WIND TURBINE CONFIDENTIAL
The phone rings or there is a knock on the door.
It's a wind developer telling you your neighbor is going to be hosting some wind turbines on his property. Your neighbor has already signed on. All your neighbors have. It's a done deal.
The developer says he's there with a good neighbor agreement. A contract which offers you a thousand dollars a year for any inconvenience the turbines may cause you. A thousand dollars a year for up to 40 years. It's free money for you and your family. You don't have to do a thing except to give up your right to complain and agree to abide by a confidentiality agreement, also known as a "gag order".
In Madison last winter, a Wisconsin dairy farmer testifying against wind turbine siting reform and said people who signed these contracts felt scared to talk about the troubles the turbines are causing them. "Those contracts have gag orders. What good has ever come out of a gag order?"
What are you signing away when you sign a good neighbor agreement?
This article scratches the surface of what people are really giving up when they sign a contract with a wind developer.
Developer offers deal for neighbors
June 28, 2008 by Joshua Niziolkiewicz in Lincoln Courier
As a way of compensating residents who live near the construction of wind turbines, but are not participants, Horizon Wind Energy has developed a Wind Farm Neighbor Easement Agreement.
The document outlines an agreement in which Horizon will allow for payments to landowners living near the immediate vicinity of turbines, in exchange for "an easement, right and entitlement on, over, across and under owner's property for any sound level (audible or otherwise) in excess of 50 decibels ..."
The Illinois Pollution Control Board recommends that people not be consistently exposed to noise levels over 40 decibels. Since the turbines can generate in excess of this amount, the agreement will pay $1,000 annually to property owners for the next 30 years with a 2 percent annual increase in the payments.
The agreement also states that if a shadow is cast over a property owner's residence, due to the height of the turbines, Horizon may "undertake measures such as tree planting or installation of awnings, draperies or other window treatments necessary to mitigate the effects of the offending shadow."
Horizon also states it will test television reception and make an attempt to correct weakened signals caused by nearby turbines.
"Correction measures may include ... installation of television signal boosters serving the general area of the wind farm, installation of an antenna or signal booster or installation and payment for cable, dish TV or similar devices serving owner's property."
Horizon's project manager Bill Whitlock said each property owner would likely see more than $40,000 over the life of the agreement.
"The owner agreement stays with the land," said Whitlock. "If the owner moves, the agreement (will be passed on to the new owner)."
The easement agreement also contains a confidentiality clause, which states, "The owner shall not disclose to others ... the terms of this easement agreement."
Rick Porter, attorney for opposition group Union Ridge Wind, said he would advise his clients to not sign the agreement. Porter said the agreement gives Horizon the right to infringe on the residents' properties.
Porter also designed his own "neighbor agreement." The main difference between Porter's and Horizon's draft, according to Union Ridge Wind's members, includes a property value guarantee.
"If a property owner wants to move, this will guarantee the value of the property (prior to the construction of the turbines)," said Glenn Folger, member of URW. "It doesn't cost the county anything, and if what Horizon says is true about property values not decreasing because of the turbines, it won't cost them anything either."
When Porter asked Whitlock in cross-examination if Horizon would consider agreeing to the property value guarantee, Whitlock said, "No. There's no property value loss."
"Then there's no detriment to your company," replied Porter.
When Logan County Board Chairman Dick Logan was asked if the county would consider asking Horizon to guarantee these residents' property values, Logan said he would leave the matter to the lawyers and the zoning board of appeals.
"I don't get involved in the legal stuff," said Logan.
NOTE FROM THE BPRC RESEARCH NERD: We'll be posting more about wind development contracts and good neighbor agreements in the upcoming weeks. If you have a wind development contract you would like to share with us, CLICK HERE. All submissions will be kept confidential. We've been collecting contracts from wind developers to compare the terms of the leases. The BPRC Contract Nerd asks me to thank those who have made their contracts available to us.