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