project, being surrounded by the turbines in every direction from your home. It would seem unwise to think zoning would stir our moral imagination.

What about the land leasers? One argument given is “It’s my property. I can do what I want with it.” Another is, “My Dad wants ‘em.” These arguments fall more in line with property rights and desire, but don’t speak to the “walk a mile in another man’s shoes” theology. In fact, the zoning chair is leading the consideration of the rules that could help determine the number of turbines he could profit from on his property during phase two or three of the project. He even went so far as to indelicately rub his fingers with his thumb (the money sign) when discussing the optimum setback to allow for the most turbines. Self –interest tends to dull the moral imagination.

Add to this, three more zoning commissioners with substantial interest in the wind project, aided by Iberdrola blowing hot air, and we now have a collective moral imagination dangerously close to withering on the vine.

Would a wind company like Iberdrola base its decisions for Ellis County on the Golden Rule? I doubt it, but if anyone has witnessed this in action, please let me know. Iberdrola would be a shoo-in for the number one spot in the Eight Wonders of Ellis County, if not the world. In reality, mega-corporations don’t become mega by doing good deeds, but by making mega profits.

This leaves us to our last resort: the county commissioners. It is time for them to use their moral imaginations. The law cannot demand that someone uses his moral imagination. The county commissioners are in the unique position to seek the welfare of the people of the county. They have been given an opportunity—and responsibility—through their elective office to exercise their moral imagination.

Jacinta Faber

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wind developers still circling like wolves

(Submitted to HDN, Apr. 15)

These days wind developers circle Kansas like packs of rapacious wolves with a never-ending thirst for tax-credits. Allaying themselves with short-sighted landowners, themselves blinded by dollar-signs, they tirelessly harass rural communities, threatening peaceful country residents with forced industrialization, visual and noise pollution, safety hazards, and an end to the peace and quality of life they had come to assume was their right to enjoy.

In her continuing quest to flog her environmentally disastrous wind project in Ellis County, Krista Gordon has requested a waiver of the one year waiting period for re-application on behalf of Iberdrola. Never mind that more than 50 % of residents in the project area don’t want it and have signed a legal protest petition to stop it. Never mind that her lies, misrepresentations and attempts to bribe local government are now common knowledge. Never mind that numerous members of the community are consumed in an ongoing discussion on how to regulate large scale wind energy projects to protect people and the environment. Much better for the windies if they can get a waiver signed by two stupid old men with the collective environmental consciousness of a bulldozer – before any regulations can be put in place by educated citizens truly concerned about protecting the community.

First it was all hush, hush – now it's all rush, rush. The only reason the windies oppose a careful, independent evaluation of the community impact of their project is they know it would never survive one. The only reason they oppose the development of a sensible wind energy ordinance to protect public safety is they have no intention of following regulations or being held responsible for their actions. It is time, once again, for every concerned citizen to stand up and speak out against this attempted rape of our county by a Spanish corporation.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Conflict of Interest, Oath of Office, and Comprehensive Plan

Jacinta Faber gave the following little speech to the Ellis County Commissioners as they were meeting in session on April 7, 2008:

Gentlemen of the County Commission,

I thank you for giving me as a citizen the opportunity to address you, as the governing body of Ellis County.

One of the distinctive features of American government has been the rule of law. We are not governed by the commands of a king nor by the whims of people seeking favors from their friends. Rather, we the people—through our representatives—make the law, and we the people accept the law as legitimate because the law we make is enforced uniformly, fairly, and without favoritism.

Although I have concerns about bringing the wind industry into residential areas of Ellis County, I come to you today to bring to your attention my concerns not about the wind industry, but about the governmental process.

Through you, we have accepted the words and thoughts of the Zoning Regulations of Ellis County, the Bylaws—Rules and Regulations of the Joint Planning Commission of Ellis County, the Ethical Principles of the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission and Staff, and the relevant state statutes. As you no doubt know, KSA 54-106 says that everyone appointed to an office shall take the following oath:

"I do solemnly swear [or affirm, as the case may be] that I will support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Kansas, and faithfully discharge the duties of ______. So help me God."

As you also no doubt know, the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Kansas has offered the legal opinion that taking the oath within a reasonable time after selection is a pre-requisite for holding the position. Although we would expect the commissioners of the Joint Planning Commission to uphold the constitutions and faithfully discharge their duties without having taken the oath, that the commissioners have never taken the oath is an indication of a disappointing lack of concern for the law of the land.

That lack of concern for the rule of law is also shown in the apparent unwillingness of the Joint Planning Commissioners to comply with the bylaws and the ethical principles that have been adopted. The “Bylaws of the Joint Planning Commission” say, and I quote,

Members of the Joint Planning Commission who shall legally have a conflict of interest or believe that they may have a substantial interest, as defined in K.S.A. 75-4301, in any matter that is on the Commission's agenda shall voluntarily excuse themselves, vacate their seat and refrain from discussion and voting on said item as a Commission member. Conflict of interest includes ownership of property or business in which the Commission is considering action, receipt of fees, salaries or gratuity from such business or businesses, or a family relationship to an applicant seeking Commission action. (“Bylaws—Rules and Regulations,” Article XI.)

And similarly, the “Ethical Principles of the Joint Planning Commission” say (and again, I quote)

To avoid conflict of interest and even the appearance of impropriety, Joint Planning Commission members who may receive some private benefit from a public planning decision must not participate in that decision. The private benefit may directly or indirectly create a material personal gain, or provide an advantage to an immediate relative. A member with a conflict of interest must make that interest public, abstain from voting on the matter, not participate in any deliberations on the matter, and step down from the Joint Planning Commission and not participate as a member of the public when such deliberations are to take place. (“Ethical Principles,” paragraph 6)

I am concerned about conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety because it has been publicly reported in the Hays Daily News and elsewhere that one member of the Joint Planning Commission has an immediate relative who would may benefit from decisions of the commission, and other members of the commission may themselves receive payment for having wind turbines sited on their property in publicly reported future stages of planned development. Yet these members of the commission have not excused themselves from deliberating and deciding.

The disregard for their own bylaws and ethical principles undercuts the legitimacy of the actions of the Joint Planning Commission.

Beyond the disregard for the oath of office and the appearance of conflicts of interest, another thing that seems to show disregard for the rule of law is the Joint Planning Commission’s lack of concern for a comprehensive plan for the county. Paragraph 1 of Article I of the Bylaws—the paragraph setting the very foundation of the responsibilities of the Joint Planning Commission—says, and I quote once more,

It shall be the responsibility of the Joint Planning Commission to cause the preparation, development and adoption of a Comprehensive Plan in accordance with Kansas statutes upon the authorization of the Governing Body. (“Bylaws—Rules and Regulations,” Article I, paragraph 1)

Yet the Joint Planning Commission has made no effort in its three years of existence to prepare or develop such a plan. Again, this sort of disregard for the law undercuts public confidence in the operation of government.

As the Governing Body of Ellis County, you oversee the operation of the Joint Planning Commission. I understand that zoning and the operation of the Joint Planning Commission are relatively new to the county and that beginnings can be hard. But if the Joint Planning Commission is really to serve the purposes set forth by the zoning regulations, the first of which is, “To promote the health, safety, comfort and general welfare of the citizens of Ellis County, Kansas” (“Ellis County Zoning Regulations,” Article 1, Section 1-102), then the County Commission must exercise its oversight function effectively. As a citizen of Ellis County, Kansas, I appeal to you to see that the Joint Planning Commission follows the law. I want to see the law respected in all ways, but right now we know that there are specific problems with taking the oath of office, with avoiding even the appearance of a conflict of interest, and with the legal requirement for a comprehensive plan.

Let us work together to preserve the rule of law.

Thank you.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Changes in Local Government are Sorely Needed

(submitted to HDN Apr. 2, 2008)

According to recent quotes reported in the Hays Daily News, Commissioner Dennis Pfannenstiel now wants to abolish county-wide zoning, or at least put it to a public vote. How perverse is this? If the laws you institute for specific purposes don't serve those purposes, just repeal them. Just dismiss the zoning board and squander all the time and effort expended by volunteer citizens and board members trying to safeguard this community while they develop a plan for controlled growth.

If Mr. Pfannenstiel cared anything for the opinions of his constituents, he would never have forced zoning down everyone's throats in the first place in order to obtain a wind farm for his cronies. Now that the protections afforded common citizens by zoning law have been effectively employed to block this covert objective, he seeks to capitalize politically on the unpopularity of zoning to get re-elected. Does he really think the voters in Ellis County can't see through his blatant hypocrisy?

Mr. Pfannenstiel further revealed his ignorance of state law, if not his outright contempt for it, by publicly asserting that zoning board members were under no obligation to take an oath of office – and by extension, not liable for conflict of interest disclosures that would disqualify four board members from voting on wind ordinance regulations – because they are appointed, rather than elected, officials. Kansas State statute chapter 54-106 'Oaths and Affirmations' clearly states that all officers "elected or appointed under any law" shall take an oath of office.

Changes in local government are sorely needed if this county is to obtain responsible representation for its people. What we presently have is a callous exploitation of elected office by special interest groups with no respect for the law or the rights of common citizens. As a constituent in Mr. Pfannenstiel's district, it is my sincere hope that his candidacy is contested in his own party's primary, rather than in a general election that he is sure to lose.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

An opinion on Evil-drola from New York

March 27, 2008 by Jimmy Salamone in The Evening Times

What do wind developers look for in a county and its township before putting their cross hairs on them? My thoughts.

Iberdrola is the largest foreign wind company in the world worth multi-billions of dollars, then you have PPM Energy who is an artery off Iberdrola. Common sense tells me money is power in the political world. These companies will stop at nothing to make as much money as possible for themselves and their colleagues.

I think they scope out elected officials to see if they have any moral or ethical values, using a proverb like "they will fall for anything, because they stand for nothing." They found Herkimer County. They came in under the cover of darkness, behind closed doors and found their scarecrows.

A scarecrow is a landowner who signs a contract to have industrial wind turbine erected on their land for money, but they must sign a contract that says they cannot bring a suit against the developers due to any nuisances (ill-effects, though the developer says there are none) the turbines cause them or their family. They can't speak out, they have no mouth, they can't come forward, they have no legs. Even if they wanted to do what is right they can't, they are just scarecrows hanging in a field of weeds. After all these are just "wind farms" we milk the wind , sounds stupid doesn't it? It took a genius to mastermind this one, so no one pays any industrial land tax on a single acre of land encompassed in the footprint, thus the towns lose the land taxes. The only thing they are milking are the New York state taxpayers. It's perfect.

Then they have the non-participating homeowner stuck living within the project's footprint, citizens with great concerns about being triangulated with 400 feet high wind turbines, high tension wires going around their homes, rotors as big as a jet spinning on the skyline in front, back, and sides of their homes, and more importantly, people with medical conditions with potential adverse effects. The developers call these citizens the "N" word, "NIMBY" (not in my backyard), making it look like they're against wind energy and change. A total lie!

It would appear that the Iberdrola corporation and PPM Energy could care less about the citizens. I think they want total control over the land, as it means huge money to them. I believe that's what it's all about, money not energy needs.

Now Iberdrola , PPM Energy and the AWEA (American Wind Energy Association) are coming out with a book on how to fight NIMBY's. Don't take my word on it, ask Eric Blank, executive vice president of the Development Division of Iberdrola, or Sam Enfield, wind energy development for PPM Energy. It's pretty sad when New York state citizens are subjected to any sick prejudice for any reason, let alone for the idealization of money.

Jimmy Salamone3/27 The Evening Times

Friday, March 21, 2008

Wind turbines in the town of Hays?

(submitted to HDN March 21, 2008)

Communications among Hays City Commissioners and the office of Planning, Inspection and Enforcement reveal that several inquiries have been received from land owners and local developers regarding permission to install wind turbines of various types within city limits. Not surprisingly, these communications reveal a prevailing uncertainty among officials on how to respond.

There is currently no permitting process for wind turbines of any size, nor any bylaws that regulate or define their appropriate installation or safe operation within city limits. The city is in the same boat as the county as far as wind turbines; they are neither specifically permitted nor specifically prohibited. How long can city council avoid addressing this issue?

The situation in Hays is by no means unique. All across the country, municipalities are grappling with the issue of how to regulate microgeneration from so-called 'renewable' sources. For example, a California judge recently ordered a couple to cut down two redwood trees that were shading a neighbor's solar panels, citing the homeowner's 'right to sunlight'.

Some might be surprised to learn that technologies promoted as green and good for the planet actually require some further destruction of it. They shouldn't be. All forms of energy generation have a unique environmental footprint and a substantial 'cost of harvest'. There is no free lunch. And as soon as we place a value on sun and wind exposure, conflicts over rights to access are bound to arise, as are conflicts surrounding the impacts caused by their harvest.

If a developer is allowed to install between five and ten wind turbines 50 feet high with 35 foot blades to help power a new senior's facility at the end of 33rd street what will this mean for adjacent properties? If PIE decides to permit these towers as 'accessory use' structures will adjacent landowners be prevented from building anything that might block their neighbor's 'right to wind'? Who would bear responsibilty for third party damages caused by flying turbine debris in the event of catestrophic failure? The owner, or the city authority that allowed its construction?

Will existing nuisance ordinances be sufficient to protect neighbors from the noise and vibration that can emanate from wind turbines and the annoyance of flickering shadows, all which can propagate well beyond property lines? Not likely. These nuisances are unlike any conceivable at the time existing ordinaces were drafted. Will the right to access a new form of energy supercede the rights of others to peace and quiet? These are the reasons a new ordinance is needed for Hays that specifically addresses the issues raised by these forms of microgeneration, both wind and solar.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Wind Swindle of Ellis County

This letter was submitted by Keith Pfannenstiel to the Hays Daily News March, 5 2008

It is with some hesitation that I write this letter. As a local business owner I realize success of my business is in part dependent on the public credibility of the proprietor. Given the divisiveness of the wind development in the community, many business owners have decided not to risk speaking out in spite of their personal beliefs on the issue. That being said, I believe it is more important to take a stand for my community than to take a chance in letting the improper acts of some potentially harm us all.

As many know, I have been vocal concerning the inadequacy of the zoning rules to protect the county and those living with a potential wind project. In previous letters I have outlined many of the specific problems that plague the regulations. Until recently, though I knew there were problems, I simply could not grasp why so little had been done to regulate this industry or to protect the county and its citizens. In the effort to understand, I (along with others) began to document the involvement of county representatives and the calendar of events that brought wind developers to Ellis County.

What we discovered is disturbing. It portrays a government interested on profiting the few politically connected instead of looking out for the interests of the county as a whole. Before I continue however, I want this to be perfectly clear; this information is raised neither as an objection to wind development in Ellis County nor as an indictment of the many honest landowners in each project area. In addition, this is not intended as a statement against zoning. If done openly and with the interest of all of Ellis County in mind, zoning is a protection for everyone. If however, it appears that the process is manipulated to profit a few at the expense of others, then zoning must be revisited to give all its citizens protection.

Following are many of the documented facts that anyone can obtain with a little effort. Though there are undoubtedly a few minor errors in this documentation, the main points presented are accurate and verifiable. This is only a partial list, but it still paints a picture that is nearly impossible to deny.

Sept. 15 – The first memorandum of easement agreements were recorded at the county courthouse by landowners hoping to site turbines on their properties.

Oct. 10 – An email was received by Ellis County Commissioners Vernon Berens, Dennis Pfannenstiel and Chris Channel 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.

Feb. 28 – David Yearout discussed county wide zoning at the county commissioner meeting. Among those present was Lance Russell.

May 9 – Resolution No. 2005-15 County commissioners create a zoning planning commission. Nominated to serve on the board were Jo Kraus and Lance Russell as co-chairs, Rich Weber, Gene Bittel, Dick Klaus, Jim Scheck, Leo Dortzwieler, Charlie Rohr and Kent Laas. Kent Laas resigned within a few months after being appointed and Gene Jacobs assumed Rich Weber’s position a few months following that.

May 23 – First meeting of the Joint Planning Commission. A few days later, Jo Kraus addresses Ellis County Commissioners while serving on the zoning board and states she represents the landowners with easements for wind development and petitions support from commissioners. Meetings with Krista Jo Gordon and landowners are conducted at Dana and Jo Kraus’s home.

Aug. 18 – Jo Kraus approaches city officials and informs she represents landowners with easements.

Aug. 29 – County commissioners Berens, Pfannenstiel and Channel send approval letter for 50-200 turbines and guarantees approval.

High Plains Journal publishes article on the possibility of a wind farm west of Hays and quotes former Ellis County commissioner Harold Kraus (father of Lance Russell), stating he has leased land for wind turbines and relates his dream of seeing all ridgelines in western Kansas covered with wind turbines and exporting power to more populated areas.

June 6 – HDN reports Ellis County public “does not want zoning”

June 28 – Joint Planning Commission votes to approve zoning, despite overwhelming opposition expressed by the public in attendance. Jo Kraus, Lance Russell, Gene Jacobs, Gene Bittel, Dick Klaus, Jim Scheck, were in favor with Leo Dorzweiler and Charlie Rohr against. Charlie Rohr later explains that he now supports zoning, but he is also in favor of allowing landowners to do whatever they wish with their land.

June 30 – The terms of Jo Kraus and Gene Bittel expire. Gene Bittel is reappointed, Jo Kraus is not, but continues participation through emails to commissioners, county administrator, and county attorney.

Aug. 28 – Ellis Co. Commission adopts County wide zoning regulations with a unanimous vote

Jan 21 – Perry Henman takes office after defeating Chris Channel in the only open election for a seat on the county commission. Many cite support for zoning as responsible for Channel’s defeat.

March 3 – Application for wind farm is filed.

March 10 – Leo Dorzweiler resigns as zoning board member citing “unscrupulous tactics” in the zoning of Ellis County and a “dictatorship approach.”

March 28 – Hearing for wind farm with zoning board. Krista Jo Gordon states wind developers are only interested in zoned counties.

April 9 – County attorney resigns from wind farm counsel, citing he has a conflict of interest.

May 18 – An article in the HDN states that wind specific regulations were drafted by the Ellis County Public Works Department, the county counselor who resigned for conflict of interest, and the wind developer. Jo Kraus makes the motion to adopt the wind regulations totaling 1 ½ pages, despite the fact that David Yearout proposed 26 pages.

May 21 – HDN reports with less than a year after implementation of county wide zoning, commissioners to vote on wind farm.

May 23 – Dana Kraus, husband of Jo Kraus, publicly states he collected the wind data from the anemometer towers for the developer, creating yet another potential of 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 with Gene Bittel, Dick Klaus, Gene Jacobs, Charlie Rohr, Kirk Dickinson and Jim Scheck voting in favor with Barb Anderson dissenting. Lance Russell abstained, stating a conflict of interest due to family ties.

Gene Bittel admits to the audience at the zoning planning meeting that he wants turbines on his land north of Ellis.

September 3 - Vernon Berens and Dennis Pfannenstiel, the two commissioners responsible for appointing the Z&P board and signing the letter of approval a year and a half prior, vote in favor of the conditional use permit with Henman (the only commission member not involved from the beginning) dissenting.
Berens states his vote is based on the recommendation of the zoning board
Pfannenstiel states his vote is for his view of progress.
Henman states he cannot support a project that places the county and its residents at risk due to grossly inadequate zoning regulations.

October 1 - Henman suggests a moratorium on new applications citing a need to develop a comprehensive plan and revisit zoning regulations for industrial wind projects to insure the county and local residents are not harmed. Berens and Pfannenstiel refuse to support a moratorium to revisit wind regulations or develop a comprehensive plan.

Residents question why a comprehensive plan is opposed by two commissioners since the Ellis County zoning regulations mention such a plan numerous times throughout the document and the vast majority of county planners state a comprehensive plan should precede zoning.

Zoning board members also refuse to consider a comprehensive plan.

Lance Russell has only recused himself for one vote despite being involved from the beginning with documented conflicts of interest. He continues to participate in the wind project as a co chair of the zoning and planning board, citing he has no land in project area and no conflict of interest.

Jan. 25 – Records from courthouse show Lance Russell obtained a home mortgage and 18.9 acres that is currently leased to Iberdrola (the wind developer) adjoining approximately 300 acres of his father’s land.

February 18 – HDN reports that the wind developers have been working on two additional projects, one north of Ellis and one in the southwest corner of Ellis County

The wind developer advises Commissioner Henman that although his land north of Ellis is not being considered for turbine placement, it is in the middle of one of the additional projects. Gene Bittel owns ground bordering Commissioner Henman’s land indicating his land is in the project. In addition, landowners in the southwest corner of Ellis County confirm that they have been approached by the wind developer to sign leases. Though the project area has not been publicly disclosed, zoning and planning board members Dick Klaus and Charlie Rohr own land in the area under consideration for wind development. Since there is no requirement to file leases at the County courthouse prior to an application, it is impossible to determine which land owners (including zoning board members) have been working with the wind developer and/or have signed leases for development.

Commissioners Vernon Berens, Dennis Pfannenstiel and Chris Channel appointed a majority (five out of the nine) of zoning and planning board members with a potential to financially profit from wind development in Ellis County. (Lance Russell, Gene Bittel, Jo Kraus, Dick Klaus and Charlie Rohr) These same individuals were responsible for compiling and recommending county wide zoning and the zoning regulations themselves. Some of them were actively working with the wind developer from the beginning, even as they performed these duties. Furthermore, these same individuals continue to serve on the board and make decisions regarding wind regulations and projects.

In spite of limited record keeping throughout the process, we show a clear and convincing calendar of events providing evidence that the process may have been violated. We have also collected other “off the record” documents such as potentially incriminating emails that are available for a comprehensive investigation.

Knowing what we have now presented, would the public have condoned these zoning board members taking part in the drafting and approval of only a page and a half of zoning regulations for wind development? Was it not apparent to the County commissioners appointing these members that this action opens the county up to allegations of corruption and cronyism? Could the zoning board members themselves really not identify the potential conflict of interest? Whatever the case, the county clerk states that not a single one of the members of the zoning and planning board have filed a conflict of interest form as required by law (K.S.A. 75-4301).

Regardless of one’s position on wind development, the citizens of Ellis County should be seriously concerned over the many ostensible conflicts of interest and apparent abuses of the political process for personal profit. The county attorney has been notified of these infractions and has stated his intention to look into the matter. If that process stalls, we must demand nothing short of a grand jury investigation to determine the depth of this suspected delinquency. To allow this process to continue without resolving these issues may result the county facing an expensive legal battle with no certainty whether or not these problems will eventually result in the entire zoning process being ruled invalid.

Undoubtedly the wind developers, implicated members of the political process and some blinded by profit will cry foul. They will most likely assert their innocence and question the motives of those seeking answers. I for one hope they are right, that there has been no illegal activity and everything has been “above the table”. If that is the case, I would also hope that they would join us in calling for this investigation to clear their names and vindicate the process. Unfortunately until a comprehensive investigation has been undertaken, in the minds of the public it will always remain as it seems, an unethical and possibly illegal manipulation of the political process for personal gain at the expense of everyone in this county.

Not wind farms, but tax farms

Let's ignore for a moment the fact that wind power is a phony green solution that destroys the environment in the name of saving it. Never in history has an industry been so heavily subsidized by taxpayers. Consider the accelerated depreciation of wind farm assets. Conventional business assets depreciate annually, but always retain some value for taxation as long as they remain functional for income generation. Not so with wind turbines. At the federal level, turbines become tax-free assets form wind corporations after 5 years. No other business gets a handout on this scale.

In the case of the Hays project, let's assume an asset value of $500 million for 'phase one' and an initial assessed value of 60%, or $300 million. Assuming a mill levy of 1.5 % the project should pay $4.5 million in taxes to local government their first year of operation, declining with annual depreciation thereafter. (No wonder they offer $500,000 in lieu of taxes!) Due to accelerated federal depreciation, they can reduce their income tax payments by around $175 million over this period. Since state income tax is calculated on federal payments at a 7.35% marginal rate, Kansas will chip in $12.8 million in tax breaks over the same period. If you own any kind of business, you have to be jealous.

Now let's look at the production tax credit. If renewed by Congress, it would amount to 2 cents per kwh. In terms of energy, this is like the federal government allowing oil producers to sell 2 out of every 5 barrels of oil they produce tax-free - under the table as it were. That would mean million's of dollars of tax-free money for Iberdrola annually - above and beyond all the tax breaks they would get on their remaining income - and all because of politician's generosity with your tax money.

Think you've paid enough? You're not finished yet. Because even with all these subsidies, wind power is far more expensive than conventional power, so you can expect a minimum 50 % increase in power bills over the next five years as utilities pass on the higher price of wind energy - and the increased costs associated with wind power distribution and integration - to their rate-payers.

Neighbors of wind farms invariably see their property values decrease and their residences become more difficult, or even impossible, to sell. However, because of the way regional property taxes are calculated, their property assessments typically increase as a result of wind 'development' and they end up paying higher property taxes, while gaining nothing but annoyance, financial damage, and environmental degradation from the project. So whenever you drive by a wind farm be sure to admire the view. You're paying for it, and so is everyone living anywhere near it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Compromise on Wind Turbines ?

The meeting of the Zoning Board last Wednesday night marked a turning point for the wind energy debate in Ellis County. It was the first time some form of compromise seemed remotely possible. If turbines are kept far enough away from residents opposed to them, opposition to the project could be withdrawn.

The proposed Wind Energy Ordinance, drafted and submitted by myself on behalf of the ECEAC, sets out responsibilities for any developer of an industrial scale wind project in the county. The regulations provide residents with reasonable assurances that their rights and environment will be protected with respect to both inevitable and potential impacts. Only two of these were discussed at the meeting: noise and setbacks.

We heard much confusing discussion about noise and decibels, sound and infrasound - a highly technical subject that few people present, if any, were able to fully comprehend. I would like to respond to remarks made by Dick Klaus who suggested that any noise ordinance should apply to all sources of sound, not just wind turbines. I agree that a general noise ordinance for the county would be a progressive step forward. However, the impulsive, aerodynamic nature of the sound produced by wind turbines cannot be compared to the sounds produced by farm equipment, transient traffic noise, or other forms of machinery.

Normal motorized machinery does not sweep more than an acre of air at a height of 400 feet with blade tips approaching speeds of 200 mph. It does not create pulsating, aerodynamic disturbances that result in penetrating, low frequency wave forms that can propagate more than a mile, under suitable atmospheric conditions. This is not noise you can hear as much as vibration you can feel. We are talking about waves of energy that can penetrate buildings and cause objects to resonate, depending on their unique resonation frequency, just like crystal can be shattered by a sound wave that matches its resonation frequency. Any discussion of decibels measured in the auditory range is completely irrelevant to these concerns. However, a consistent audible hum (single tones in the frequency of 100-600hz) can also propagate from wind turbines as a result of resonation of the gear box and torque arm bring transferred to the rotor and then radiated into the environment. This is similar to the hum of a large transformer, only on a much greater scale.

Lance Russell asked me for some evidence that people had been adversely affected by turbines placed too close to their residences. In response, I have submitted a package of material at the Environmental Office that contains the testimony and personal diaries of families who have been driven from their homes by turbine noise in Canada, United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Maine. I have also included 5 selected abstracts of papers presented at the 2nd International Conference on Wind Turbine Noise held in Lyon, France, September 2007. This conference was attended by 150 presenters from 24 different countries. I have further included another abstract and two complete papers published in peer-reviewed journals that explain the unique nature and behavior of wind turbine noise under various atmospheric and topographic conditions. I can make copies available to anyone who is interested. It is my hope that the zoning board will take the time to review this material.

Anyone who doubts that turbines pose sufficient risk to require setbacks of half a mile from property lines should watch the video posted last week of a turbine exploding in Denmark due to its brakes failing under high wind conditions: The turbine was only 200 feet tall, but debris was thrown as far as 1,600 feet.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

We need a noise ordinance that is derived from scientifically accepted procedures

This letter is submitted by longtime Ellis County resident, Jacinta Faber:

I came away from last week's zoning commission meeting concerned about the lack of concern shown by our commission when it comes to a noise propagating industry being placed next to people's homes. It seems like 2007 all over again, just when I was hoping we could move into a more enlightened 2008.

A resident presented a proposed wind ordinance to the commission for its consideration. In the proposed ordinance, there are noise limitations (40dBA) for night time.

According to the World Health Organization, a maximum of 30dB(A) for continuous background noise is recommended for healthy sleep. Individual noise events exceeding 45dB(A) should be avoided. The WHO cautions that sustained noise at 45dBA or greater is cause for grave concern.

It is the noise at these levels, which can promote arterial ischemia and coronary incidents. The representative for Iberdrola, a Spanish company seeking to make money off the Hays wind project, stated the wind project was designed to allow for 45dB(A) at night.

Is it any wonder that we are pleading for social justice?

The corporate representative for the Iberdrola responded to this proposed noise limitation by insisting that there will be little noise, saying that the 400-foot turbines are quiet. Earlier this week, she referred to the wind turbine as a lullaby. I guess if your routine is to put your baby to sleep with an Ozzy Osborne heavy metal anthem, the turbine noise at night will be a welcome reprieve from those pesky crickets and hoot owls that have plagued your sleep in the past. If they are as quiet as that company employee contends, Iberdrola should have no problem accepting the noise limits proposed in the noise ordinance.

And Iberdrola would have no need to pay people to accept the good-neighbor agreements, which give them easements for noise levels exceeding 55dBA at night.

Something is very fishy here. If I sign the good-neighbor agreement offered by Iberdrola, I am recognizing and accepting conditions -- noise levels exceeding 55dBA -- which will cause my family and neighbors harm.

The corporate representative said her company did its own noise study last May.

Though Iberdrola has not been forthcoming with the results of that study, I believe that to protect the people of Ellis County we instead need an unbiased, independent, third-party noise study.

Most disconcerting for me is that our zoning commissioners seemed to show skepticism about the need for restricting noise, though it was unclear whether their skepticism extended to restricting noise from any source or restricting noise from only wind turbines.

Though I have expressed some frustration with the zoning commission, I do know that the zoning commissioners are all volunteers who generously give their time -- and I am grateful for their service.

On the other hand, the county commissioners are elected and are paid for their service, and they are ultimately responsible to us for properly accepting, modifying or rejecting proposed ordinances. If our elected county commissioners do not have the expertise or time to develop a meaningful noise ordinance with real teeth, it's time that we hire consultants with expertise in the areas of noise and health.

For our families' health and the responsible future of our county, we must have a noise ordinance derived from scientifically accepted procedures.

This is necessary in order to provide us with a foundation for making sound ethical judgments.

We should not place our children's health in the hands of a wind industry corporate spokesperson, one who is hungry for profits, big on spin and short on facts.

Submitted by:
Jacinta Faber
1540 Yocemento Ave.
Hays, Kansas

Monday, February 11, 2008

Proposed Wind Energy Ordinance

The Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition have proposed an ordinance to the zoning board that would regulate wind energy development in the county to protect citizens, the environment, and the common good of community. The regulations were drafted from zoning laws of counties in other states experienced with wind energy and follow recommendations set forth in the Governor's guidelines for wind energy development in Kansas.

Given the unprecedented scale and impact of this development, no one can reasonably deny that such regulations are needed. In fact, the need for most of these regulations has been implicitly recognized by Iberdrola in their own "Good Neighbor Agreement" in which they request easements for noise, shadow flicker, communications interference, construction impacts, etc. The proposed ordinance explicitly provides for such mitigation agreements with a developer. However, it is the Coalition's position that the burden should be on the developer to abide by explicit regulations and conditions, rather than on residents to accept or reject an arbitrary proposal put forth by the developer.

The proposed regulations distinguish between small hobby-type turbines, personal turbines for farm use, and large industrial-scale wind energy facilities. Developers of industrial facilities would be obliged to follow regulations in the following areas, among others:

• Turbine setbacks from homes, property lines and sensitive areas
• Mitigation of soil erosion during construction
• Restoration of roads and bridges post-construction
• Preservation of water quality
• Restoration of any communication signal loss
• Limitation of noise pollution
• Electrical safety
• Deposition of adequate bonds to cover decommissioning
• Insurance requirements

The Coalition has repeatedly stated that it is not opposed to wind energy provided it is properly sited and responsibly developed. The proposed regulations do not rule out a wind energy facility in Ellis County, but simply ensure it will be sited so as to minimize negative impacts on the community, rather than simply to maximize profitability for the developer.

Proponents can argue that some of the proposed regulations are too stringent, but they cannot argue that they are not needed. The specifics can be debated, but a public consensus could be reached. To proceed with this development as is, without any regulatory control, would grant Iberdrola free rein to do as they please on 10,000 acres, without holding them to any environmental standards, and without providing the community any legal recourse in worst-case scenarios. Do we really need the development that badly?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Industrial wind: a failure written in the European statistics

(Adapted from

Author: Fédération Environnement Durable (Federation for a Sustainable Environment)

[from “Eolien industriel: un échec en filigrane dans les statistiques Européennes”]

Does large-scale development of industrial wind energy actually reduce the consumption of fossil fuels or emission of CO2?

Comparison of per-capita wind and thermal electricity production and CO2 emissions in Germany, Denmark, Spain, and France.

Germany — most industrial wind facilities in the world (18,400 MW in 2005) –
2005: 10.6 tonnes CO2 per capita, 6.4 tonnes from electricity
190% increase per capita production from wind from 2000 to 2005
9% increase per capita thermal electricity production from 2000 to 2005
1% increase per capita CO2 from electricity 2000 to 2005

Denmark — highest percentage of industrial wind in the world (18% of production) –
2005: 9.3 tonnes CO2 per capita, 5.5 tonnes from electricity
54% increase per capita production from wind from 2000 to 2005
8% decrease per capita thermal electricity production from 2000 to 2005
11% decrease per capita CO2 from electricity 2000 to 2005

Spain — second most industrial wind facilities in the world (10,000 MW in 2005) –
2005: 8.5 tonnes CO2 per capita, 3.8 tonnes from electricity
317% increase per capita production from wind from 2000 to 2005
41% increase per capita thermal electricity production from 2000 to 2005
10% increase per capita CO2 from electricity 2000 to 2005

France — virtually no industrial wind (760 MW in 2005) –
2005: 6.6 tonnes CO2 per capita, 2.6 tonnes from electricity
~0% increase per capita production from wind from 2000 to 2005
19% increase per capita thermal electricity production from 2000 to 2005
1% decrease per capita CO2 from electricity 2000 to 2005

There are no meaningful differences in standard of living among these countries. Note that Denmark, with the highest percentage of its power produced by wind, is forced to export 85% of it to neighboring countries – mostly Sweden – because so much of it is produced when it isn't needed. Their decrease in CO2 emission is only possible because they are now importing conventionally generated power from neighboring countries when their wind doesn’t blow. Denmark's consumers pay the highest price for electricity in Europe and endure a blighted landscape – without achieving any environmental benefits. It is also notable that France's status as the lowest per capita emitter of CO2 in Europe is achieved primarily through reliance on efficient nuclear plants.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Vandalism by wind proponents is very symbolic

(submitted to hays Daily News Jan. 25, 2008)

Following the zoning meeting last Wednesday night, certain wind proponents were apparently not satisfied with Gene Bittel's rant to go after anti-wind signs for compliance with zoning regulations. They completely destroyed a two-sided 4' by 8' sign worth approximately $500, shattered the 4x4 uprights, and piled the lumber on an adjacent property some 200 yards down the road.

We already knew that wind proponents had no concern for their neighbor's opinions or enjoyment of property. This act is proof positive they have no respect for property either. This particular sign, that happens to belong to an elderly grandmother, had been repaired or reconstructed three times following previous acts of vandalism that included the use of spray paint, razor blades, and a shotgun.

The destruction of this sign is very symbolic. It says,
"We don’t care what you think - about us or the wind project."
"We don't care about your property rights."
"We don't care about your constitutional right to freedom of speech."
"We will have our turbines and damn you if you don’t like it."
"We will destroy you if you get in our way."

The people of Hays and Ellis County should take careful note of the character of those they are about to entrust to oversee a multimillion dollar industrial development spanning 10,000 acres that will change the face of this county forever and saddle it with massive liabilities. They should also ask themselves what standards of responsibility and stewardship for the local environment they can expect from those who have such little respect for their neighbors in their own community.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Letter to the Editor: Wichita Eagle, Jan. 7th, 2008

Letter in response to Mr. Scholdfield's editorial of January 2, 2008 "State poised for new wind energy era."

Dear Mr. Scholfield,

In your obviously promotional generalities and glowing report on the wind industry, "State poised for new wind energy era", you neglected to mention a few facts and details that might interest some of your readers.

The risk that Westar and other utilities understand is that electricity has two components energy and capacity. While wind can produce energy, it has no true capacity, which by definition is the ability to produce energy on demand. Thus every MW of wind energy has to be backed up with conventional energy. No wind=No power. In addition, while wind is often described as being 44% efficient, in reality it often produces one third or less of its name plate power. In the summer heat wave of 2006, Sunflower Electric received less that 3% of the power it was supposed to be receive. Texas only factors in an actual year round use of 7% to 8% of name plate power because the power cannot be produced when it's needed at peak load times.

The economic development that is frequently touted by the wind developers amounts to payments for a few landowners, (Elk River has 5 landowners, 4 of which are absentee), and no taxes since wind developments are exempt from property taxes in Kansas. The neighbors of these industrial wind complexes in the Smoky Hills and Elk River and other proposed complexes have been and continue to be vehemently opposed to the complexes due to ecological, safety, health and landscape impacts. There are NO State or Federal regulations to protect them. The idea of irreversibly altering 8,000 acres to produce possibly 120MW of unreliable energy at a 35% to 40% efficiency is suspect, when a conventional plant can produce 1200MW on a site of several hundred acres, is 85% to 90% efficient, and produces energy 24/7 on demand.

The dubious 'payments in lieu of taxes' that developers offer countys is tenuous at best since even with a written agreement they legally are a 'payment without consideration' and cannot be enforced. These have been called 'bribes' by some zoning experts.

The construction jobs mentioned are transient with both Elk River and Smoky Hills being constructed by out of state workers driving out of state vehicles. Neighbors to Elk River can count 7 jobs, all held by workers who live in Wichita . In both cases, there is an on-site rock quarry and on-site cement plant which saves local contractors the bother of the extra business.

The 'experts' at the 'energy summit' in Topeka, formerly called a Wind Energy Conference, are all connected to and paid by the wind industry. One such expert explained why Texas was doing well with wind when I attended in 2005. He stated the key was to levy a high RPS requirement with stiff penalties and NOT allow less expensive renewable sources such as hydro-energy to be counted in the percentage that utilities were mandated to buy.

Concerning tourism, as more industrial complexes go up, they will be places to avoid, not travel destinations, as Europe as discovered. Europeans have voted Industrial Wind Developments the "Number One Eyesore" out of the top 10 listed.

There are also very real ecological issues that make some places more suitable for Industrial Wind Complexes, provided the community wants them, than the prairie.

In the interest of maximum reality education concerning the wind energy and the wind industry, I would suggest you undertake having an Industrial Wind Complex of 50 to 100 turbines built next to your neighborhood or suburb. Have your community hooked up to that complex and rely solely on that source of power for a year. Keep track of the developer s promises, where the money comes from and goes to. After a year of actual experience, write another article on wind energy; the number of hours/day & days/year that you actually had adequate energy, the cost involved, subsidies paid, jobs that local people fill, your adjustment to the noise, lights, shadow flicker, your neighbors opinion of you, and which direction your property values are headed. That would be a truly interesting article.

For any of your readers who are interested in wind energy facts that are not supplied by the wind developers, check out:
Or contact me and I'll be happy to give you a tour of the prairie and discuss real facts with you.

Rose Z. Bacon
1181 Four Mile Road
Council Grove, KS 66846
Kansas Flint Hills

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Wind energy headline doesn't cut to real chase

From Ellis County resident, Jacinta Faber:

The headline in Thursday's HDN, Poll: Public Favors Wind Energy, might appear as a mandate for the 100-plus families situated in western Ellis County to stop opposing the proposed wind project.

This might seem like a clear message that most Kansans would want 400-foot turbines situated next to their homes, or even better, next to other people's homes. Claiming that Kansans favor wind energy indicates little about how to resolve logistical issues concerning the proper establishment of wind industry.

We have been taught in school that the way a question is asked influences the way a person answers it. If a poll were conducted with the question, "Do you support the treatment of raw sewage?" undoubtedly the majority of Kansans would respond in the affirmative. It would not follow that the majority of Kansans would want a treatment plant next to their homes.

In the same vein, I believe the number of positive responses given by Kansans regarding wind power would decrease significantly if they were asked if they would want an industrial wind plant placed 1000 feet from their homes.

Since the beginning of this debate, I never have stated I am against wind power. My concern has been about the noise industrial wind turbines produce.

What I would like to see on the front page of the HDN is this headline: "Wind Ordinance Adopted By The Trempealeau County (Wisconsin) Board." The Trempealeau county officials have taken their responsibility for the protection of their citizens seriously. The noise section included in the ordinance mandates a 1-mile setback between residences and industrial size turbines. I bet if the people of Trempealeau County were to be polled, the majority would support wind energy, too.

Submitted by:
Jacinta Faber
Hays, Kansas