9/21/11 Manitowoc Moratorium voted down AND Shell Oil Brings You Big Wind AND Wind Farm Strong Arm Hits Birds
MANITOWOC COUNTY BOARD VOTES AGAINST WIND TURBINE MORATORIUM
by Sarah Kloepping,
SOURCE: Herald Times Reporter, www.htrnews.com
September 21, 2011
MANITOWOC — The Manitowoc County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted against creating a moratorium on large wind turbines in the county.
The motion for the moratorium, which would have temporarily prevented construction of turbines with a capacity of more than 100 kilowatts, failed 14-8, with two supervisors absent and board chairman Paul Tittl abstaining because he owns stock in Broadwind Energy.
The ordinance was brought forward after the towns of Cooperstown, Mishicot and Two Creeks submitted petitions requesting the county enact a moratorium to allow time for the state Public Service Commission to establish statewide rules on the installation and use of wind energy systems or for a period of one year, whichever came first.
Town of Mishicot Board member Dean Anhalt said numerous residents have complained that wind turbines near their homes are affecting their well-being. Headaches, nausea, pressure in the ears and chest are some of the symptoms he said residents are experiencing.
“They’re worried about the health of themselves and their families,” he said.
Supervisor Paul Hansen said while he understands health concerns, he didn’t support the moratorium because he wants to see the scientific evidence about the effects of wind turbines to make a decision.
“There are health concerns for every type of energy we currently produce in this country,” he said. “There are concerns with coal plants. There is concern with gas and oil. There are nuclear concerns. We live on a planet where we make a judgment whether or not to accept that risk.”
Supervisor Kevin Behnke said he is in favor of the moratorium because it would prevent the county from having to redo its process for approving wind turbine construction in the future.
“The ordinance specifically only asks that we wait until the state comes up with their standards … because more than likely their standards are going to supersede any standards that we have in our current ordinance,” he said. “I’m not anti-wind.”
Kerry Trask, Manitowoc County Democratic Party chairman, spoke at the meeting, saying a moratorium would have sent the wrong message to businesses.
“This is an old issue, but I’m here tonight because I’m somewhat bewildered,” he said Monday. “Bewildered because we’re here at a time when we have a large number of our people who are underemployed or unemployed, a time when the economy remains slow. It does the wrong thing for the economic development of the county.”
What to expect when you're expecting wind turbines: Construction Phase Video, Rumford New York
A BIG WIND: SHELL OIL BLOWS INTO FERNDALE
by Lorraine Devon Wilke,
September 20, 2011
“The project is on virgin ranch land, the road to it is an active earthquake fault and will need to be totally rebuilt so Shell can build a concrete plant on top of the hill and truck in literally thousands of loads of aggregate, supplies and windmill parts.
During construction, that road would be impassable to local traffic. Every trip from (town) to the bridge would take one hour instead of 10 minutes. It is highly unlikely Ferndale’s tourism business would survive the construction season, nor the houses and historic buildings the punishing vibrations from monster trucks.
In exchange, Shell promises a giant night-lit construction yard, white and red blinking lights atop a currently dark ridgetop, whirling blades in marbled murrelet and spotted owl habitat, an enormous noise footprint, power lines running through private property whose owners do not want electrical lines… ”
What a confounding country we are these days. We’ve got one set of folks denying climate change, evolution and the role of government, another demanding government job creation and the preservation of social programs, still others who’d hug a tree in lieu of any form of development, and that big exhausted bunch in the chewy center who truly and, perhaps, naively, believe there’s a middle ground to be found in most things. Well, maybe not climate change and evolution denial, but pretty much everything else.
Extremism is all the rage (emphasis on “rage”) and if you are to be thought of as something, you’re obligated to be that thing without nuance or flexibility. Environmental defender vs. job creator. Green thinker vs. technology warrior. Ecologically minded vs. economically minded. Whatever variation on the theme, the only commonality to be found is the vs.in between. The versus. The opposition. The either/or.
I don’t see it that way, the implacable either/or. Sometimes there is a middle ground that is often the most logical place to set up camp and make wise decisions.
For example, I clearly understand the need for jobs but don’t see the upside of decimating a 2000-acre redwood forest to create some for the wine industry, particularly when other options are available. (May we suggest a pinot with that redwood forest?).
We do need to wean ourselves from foreign oil but drilling (baby, drilling) the pristine, incomparable Alaskan wilderness seems shortsighted in the long run.
Blowing off mountaintops and polluting land and rivers downstream seems a self-sabotaging way to provide jobs and alternative energy sources.
And erecting 25 (potentially more) giant industrial wind turbines at the top of one of the most naturally beautiful areas of northern California to provide wind energy for parts down south seems a flouting of the “do no harm” philosophy of environmentalism.
But that’s what Shell Oil’s got planned for the tiny, bucolic Victorian village of Ferndale, Calif. Apparently, beyond all its many other virtues, Ferndale’s got “good wind.” Shell’s been up on Bear River Ridge quietly testing for the last several years and, by golly, damn fine wind up there! And with that revelation, in blows Big Oil to sell the citizens of Ferndale on the idea of Wind Energy with a capital W and that rhymes with pretty much nuthin’ and that stands for “Wait a damn minute!” To mix ditties, they plan to pave paradise and it ain’t just to put up a parking lot.
I’ve written about Ferndale before (Women Of the News: Ferndale’s Enterprising Editor, Caroline Titus). Ferndale’s main cachet is its tangible aura of untouched rural life; a small town with historical and beautifully preserved Victorians (the entire town is on the Historic Registry), verdant dairy farms stretching from road to ocean, Redwood covered mountains, crystalline creeks and rivers; rolling hills of wildlife and every imaginable ecosystem. It truly is a living postcard and that very quality is its visceral draw to the many citizens and tourists who abound.
Now picture this:
Looming large just above Ferndale’s rural charm and tranquility is a hulking line-up of 25 endlessly whirring industrial wind turbines forever blighting the natural landscape. Mix in almost a year of construction, with monster trucks trolling 5 mph through town day in and day out, homes and historic buildings marked for eminent domain consideration; roads, infrastructure, habitats and wildlife impacted, and… WAIT! What?!
Oh, but there’ll be some jobs, lots of post-contruction perks, a commerce bump, some landowners will profit from licensing, and it’s green, baby, green!!
Talk about a deal with the… Big Oil.
Let’s go back to the quibble in the middle. What if you are environmentally conscious and passionate to support green energy? Perhaps you’re someone focused on the importance of jobs and the spending flush industry will bring. Maybe you’re a preservationist who firmly believes damaging a natural environment is ecologically antithetic. What if you’re all of the above?
The Jobs/Commerce Contingent: a letter-writer to The Ferndale Enterprise (who charmingly included “buttinsky” in his signature) outlined what he felt were the weaknesses in the argument against, pushing the value of the hoped-for commerce and promised jobs (most temporary, a few more permanent), suggesting patience as information evolves. His take: one could “get used to” whatever inconvenience or landscape changes would be wrought. A feet-on-the-ground sort.
The Preservationist Contingent: local photographer, Dan Stubbs, Jr. opined the long-term impact: “Part of the beauty of this area is driving across Fernbridge and seeing the town nestled against the beautiful mountains. Placement of giant wind generators on the ridge would be an eyesore, discouraging tourism and affecting the economy of our picturesque Victorian village… I can see no benefit to the people of Ferndale, the Eel River Valley or Humboldt County… If (this project) is completed, the look of this beautiful valley will be forever changed. My only hope then may be that we have more of our foggy, overcast days to shield us from the unsightly wind generators looming over the valley.” Shangri-La sold out, as another townsperson agreed.
The Environmentalist Contingent: this well-intentioned group sees this project as a vital opportunity for Humboldt County to contribute to the alternative energy game, even if it is at Ferndale’s expense. One fuming commenter (appropriately named “Enraged Environmentalist”) wrote: “If doing my part meant putting up a 2MW wind turbine in my back yard, I would gladly do it. If Ferndale and the other NIMBY squeaky wheels get this plan scuttled, I will personally boycott the town’s business for the remainder of my days, and encourage everyone else I know to do so as well… I did not think it was possible for me to be so angry at a small town in Humboldt County.” Take that, you, you… Ferndale!
The Nature Lover/Get Real Contingent: Ferndale biologist, herpetologist and author, Ellin Beltz, contributed the following: “The project is on virgin ranch land, the road to it is an active earthquake fault and will need to be totally rebuilt so Shell can build a concrete plant on top of the hill and truck in literally thousands of loads of aggregate, supplies and windmill parts. During construction, that road would be impassable to local traffic. Every trip from (town) to the bridge would take one hour instead of 10 minutes. It is highly unlikely Ferndale’s tourism business would survive the construction season, nor the houses and historic buildings the punishing vibrations from monster trucks. In exchange, Shell promises a giant night-lit construction yard, white and red blinking lights atop a currently dark ridgetop, whirling blades in marbled murrelet and spotted owl habitat, an enormous noise footprint, power lines running through private property whose owners do not want electrical lines… ”
Get the dilemma?
NIMBYism is the default invective hurled these days when anyone raises valid questions about what’s being sold, but name-calling and threatened boycotts are cheap shots when the stakes are so high. After all, just how GREEN is this technology really? Who amongst us is sufficiently schooled on the true efficiency and safety of giant wind turbines? I’ve seen them stretched across dry, treeless land abutting freeways and thought, “now there’s a good use of unpopulated, barren landscape,” but frankly, I don’t know much about them. Recently I was sent a link to a new documentary currently winning awards and readying for distribution with First Run Features – Windfall, the Movie – and after viewing the trailer and reading the blog at their site, I had the exact questions one of those interviewed in the film ominously suggested be asked. And, indeed, some ominous information exists to be very seriously considered. The documentation is plentiful, generally dissuading and very contradictory. Not exactly a convincing foundation upon which to make irrevocable decisions that alter the landscape and character of an entire region!
Enraged Environmentalist stated: “The entire planet is involved in a war with itself right now. We have two choices: Drastically change our way of life, or take responsibility and deal with the consequences. It’s not going to be easy, it’s not going to be fun, but it’s the only choice.”
I agree, EE, but come to a different conclusion.
We are stewards of this land we live on. Our immediate concerns and needs do engage our moment in time, but in realistically and ethically seeking solutions we cannot eschew all responsibility to future generations. How much of our natural planet do we preserve for them? How much of it do we sacrifice for jobs, money and new technology, green or otherwise? As a concerned environmentalist, a property owner who loves the area, and a parent who hopes my son’s grandchildren can still find natural, unspoiled, unindustrialized rural land to enjoy long after we’re gone, I personally cannot support the Shell Oil wind turbine project in Ferndale.
What I can support is re-framing the debate as a wake-up call for the community; one that inspires both a commitment to preserve the natural landscape of the area, as well as focuses new energy on bringing in jobs and needed commerce; supporting local merchants, promoting tourism, and becoming as environmentally proactive as possible. The vibrancy, passion and energy exhibited in this debate can and should be redirected toward those goals.
FEDERAL GUIDELINES FAIL TO MAKE WIND POWER BIRD-SMART, BREAK FEDERAL LAWS, AND RELY ON UNLIKELY VOLUNTARY COMPLIANCE
American Bird Conservancy,
September 20, 2011
(Washington, D.C., September 20, 2011) The Department of the Interior (DOI) has released a revised, third version of its voluntary wind development siting and operational guidelines that fails to ensure that bird deaths at wind farms are minimized, says American Bird Conservancy, the nation’s leading bird conservation organization.
Furthermore, the public has been given only ten days to comment. The final opportunity for the public to discuss these guidelines with DOI will be at a federal advisory committee meeting today and tomorrow.
“ABC is very much pro wind energy. America has the potential to create a truly green energy source that does not unduly harm birds, but the Department of the Interior is squandering the opportunity to be ‘smart from the start’,” said Kelly Fuller, Wind Campaign Coordinator for American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nation’s leading bird conservation organization. “The latest draft of the wind guidelines is not only voluntary, making industry compliance unlikely, but also offers assurances that wind companies won’t be prosecuted for illegally killing federally protected birds such as Bald and Golden Eagles. These guidelines set a dangerous precedent for other energy industries to seek the same freedom to break America’s wildlife protection laws without repercussions,” said Fuller.
“Astonishingly, the current draft of the guidelines allows wind power companies to unilaterally determine whether they are in compliance with the ’guidelines’ and, on that basis, to immunize themselves from any prosecution under federal wildlife protection statutes regardless of how many eagles, hawks, warblers, or other protected species they wind up taking. This would be unfathomable as applied to any other energy sector or, for that matter, any other regulatory sphere. This goes way beyond merely being bad policy; it is a flagrant violation of the protective schemes adopted in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act,” said Eric Glitzenstein, a Founding Partner at Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal, a Washington, D.C. based public-interest law firm.
One wind farm in California is already estimated to have killed over 2,000 eagles in what would appear to be significant violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Yet the wind company has yet to be prosecuted or even charged, and has only implemented meaningful operational changes in recent years following legal action taken not by the federal government, but by environmental groups.
This version of the wind industry guidelines was issued on September 13, 2011. The Department of the Interior will accept comments on the proposal until September 23, 2011.
“Giving a mere ten days to look over this 130-page package makes it almost impossible for the public to provide a meaningful response,” Fuller said.
Recommendations on wind energy were developed over a two-year period by an industry-dominated, 22-member Federal Advisory Committee and forwarded to the Secretary of the Interior in March 2010. Over the next year, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists made a series of changes to those recommendations to improve protection for birds. Those revised guidelines were then published for public comment in February 2011. An overwhelming number of the comments called for the guidelines to be strengthened, not weakened. The guidelines also underwent scientific peer review.
“Right now we have a chance to get wind power right from the start – with little added costs. But if we push these voluntary guidelines forward without making them bird-smart to protect the environment, it may be our children who may ultimately regret our hasty decisions,” said Fuller.
A second set of proposed guidelines was then issued by DOI on July 12, 2011, but rather than strengthening the initial draft, it removed many key bird protection elements, reversing recommendations from professional DOI wildlife staff and adding unrealistic wind project approval deadlines that ABC concludes would lead to “rubber-stamping” of wind development.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that in 2009, the wind industry was killing about 440,000 birds per year, yet has ignored its own estimate. With the Federal Government targeting a 12-fold increase in wind generated electricity by the year 2030, annual bird mortality is expected to increase into the millions absent meaningful changes in the industry. Species of conservation concern appear to be particularly at risk including the Golden Eagle, Greater Sage-Grouse and the endangered Whooping Crane.
More than 60 groups and over 20,000 individuals organized by ABC have called for mandatory standards and bird-smart principles in the siting and operation of wind farms. The coalition represents a broad cross-section of respected national and local groups, as well as scientists, bird lovers, conservationists, and other concerned citizens.