11/11/10 What $18,000 a year will buy you: a family in turmoil and a community torn apart AND What part of Conflict of Interest don't you understand?
WIND FARM BACKERS FACE A LONG, COLD WINTER OF DISCONTENT
SOURCE: WBAY-TV, www.wbay.com
November 10, 2010 By Jeff Alexander,
It could be months before a decision is reached about a controversial plan to build what would be the state’s largest wind farm in southern Brown County.
Tensions are rising in the communities of Morrison, Hollandtown, and Wrightstown. The battle lines are drawn, and have been for a year now, throughout the farm lands.
“The fight is not over in my mind — or in reality. It’s not over,” Jon Morehouse said.
Morehouse leads a group of more than 200 residents opposing a plan by a Chicago-based company to erect 100 wind turbines.
The state’s Public Service Commission and lawmakers will have the final say, but Morehouse says he was told by several lawmakers Wednesday it could be spring before a decision is made.
But that’s not what Roland Klug is hearing. Klug says he’s already receiving money from a contract he signed to have two turbines on his property.
He says a project engineer told him construction will start soon.
“In the winter they’ll start getting the roads in and things, and I hope by next year this time they should be up,” Klug said.
Late Wednesday afternoon Action 2 News received word from the Public Service Commission that it’s still waiting for the wind farm developer, Invenergy, to complete its application for the project. The PSC says Invenergy withdrew its original application.
While Klug stands to make $18,000 a year for the use of his land, it’s coming at a cost. “My own kids don’t talk to me. It’s really hard.”
The wind turbine debate has become so heated and divisive here in southern Brown County, the principal of Morrison Zion Lutheran School says staff recently imposed a moratorium on students discussing the topic during school.
As residents wait for final word, opinions become stronger and wounds grow deeper.
“I think anything can be healed, but it has to be talked about,” Morehouse said.
But even that hasn’t helped so far.
NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: Below, another news story regarding the issue of conflict of interest between members of local government who have the power to push a wind project through and the wind developers who offer them lucrative contracts to help make this happen. This scenario is being played out in communities all over North America, including here in the Badger state.
While creating rules governing the siting of wind turbines, Wisconsin's Public Service Commission had an opportunity to provide language which would protect communities from such conflicts of interest. The Public Service Commission declined to do so.
TEMPERS FLARE AT MEETING IN CAPE VINCENT: OPPONENT OF WIND CLAIMS BOARD ACTED ILLEGALLY
SOURCE: Watertown Daily Times, www.watertowndailytimes.com
November 11, 2010
by Nancy Madsen, Times Staff Writer,
CAPE VINCENT — A Planning Board meeting devolved into physical confrontation between an opponent of industrial wind power projects in the town and Chairman Richard J. Edsall.
At the beginning of the meeting Wednesday night, Mr. Edsall asked for approval of the board’s minutes from a previous meeting.
Hester M. Chase, a community wind project supporter but opponent of the two industrial-scale projects, stood and said the board was not acting legally. The board’s bylaws say public comments “shall be received prior to the conduct of the regular business agenda.”
“We have the right to make comment,” she said. “We’re going to start getting our rights straight.”
The board members turned toward each other and spoke, apparently approving the minutes from Oct. 13. It is unclear whether they also approved minutes from an Oct. 27 meeting with Acciona Wind Energy USA, developer of St. Lawrence Wind Farm. During the Oct. 27 meeting, the board accepted a list of what remained to be done for a complete site plan from the developer.
That meeting was stopped for an hour by wind power opponents protesting action by the board, which has three members who have conflicts of interest with Acciona or BP Alternative Energy, the other wind developer in the town.
Ms. Chase had a different version of the minutes that included the topic of the protest and said the board had proceeded with the meeting while the audience was unaware of its actions.
“They’re so fraudulent that I just felt they should be corrected,” she said after Wednesday’s meeting. “The bylaws permit the public to speak before regular business is conducted and I wanted to correct those minutes.”
Ms. Chase said frustration at having unanswered questions on setbacks on wind farms and what the board will allow the developers to do led to her actions. The Planning Board has decided on rules to govern the approval process that include allowing two public hearings with comments limited to people who live within one-half mile of the project, she said.
“I was just stunned at how cavalierly or arbitrarily they were making things up,” she said. “I had held onto the hope that they were truly going to do right by their community. I see that they seem to be fulfilling loyalty roles to BP and Acciona, I guess.”
On Wednesday night, Mr. Edsall opened a public hearing on a subdivision without addressing Ms. Chase’s concerns.
“Mr. Edsall, you are out of order,” Ms. Chase said.
The public hearing, he said, was for comments on the subdivision only.
“These people have the right to due process,” Mr. Edsall said.
“How can you make decision on anything if the board is corrupt?” asked Michael R. Bell, Cape Vincent.
Mr. Edsall responded, “These people have followed the rules.”
The board held public hearings and voted on two subdivisions. The three members, Mr. Edsall, Andrew R. Binsley and George A. Mingle, did not have maps available to act on a third subdivision.
Mr. Edsall then told wind opponents that if they wanted to talk about wind power development, the earliest the board would hold a meeting on it would be February.
He then asked to adjourn the meeting.
“You cannot do that,” Ms. Chase spoke up. “You are despicable. You approved the minutes, which are totally, totally false.”
She moved toward the dais and began passing papers to the board members.
Mr. Edsall said, “When we have a wind meeting, you can talk about wind.”
Mr. Bell said, “It’s about procedure — this is about procedure.”
Ms. Chase said, “You just lied to the whole community.”
As Mr. Edsall moved off the dais, she stood between the desk and a table. She appeared to bump into him. Mr. Edsall threatened to call the police if she touched him again.
She said he bumped into her.
“Will you get out of my way?” he asked.
She refused, but eventually let him pass. As the board members left, some members of the public berated them for passing the minutes. About a third of the audience consisted of wind power supporters. Some of them told the vocal opponents to back down.