Joyfield Special Election Results

Below are the results from today’s special election to elect permanent replacement members to the Joyfield Township Board. The republican candidates were all endorsed by the Committee for Joyfield’s Future.

Supervisor
Ken Fallowfield (R) – 155
Randy Rice (D) – 72
Guy Sauer (I) – 105

Clerk
Ted Wood (R) – 162
Chelsie Tanner (D) – 109
Julie Nichol (I) – 49

Treasurer
Chris Smith (R) – 163
Maridee Cutler (D) – 56
Deb Gatrell (I) – 114

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Arcadia Wind Study Group responds to the recent Duke announcement

On January 28, the Arcadia Wind Study Group today earlier the following preliminary statement in response to Duke Energy’s announcement in January that it was “discontinuing” its “Gail Windpower” industrial wind energy project:

To our friends, neighbors, and supporters in Arcadia township, Benzie and Manistee Counties —

This is a watershed moment for our community, surrounding townships, the Arcadia Wind Study Group and like-minded organizations in the region. Together, we endeavored to understand the various impacts of industrial wind and communicate that understanding to our community. Our community clearly understood the implications of industrial wind and stood united in opposition of the wind industrialization of our area.

What happened last week was a small victory on a long journey forward. This achievement and all that led up to it would never have been possible without the individual actions of so many members of our community who educated themselves, spread the word to their fellow citizens, and supported our work in so many ways – intellectually, personally, morally, and financially.

The notion of industrial wind power begins from an undeserved position of presumed innocence and acceptance. Against this backdrop, we presented the facts as we discovered them. We sought input from those living under the direct and constant influence of established wind turbines. We invited a family, literally surrounded by turbines, to tell their experience to our communities. We collected and analyzed hundreds of documents, studies, and scientific reports which delineated the impact of industrial wind turbines on human health, property values, wildlife, tourism and viewscapes, to mention just a few. These results often contradicted commonly held beliefs about wind energy’s benefits. The clear conclusion emerged that wind energy was not appropriate to our community and, at the industrial level, may not deliver the environmental benefits attributed to it.

As our community became increasingly educated about industrial wind energy, it supported our efforts to forestall the placement of industrial wind turbines in our area. Duke Energy’s decision to abandon the Gail Windpower Project is a recognition our community’s consolidated opposition to the proposed wind industrialization of our community. Duke Energy realized that this would be a long, divisive, and difficult battle where the outcome was anything but certain.

While Duke Energy seems to be leaving there remains much work to be done. It is important that the work to construct strong and comprehensive zoning ordinances regulating land use and industrial windpower be closely followed and monitored. This process entails a lengthy review and update of Arcadia’s master plan followed by the incorporation of those updates into a new township zoning ordinance. The AWSG will be following and supporting similar reviews of master plans and the writing of appropriate zoning ordinances in neighboring townships throughout Benzie, Manistee, and Leelanau counties, not just in the four townships where Duke’s project was proposed. This will be done in conjunction with our supporters and like-minded citizens throughout the region.

Additionally, there remains the question of the disposition of at least 150 wind leases covering some 13,000 acres that Duke Energy continues to hold. Will these be sold to a third party or will they be allowed to lapse? Will future industrial wind companies try to succeed where Duke Energy, the nation’s largest publicly traded utility, failed. It is important that we remain vigilant as we move forward. We believe strongly in moving as soon as possible towards writing an enacting protective zoning ordinances in Arcadia and neighboring townships. The Arcadia Wind Study Group will continue to monitor all industrial wind activity in our community, collect information about the disposition of existing leases, and participate in the review of the master plan and changes to the zoning ordinance. We will remain a source of information for our community and hope you will continue to support our efforts.

We have a special request for those who have demonstrated support for our cause through yard signs. The Save Arcadia, Save Benzie, and Save Bear Lake signs have played a vital part in demonstrating the overwhelming public support for the notion that industrial wind turbines in our community are not supported. As Duke tries to transfer its leases to another industrial wind company, and as other companies consider trying to pick up where Duke failed, the message that these signs sends is even more important than ever. We ask you to continue to display them proudly and prominently.

Thank you again for all you do.

Posted in Arcadia, Blaine, Citizens for Responsible Wind, Duke's Pressure Tactics, Get In the Game, Joyfield, Joyfield Property Rights Association, Process, Raw Deal, Signs, This is a Regional Effort, We are not alone | Leave a comment

Duke’s Volunteer explains the real reason Duke failed

In an interview with IPR, Duke executive Milt Howard said that local opposition had nothing to do with the failure of the Gail Windpower project, the first significant failure of any Duke wind power project. However, in an interview with mitechnews.com, Allan O’Shea, former Chairman of the Manistee County Board of Commissioners, founding president of the American Wind Energy Association, and Duke Energy’s agent/employee/consultant/volunteer, contradicts him. Who do you think is telling the real story? Why were the proposals of Duke Energy, a well-funded out-of-state Fortune 100 corporation, unable withstand the scrutiny of a small, ragtag, grassroots group of concerned citizens?

Allan O’Shea, the former chairman of the Manistee County Commission, who became a consultant a year ago to Duke Energy, said Duke decided, “It could not keep throwing good money at a situation that was not going to fly.” He said a small, well financed faction that did not want the Windpower project to be completed, ultimately was the deciding factor.

Here is the complete article:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Duke Energy Cancels $360 Million Gail Wind Power Project In Manistee

BEULAH – Duke Energy, which had planned to develop a $360 million wind power project in Benzie and Manistee counties, has instead decided to discontinue development of the 16,000 acre project that could have generated up to 200 megawatts of renewable electricity to power about 60,000 homes.

In a press release, the North Carolina-based company said it couldn’t get a Purchase Power Agreement from DTE Energy to buy the electricity generated. Duke also said the timing no longer was right for the Gail Windpower project due to changes in the Michigan wholesale energy market.

Duke said it committed to build five large-scale wind power projects in 2012 – two in Kansas, two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania. “The company intends to focus its efforts on constructing these projects and investing in the communities that will host them,” the company said in its press release.

Duke spokesman Alanya Schofield said the company will continue to develop the $160 million Hillsdale Windpower Project that would generate 100-megawatts of electrical power over 12,000 acres in Reading, Cambria and Allen Townships, enough to power 30,000 homes.

She also said Duke is negotiating with “other parties” to sell the project. She declined to elaborate or provide a time table. She also declined to say how much Duke spent over the past two years trying to get the Gail project operational.

Allan O’Shea, the former chairman of the Manistee County Commission, who became a consultant a year ago to Duke Energy, said Duke decided, “It could not keep throwing good money at a situation that was not going to fly.” He said a small, well financed faction that did not want the Windpower project to be completed, ultimately was the deciding factor.

Citizens for Responsible Wind Development and the Arcadia Wind Study Group both earlier claimed wind turbine infrasound causes serious health problems. Spokesmen for either group could not be reached for comment.

“Duke is a big corporation and they’re going to go where they wanted,” O’Shea said. “ Such a vitriolic backlash by some folks made them back off. Now we have to put it behind us and hope our community will heal itself.”

Added O’Shea, who is the president of Contractors Building Supply, a wind and renewable energy contractor: “Renewable energy is a new concept. It’s a hard thing for some people in the community to get their arms around. It’s hard enough for them to understand it for their homes, let alone a big wind farm in their own backyards.”

Mike Brennan
MITechNews.Com

The article above is solely the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of the Arcadia Wind Study Group.

The copyright of this article is owned by the author or publisher indicated. Its availability here constitutes a “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law as part of the Arcadia Wind Study Group’s nonprofit effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information.

Posted in Alliance for Economic Success, Arcadia, Benzie, Blaine, Get In the Game, One Mile is Not Enough | Leave a comment

Duke blows away — a view from Charlotte

Most of the press coverage concerning the “discontinuing” of Duke’s “Gail Windpower” project simply parrots Duke’s press release verbatim. (Does “discontinue” mean cancel or is it more like “refocus”?) An article in the Charlotte Business Journal, Duke’s hometown business paper, adds an interesting tidbit, which is clearly quoted from, but not attributed to a Duke insider. Reading between the lines, it is clear that Duke is blaming its failure on the need to inform the public — the key part is in the second paragraph below and has been set in bold for emphasis:

Duke Energy drops Michigan wind-farm plan
Charlotte Business Journal by John Downey, Senior Staff Writer
Date: Thursday, January 19, 2012, 1:05pm EST

John Downey
Senior Staff Writer – Charlotte Business Journal

Duke Energy Renewables has decided not to develop the proposed 200-megawatt Gail Windpower Project in Michigan, having been unable to negotiate a long-term power-purchase agreement for the wind farm.

Duke Renewables — an unregulated, commercial business unrelated to Duke Energy Corp’s regulated utilities — does not ordinarily disclose wind projects until a contract has been signed for the purchase of power. The Gail Project was disclosed two years ago because plans called for building the project in a relatively populated area near Traverse City. That made negotiating land agreements quietly more difficult and created a need to keep the local communities informed on the planned development.

As in all Duke Renewables projects, construction was contingent on securing a long-term contract from a utility or industrial customer to buy the power. In its announcement Wednesday, Duke made clear that it had not gotten such a contract and that there appeared to be little demand for now in Michigan for power from such a project.

“Our development team would like to express its deepest gratitude to all of the families, community leaders and individuals who have supported the proposed project throughout the last two years,” Duke Energy Renewables Vice President Milt Howard says, adding the company was disappointed to end the project.

The company also cited the need to concentrate on five large wind-power projects it has already committed to building this year as a factor in the decision to discontinue the efforts in Michigan.

The other projects are the 131-megawatt Cimarron II project in Gray County, Kan., slated to open in June; the 168-megawatt Ironwood project in Ford County, Kan., slated for August; the 69-megawatt Laurel Hill project in Lycoming County, Pa., slated for September; and the Los Vientos I and Los Vientos II projects in Willacy County, Texas, each with 200 megawatts of capacity slated for December.

The article above is solely the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of the Arcadia Wind Study Group.

The copyright of this article is owned by the author or publisher indicated. Its availability here constitutes a “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law as part of the Arcadia Wind Study Group’s nonprofit effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information.

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Gail Windpower demise analyzed on IPR

This morning, Interlochen Public Radio’s Points North program discussed the discontinuation of Duke Energy’s Gail Windpower Project:

Download the entire program here.

Link to the original program here.

Posted in Arcadia, Blaine, Joyfield, Pleasanton, This is a Regional Effort, We are not alone | Leave a comment

Press Inquiries

An Arcadia Wind Study Group spokesperson is available to speak with members of the press regarding Duke Energy’s announcement that is “discontinuing” its previously proposed “Gail Windpower” project. Members of the press should send an e-mail with your media organization’s name and telephone number to arcadiawindstudygroup@gmail.com and you will be contacted immediately.

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Duke Blows Away — Media Coverage

Milton “Milt” Howard, Duke Energy Vice President for Wind Energy on 7 & 4 news on Wednesday, January 18:

“We have 13,000 acres … we are looking to transfer the project to another developer … maybe we’ll be back.”

Below are copies of the material Duke released concerning its change in plans. More soon.

Links to PDF documents above:

Duke Energy letter from Milton “Milt” Howard to “stakeholders” announcing “discontinuation” of its proposed “Gail Windpower” project, January 17, 2011.

Duke Energy Press Release announcing “discontinuation” of its “Gail Windpower” project, January 18, 2011.

Posted in Arcadia, Benzie, Blaine, Duke's Pressure Tactics, Get In the Game, Joyfield, Michigan, Pleasanton, Process, Raw Deal, We are not alone | Leave a comment

Duke blows away?

The following story appeared on Interlochen Public Radio this morning:

http://ipr.interlochen.org/ipr-news-features/episode/17684

Duke Wind Project Cancelled

By Peter Payette

Duke Energy says it will discontinue plans for a wind farm in Benzie and Manistee counties. In a released statement the company says it does not have a buyer for the electricity and questions whether there is enough demand for renewable energy in Michigan right now. Duke had proposed building more than 100 turbines between Arcadia and Frankfort.

Opponents of the project claimed it would destroy the rural character of the area. In November, they recalled three trustees in one of the townships in the proposed wind farm.

Duke says it has five wind farms under development in other states. It will close its office in Benzie County at the end of March.

In Mason County Consumers Energy is building more than 50 turbines near Ludington.

Posted in Arcadia, Benzie, Blaine, Joyfield, Pleasanton, Process, Raw Deal, This is a Regional Effort, We are not alone | Leave a comment

Benzie Wind Resolution Passes

The Benzie Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution in favor of industrial wind energy by a vote of 6-1 last night. They did, however, change the title of the resolution to “Resolution for Responsible Land Use and Renewable Energy”.

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Benzie Wind Resolution to be Considered Tomorrow

TOMORROW, Tuesday, January 17th, the Benzie County Board of Commissioners will be reconsidering a resolution in support of wind energy. The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. in the Benzie County Government Center (note the different time).

As you may remember, this resolution was first introduced in October, 2011. After a heated public meeting it was decided to send the proposed resolutions to a subcommittee.

AWSG believes that the Board of Commissioners should not pass this resolution.

Why is this so important if the resolution itself is just expressing sentiments, and when zoning power in Benzie County is exercised at the township level? Because the purpose of this resolution is to serve as an exhibit when Duke Energy, or some future wind energy company, prepares a presentation for a utility company to buy the energy generated by a proposed wind energy project. That agreement is called a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Duke has been unable to secure a PPA for its “Gail Windpower” project. No one is ever going to read anything in this resolution except the title, which is why the title is so important. The utility company will ask, “Is there local support for this resolution?”, to which the wind developer will reply, “yes, here’s appendix G, a ‘resolution in support of clean, renewable energy’.” Local support, check.

The Commissioners need to know that this resolution is not a meaningless expression of sentiment. If they vote for this resolution, they are voting to turn large areas of Benzie (and by extension Manistee) County into an industrial wind generation facility.

Here are some other issues that should be considered:

There is no data to support the notion that the citizens of Benzie County support industrial wind energy. And when they say renewable energy in this case, they mean industrial wind energy. This resolution is not being sought by supporters of a landfill gas or solar energy company. In the two townships in Benzie where an industrial wind energy project has been proposed, a public opinion survey was conducted last summer by Macalester College on behalf of the effected townships. The survey found that landowners in Blaine township were overwhelmingly against industrial wind energy. In Joyfield township, public opinion was split evenly.

In November 2011, the voters of Joyfield township voted by a 57 percent margin to recall three members of the Joyfield township board who had signed wind leases with Duke Energy and had refused to discuss the proposed industrial wind project or consider measures, including zoning, to protect the rights of all property owners, during public meetings.  A special election is scheduled for February 28 to select permanent replacement members of the township board who will serve until the end of 2012. Passing this resolution could be construed as an improper attempt to influence the voters of Joyfield township.

In 2009, Benzie County voted to eliminate county zoning and townships had the option to institute zoning on their own. The county should not be injecting itself in a land use matter when the power to control land use properly lies with the townships. We are aware that many township boards and supervisors have written county board members asking them not to vote in favor of this resolution.

Why is the Board serving as the PR agency of a large Fortune 100 utility? If Duke Energy was not shopping its proposed “Gail Windpower” project to utilities, would this resolution even be up for consideration? The board members, county attorney, and county administrator should be asked to disclose publically any communciation they have had with Duke Energy or its agents regarding this resolution, including Duke’s agent/consultant/employee/volunteer Alan O’Shea. Mr. O’Shea should again be asked to disclosed publicly whether he has received, has been promised, or expects to receive any compensation from Duke Energy in the past or in the future.

Below is the current draft which will be voted on by Benzie Commissioners tomorrow. You can download a PDF copy of the resolution here.

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Industrial Wind Power in Michigan — An Overview

This essay was written by James Fuscaldo, an attorney and resident of Cedar, MI in Leelenau County. Jim contributed to the work of the citizens’ committee in Centerville township that wrote a comprehensive wind ordinance for that township beginning in 2006. This effort was one of the earliest attempts in the State of Michigan to responsibly regulate industrial wind development. Written by a longtime observer of the industrial wind industry and its interaction with Michigan local governments, his essay is an excellent overview of many of the issues that townships in Manistee, Benzie, and Leelanau Counties are wrestling with as they consider the issues of industrial wind development, including legal, tax, sound and decommissioning. You can read the complete Centerville wind ordinance here.


A Citizen’s Primer on Wind Farm Development

Statement of Fact

Wind farm developers (“Developers”) seek out communities that do not have wind turbine zoning legislation that restricts or limits the placement and location of their turbines. This is the result of the failure of House Bill 4254 introduced February 13, 2007 that was part of Michigan’s Renewable Energy Standard (”the Standard”). The Bill was sponsored by then Representative Howard Walker of Traverse City. House Bill 4254 was introduced to disenfranchise the townships, villages and cities of their constitutional right to establish lawful and enforceable zoning laws that meet the needs and requirements of the community with respect to the placement, configuration and construction of wind turbines. The Bill would have disenfranchised local government units from exercising zoning jurisdiction over 90% of the land within their territorial boundaries when the question pertained to the right to use land for wind energy systems. The bill failed because presumably it violated the Michigan Constitution.

After the Standard was passed many communities and their planning commissions failed to anticipate the “parasitic” growth of wind turbines. The growth was subsidized by taxpayers, facilitated by the Federal Government and implemented by the State of Michigan. The Standard mandated utility companies to provide electricity produced from renewable sources to all its customers. Michigan residents were compelled to purchase electricity produced by wind turbines at a cost that is higher than electricity produced from fossil fuels. This parasitic growth was catalyzed by the failure of planning commissions and communities to understand what they didn’t know about the laws of economics and thermodynamics associated with wind generated power. Planning commissions and communities were lead to believe that “green energy” was the answer to resolving the illusory problem of global warming, and to break our self induced dependence on foreign oil.

The electric utility companies used their lobbyists to protect their financial interests during the legislative debate of the Standard. The availability of taxpayer subsidies and tax incentives from the Federal Government created an opportunity for utility companies to receive “windfall profits” at no investment risk to the utility company. The increased cost of producing electricity using wind turbines was passed on to the public. Harnessing the powers of wind sounds so “green” and politically correct until planning commissions and communities were confronted with the facts and reality.

Statement of the Law

Local government entities (lawfully construed townships, cities and villages) and the citizens within these entities have the right of self government pertaining to the zoning of utility franchises and public service facilities, namely wind energy systems. These rights are explicitly granted under the Michigan State Constitution, Article VII, Sections 19, 24 and 25; and the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, Chapter 125, Act 110 of 2006, Section 125.3201. In addition Section 34 of the Michigan Constitution states: “ The provisions of this constitution and law concerning counties, townships, cities and villages shall be liberally construed in their favor”.

The failure of elected officials to consider implementing appropriate and reasonable zoning legislation pertaining to wind turbines in their communities, or have the matter discussed in open forums with members of the community after the state legislature passed the Standard raises a presumption of legislative negligence or incompetence. This failure was a breach of the fiduciary trust that planning commissions and zoning administrators have to the citizens they represent.

Federal Subsidies and Tax Incentives

The only green in “green energy” comes from the taxpayer’s wallets and into the pockets of the Developers as “windfall” profits. Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides the Developers with a cash grant equal to 30% of the Developer’s project costs. Developers also benefit from favorable depreciation schedules. Investments in wind turbines are entitled to Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery that allows Developers to recover 50% of their capital costs within the first two years after construction, and the remainder within the next three years. In addition, wind turbines placed in service in 2012 are entitled to an additional 50% bonus depreciation. All other (fossil fuel) electricity-generating facilities must use a 20-year depreciation schedule.

Developers whose income statements prevent them from timely utilizing the tax incentives may monetize them by selling the tax credits to “indirect investors” (banks and financial institutions). The purchased tax incentives are used to reduce the cumulative tax liability of the “indirect investors”. In the states that conform their corporate income tax to the federal system a significant depreciation deduction and the monetization of tax incentives provides a significant reduction to their taxable income. This reduces both the federal and state income tax liability of the Developers and their “indirect investors”. The taxpayer underwrites these financial incentives.

In summary wind turbines are financed by taxpayers through the ARRA with cash grants, accelerated depreciation schedules and the monetization of tax incentives. The net result is an increase in taxpayer-funded subsidies going to Developers; a decrease in federal and state tax revenue resulting from accelerated depreciation, bonus depreciation and tax credits available only to renewable energy projects. This results in a net cash flow from the pockets of taxpayers to the wallets of the Developers and their financial and “ indirect investors” without the production of one kilowatt of “green” energy.

Wind farm development is an investment funded by the taxpayer for the benefit of the Developers. The risk of failure falls on the taxpayer and those stupefied and befuddled with the promise of a better environment through renewable energy.

Other Legal Concerns

Regrettably the majority of communities and their representatives, and land owners are ill-equipped to deal with the nuances of enterprise liability, indemnification, insurance, corporate structuring that limits the liability exposure of Developers, bankruptcy, easements, revenue and cost/royalty accounting and a host of other issues associated with granting property leases and easements for the construction and maintenance of wind turbines. For example, little if any significant attention is directed to the issue of the “decommissioning” of wind turbines. In other words who is responsible for the deconstruction of wind turbines and their removal; the removal of underground or above surface transmission lines; the restoration of the land and habitat to a pre-wind turbine environment and the return of easement rights to the property owner.

Rarely is there attention given to ascertaining whether there are readily available and secured funds (escrow account/performance bonds/liability insurance etc.) directly available to the community and / or landowner-lessor to fund the decommissioning of wind turbines. This is an essential consideration when the Developer disappears as a result of liquidation or other forms of available bankruptcy relief, or because the responsible parties of interest, namely the lessee of the property and owner of the turbines has insufficient capital and assets to fund decommissioning of wind turbines or is judgment proof.

Lack of Due Diligence

The majority of communities, planning commissions and land owners neglect appropriate due diligence to protect their interests when evaluating the community benefits of wind turbines. In the absence of enforceable zoning ordinances communities and planning commissions that enter into “community” wind turbine projects expose the resources of the community to private law suits. The suits may be filed based on nuisance law, property devaluation and loss of “quiet and peaceful” enjoyment of private property rights proximately caused by the installation and operation of wind turbines.

Protecting Private Property Rights

A significant number of objections to the installation of wind turbines are based on noise, shadow flicker, reflection and silhouetting.

Noise:

Most planning commissions have little or no knowledge and experience in the measurement of noise. Measurements of environmental noise are usually made according to the dB(A) scale. Unfortunately, dB(A) measurements do not measure the aerodynamic modulation that is created by wind turbine blades as they pass by the base of the turbine tower. The A-weighting measurement of sound devalues the low frequency end of the sound spectrum and its use to measure the pervasive low frequency aerodynamic “whoomph” of wind turbines is misleading if not erroneous. The dB(C) -weighting curve is a more appropriate measurement for low frequency sound. The dB(A) scale tends to confuse the lay person and most planning commissioners. This lack of knowledge is deliberately exploited in many wind energy applications for zoning variances as most planning commissions readily accept what wind industry “experts” provide without question or debate.

The use of the dB(A) frequency scale, which is biased for human hearing, pertains to loudness. For example music and noise from discos have a totally different sound character to either steady or sporadic sounds measured for loudness. The dB(A) weighted level has been found inappropriate to assess the noise intrusion into a dwelling from a low frequency thumping bass emanating from disco music or a wind turbine’s repeated “whoomph”.

Sound measurements for wind turbines are usually made during the day. However, nighttime wind speed and turbine rotation is predictably higher than daytime speed. The higher wind speed causes faster rotation of the blades and higher dB readings, including and with special emphasis on the low frequency aerodynamic “whoomph” and ancillary low frequency vibration. The low frequency vibration (disco sound) is more of a physical sensation than a noise. This is defined as audible modulation of aerodynamic noise or infrasound.

Studies have shown that both fixed speed and variable speed turbines generate low frequency vibrations that can be detected by seismometers buried in the ground. Scientific studies also show that the human ear and its inner membranes (vestibular system ) is extremely sensitive to low frequency and infrasound vibrations. Adverse reports of sleep disturbances; headache, dizziness, nausea, and rapid heart rate have been attributed to the low frequency and infrasound vibrations generated by wind turbines. The medical community identifies it as “Wind Turbine Syndrome” or “Vibroacoustic Disease”.

The noise problem of wind turbines, both modulation effects and low frequency sound, is not addressed by dB(A) acoustic scale measurements. The continued use of these measurements as a basis to grant variances for the construction of wind farms is a fraud on the community. It facilitates and perpetuates an unwanted intrusion of low frequency noise into the private domain and property rights of adjacent property owners.

Shadow Flicker, Reflection and Silhouetting:

Planning commissioners often fail to admit they have little if any knowledge about shadow flicker, reflection and silhouetting caused by wind turbines. Shadow flicker occurs when the sun passes behind the hub of a wind turbine and shadows of the rotating blades repeatedly pass over neighboring properties. Developers claim to use commercially available software to minimize the risk of shadow flicker on neighboring houses. The seasonal effect and duration of flicker can be calculated from the geometry of the turbine, its orientation relative to nearby houses and the latitude of the site. However one cannot ascertain the reliability of the software evaluation and the effect flicker will have on neighboring residents until after the turbines are constructed and operative.

The flicker effect can be controlled to some extent by zoning setback between turbines and homes and the positioning of turbines. Planning commissioners must also protect the public from viewing interacting blades where the shadows cast by one turbine on another causes a cumulative and overlapping flicker effect. A common problem when multiple turbines are installed. When turbines are geographically placed so they are visible from homes or valuable viewpoints with either the early morning or low evening sun behind them, they may become more prominent by the silhouetting effect. Attempts to reduce the adverse landscape effect of turbines by painting them grey have been unsuccessful. In these instances wind turbine silhouettes still draw the viewer’s eye and became a visual irritation to the landscape whether painted or not.

Reflective flashing or enhanced visibility of wind turbines occurs when the sun is behind or slightly to the side of the viewer and accentuates the irritation caused by the moving blades.

Summary

Wind turbines do not achieve the presumed objective of stabilizing or reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Wind turbines operate intermittently and therefore require dependable and reliable fossil fuel backup “spinning reserve” generation. The intermittent cycling of fossil fuel backup generation to compensate for wind intermittency results in more carbon dioxide emissions than if the fossil fuel generation facility were permitted to run at full cycle load capacity. Generating electricity using wind turbines dependent on fossil fuel spinning reserve backup is comparable to the inefficient use of an automobile engine in stop and go traffic.

Wind turbine farms are money factories that industrialize the scenic landscape of northern Michigan for no purpose other than to use the government to transfer wealth from taxpayers to special interest groups.

Looking ahead planning commissioners and property owners must do a better job in conducting their “due diligence” when Developers seek out communities and property owners for the purpose of perpetuating the wind farm scam to line their own pockets with tax payer money. The best approach is for communities to step back and consider developing appropriate zoning for utility franchises and public service facilities such as wind farms and other renewable energy systems. Communities and their representatives should implement a moratorium on granting land use variances for wind turbines until an appropriate zoning ordinance can be drafted. The community must have input and participate in the discussion to establish a reasonable zoning standard for wind turbines that meets the needs of the community as a whole, and not the special interests of a select class of investors masquerading as “green energy saviors” of the planet.

This essay is copyright by James Fuscaldo, 2011 and is reprinted here by permission. The opinions expressed here are those of the author’s.

Posted in Arcadia, Blaine, Get In the Game, Joyfield, Michigan, Process, This is a Regional Effort, We are not alone | Leave a comment

Arcadia Planning Commission to recommend repeal of existing wind ordinance

Tonight the Arcadia township planning commission will meet at 7:00 p.m. The commission is expected to recommend the repeal of Arcadia township’s existing wind energy ordinance, which took effect in 2009. The planning commission and township board have determined that the existing ordinance does not adequately protect the health, safety, and welfare of Arcadia residents.

Township leaders are proposing repealing the existing wind energy ordinance until such time as a new master plan is completed. Under Michigan law, a zoning ordinance must be based on a community’s master plan. The proposed repeal of the existing wind ordinance would not take effect until the proposal is acted on by the township board at a meeting in January or February.

Under the provisions of Arcadia’s current zoning ordinance, an industrial wind turbine complex would be permitted as long as turbines were less than 300 ft. high. A wind turbine applicant would have to apply to the township for a special use permit. However, the township board has imposed a moratorium on the review of any such special use permit until February 2012. The current moratorium has a provision for a 3 month extension.

The rationale for this decision is explained in the memorandum from the township attorney found below. You can also download the memorandum in PDF format here.

AWSG is in the process of reviewing this proposed action, and determining whether and what additional actions might be required to protect the citizens of Arcadia.

—–

MEMORANDUM

TO: Arcadia Township Planning Commission and Township Board
FROM: Craig A. Rolfe, Township Attorney
RE: Legal guidance and recommendations relating to approaching expiration of moratorium on the acceptance of applications for utility grid wind energy systems and the implications of Master Plan update project
DATE: December 2, 2011

—–

Purpose of Memorandum

On February 10, 2011 the Arcadia Township Board adopted a resolution imposing a moratorium on the acceptance of applications for zoning approvals for or associated with any utility grid wind energy system land use, for an initial period of six months and subject to extension. On August 11, 2011 the Township Board adopted a resolution extending the initial moratorium for an additional six month period. The initial moratorium action, and the six month extension, were both supported by recommendations of the Arcadia Township Planning Commission.

The extended moratorium will therefore expire on or about February 11, 2012.

This memorandum is intended to provide legal guidance, including specific resulting recommendations, to the Planning Commission and Township Board as the expiration of the moratorium approaches. To best understand this legal guidance it is important to review the purpose of the moratorium, in the context of statutory requirements relating to planning and zoning. However, it is appropriate to first review the relatively recent history relating to the rather abrupt potential for large utility wind energy projects in Michigan.

The Emergence of Commercial Wind Energy as a Creation of State Energy Policy

Commercial wind energy was a subject of municipal planning and zoning attention only marginally, if at all, before 2008-2009. Pursuant to 2008 Public Act 295, which became effective October 6, 2008, the State of Michigan mandated certain providers of electric service establish renewable energy programs. This legislation also created a temporary entity known as the Michigan Wind Energy Resource Zone Board (MWERZB), and provided for the powers and duties of that Board. Those duties included preparation of a report addressing the potential and viability of wind as a source of commercial energy generation in Michigan, and identifying the regions in the state with the highest level of wind energy harvest potential. The final report of the MWERZB, dated October 15, 2009, identified four regions within Michigan determined by that Board to have the highest potential for wind energy. The southerly edge of one such region (Region 3) includes Arcadia Township.

Upon considering the report of the MWERZB, as provided by 2008 Public Act 295, the Michigan Public Service Commission on January 27, 2010 issued its final Order as required by that law. That Order did not designate Region 3 as a Wind Energy Resource Zone.

Contemporaneous with the issuance of the report of the MWERZB in October 2009, and subsequently, the State of Michigan has consistently advised that decisions regarding various aspects of the siting of utility scale wind energy systems remain under the province of local planning and zoning authorities. Arcadia Township responded proactively to the state pronouncements by including in the Arcadia Township Zoning Ordinance various basic provisions pertaining to what was defined and regulated therein as a “utility grid wind energy system” land use. Those regulations were added to the Zoning Ordinance pursuant to an amendatory ordinance (Ordinance No. 170) that became effective in October of 2009. The regulations in that ordinance were significantly based on sample/suggested zoning language standards made available through Michigan State University and the State of Michigan. At that time Arcadia Township did not have any particular basis to envision utility scale wind turbine structures with a height approaching twice the 300 foot limitation included in Ordinance No. 170.

In 2010 Arcadia Township became aware that at least one utility company was planning or considering a large scale utility wind energy project in portions of Benzie County and Manistee County, including Arcadia Township, despite the exclusion of Region 3 from the Wind Energy Resource Zone designation by the Michigan Public Service Commission in it’s January 27, 2010 Order. Based on information subsequently made available on a Duke Energy website, the Township learned that company’s so- called “Gail Wind Project” encompassed approximately 12,000 acres and 112 wind turbines with a height of at least 495 feet, a number of which were evidently proposed to be sited in Arcadia Township.

For better or worse, the implications of the new energy policy of the State of Michigan enacted pursuant to the above-referenced Act 295 began to converge, timewise, with the beginning of the efforts of the Arcadia Township Planning Commission to comprehensively update the existing Arcadia Township Master Plan. The next segment of this memorandum briefly addresses this subject, factually, and with reference to applicable legal requirements.

Anticipated Updating of 2004 Arcadia Township Master Plan
The existing Arcadia Township Master Plan was adopted in 2004. The Township Planning Act under which the 2004 Master Plan was prepared and adopted (Township Planning Act) was repealed in 2008 and replaced by the consolidated Michigan Planning Enabling Act (MPEA). MCL 125.3801 et. seq. Arcadia Township is required by the MPEA to have a Master Plan “as a guide for development” within the Township. MCL 125.3831. The content of a Master Plan and the process relating to the preparation and approval of such a Plan is now comprehensively regulated by the MPEA.

The Township Planning Commission is required by the MPEA to review an existing Master Plan at least every five years after adoption, and determine whether to commence the procedure to amend the Master Plan or to adopt a new Master Plan. The Township Planning Commission has undertaken a review of the 2004 Master Plan pursuant to this statutory requirement, and determined it is appropriate to begin the procedure to update the 2004 Master Plan (whether by amendment or by a new Plan).

I understand initial discussions relating to a joint municipal planning effort occurred in 2009, as an offshoot of the “M22 Economic Development Strategy” project undertaken by the Village of Onekama and the Townships of Arcadia and Onekama, with assistance from the Manistee Alliance for Economic Success (AES). Dissemination of final data from the 2010 United States Census provided some additional incentive to update the existing Master Plan. Indeed, I understand when the Planning Commission reviewed the 2004 Master Plan in 2009 it concluded a Plan re- write should begin when the 2010 census data became available.

The Planning Commission has officially determined to undertake its Master Plan update pursuant to an expanded collaborative effort involving several townships in Manistee County and Benzie County. This collaborative effort, undertaken with assistance from the AES, is anticipated to enable the participating communities to identify joint solutions for shared issues and opportunities, while also reflecting the unique character of each community, including natural resources, and open space and recreation resources. This collaborative planning effort will also include strategies by which each participating community may implement the Plan, including recommendations to achieve a “preferred future” that may involve new or modified zoning ordinances. This joint planning effort in which Arcadia Township is now participating is notably consistent with policies of the current administration in Lansing that encourage municipal neighbors to collaborate on municipal activities and services where feasible.

Arcadia Township is Not Legally Required to Allow a Specific Land Use Project to Disrupt the Timing or Substance of a Deliberative Planning/Zoning Update Process

From my perspective, and I believe yours, the timing of the potential Gail Wind project by Duke Energy has been most unfortunate from a planning/zoning perspective. The potential implications of this massive project have clearly overshadowed (no pun intended) many other issues of importance in the community, and created adverse repercussions for a “normal” timeline for the planning/zoning update process. While the convergence of the Gail Wind project and the planning/zoning update process is coincidental, the resulting disruptive influences of that project on the planning/zoning process are presently undeniable. This brings us to the issue of how the Township has responded to these influences via the moratorium, and what comes next.

The Moratorium

In imposing the moratorium the Township Board determined, upon Planning Commission recommendation, that the existing Zoning Ordinance may not provide sufficient regulations to properly evaluate an application for a utility grid wind energy system with the potential impact of the proposed Gail Wind project, which entails turbines with a proposed height substantially exceeding the approvable height for such structures as specified in the existing zoning regulations. Moreover, the Planning Commission identified the need to carefully review the Township Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance in light of developing technology and trends in wind energy development, and recognized that such review may implicate consideration of changes to the Master Plan and/or Zoning Ordinance in order to prevent negatively impacting the health, safety and welfare of current and future area property owners and residents.

In conjunction with the moratorium Township officials engaged in various educational opportunities to better understand wind energy development and the impacts of utility-scale wind energy land uses on the community, including a collaborative educational endeavor known as the Understanding Wind Energy Initiative (UWEI) undertaken by five townships encompassing MWERZB Region 3 and facilitated by the AES. This Initiative, managed by a research team from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, was intended to objectively inform and educate all interests about wind energy alternatives, and to provide guidance for the development of township planning policies and ordinances that are responsive to community concerns and goals relating to wind energy land uses. The ongoing Understanding Wind Energy Initiative project has thus far included a community Survey conducted in July-August 2011, a Symposium held July 6, 2011, and a resulting Questions and Responses Report (issued in draft form October 5, 2011).

According to the Survey of the Understanding Wind Energy Initiative 68.7% of the respondents from Arcadia Township indicated they either “strongly oppose” (56.9%) or “oppose” (11.8%) wind energy development in Arcadia Township. Only 13.7% of those respondents indicated they “support” (7.8%) or “strongly support” (5.9%) wind energy development in Arcadia Township (7.4% were “neutral”).

The Survey of the Understanding Wind Energy Initiative also disclosed considerable negative responses from the Arcadia Township respondents on the impact of various issues associated with utility scale wind energy land uses, including the below-designated percentages of “very negative” or “negative” opinions on the following issues:

Local Scenic Beauty—89.7%.
Local Property Values—86.4%.
Local Tourism—84.4%.
Attracting Seasonal Residents—86.5%.
Appearance of the Night Sky—81.9%.
Bats, Birds and Other Wildlife—88.3%.

Unique and otherwise significant natural assets within Arcadia Township, including but not limited to the Arcadia Dunes, the C.S. Mott Nature Preserve and Arcadia Marsh Nature Preserve owned and managed by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, and over six miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, are widely recognized as being of great importance to not only Arcadia Township residents but also to the greater Manistee County/Benzie County area, as well as Northern Michigan more generally. The potential impacts of a utility grid wind energy system on these natural assets are generally perceived to be negative and unacceptable. 
It is of course important to recognize the existing and any future work product from the Understanding Wind Energy Initiative, including the results of the community Survey, do not constitute the entire source of knowledge and information to be considered by Township officials to properly analyze and understand the impacts of utility-scale wind energy land uses and determine a resulting policy direction for the Township. The next segment of this memorandum thus discusses certain options that are cognizant of the impending expiration of the moratorium without intending to suggest any ultimate Township policy decision that is not preceded by completion of the Master Plan update process. 
Township Options 
When the Planning Commission and Township Board review this memorandum as anticipated at their respective meetings in early December the Township will be within about two months of the expiration of the moratorium (on or about February 11, 2012). This short timeline presents significant practical and legal issues relating to expiration of the moratorium and the Township’s options. 
Detailed review of the work product of the Understanding Wind Energy Initiative, and other input, could cause the Planning Commission/Township Board to conclude the existing provisions in the Zoning Ordinance relating to utility grid wind energy land uses should be replaced by significantly more comprehensive substantive regulations, as well as more detailed application/review procedures. In the alternative, upon reviewing that work product and other input the Township could reach a different conclusion with respect to the underlying appropriateness of such land uses in the Township. 
In my opinion it is legally premature, and also unnecessary, for the Township to at this time reach either of these conclusions, or any other conclusion, as the ultimate policy direction of the Township with respect to utility grid wind energy land uses. That ultimate policy decision, whatever it may be, will have enormous significance for the future of the Township, and should therefore be made only after the present Master Plan update process has been completed. The updated Master Plan resulting from that process, and frankly the process itself, will inevitably provide critical guidance for any subsequent zoning decisions directly or indirectly related to utility grid wind energy land uses, including potential consideration of Zoning Ordinance amendments associated with implementing the updated Master Plan.

The Michigan Zoning Enabling Act expressly requires a Zoning Ordinance to be “based upon a plan” designed to, among other things, “promote the public health, safety, and general welfare”, “encourage the use of lands in accordance with their character and adaptability”, and “to ensure that uses of the land shall be situated in appropriate locations and relationships”. I am concerned that expediting comprehensive Zoning Ordinance amendments relating to utility scale wind energy land uses, at this time, as the Master Plan comprehensive update process is only beginning, will denigrate this most fundamental statutory requirement to base the Zoning Ordinance upon the Plan, and not vice-versa. The old saying about “putting the cart before the horse” certainly comes to mind here.

Recommendations

As the expiration of the moratorium now rapidly approaches I recommend the Township pursue a course that appropriately recognizes the legal relationship between sound planning, and zoning, that fully respects the importance and value of a deliberative planning/zoning update process, and that enables that process to occur without undue influence from any potential utility grid wind energy system development in the Township. Specifically, I recommend repealing the existing provisions pertaining to utility grid wind energy land uses, added to the Zoning Ordinance by Ordinance No. 170, pending the completion of the Master Plan update process and subsequent consideration of potential amendments to the Zoning Ordinance oriented towards implementing the updated Master Plan.

The legal rationale for this recommended course at the present time should already be clear pursuant to previous portions of this memorandum, and thus need not be further reviewed here. However, this recommendation also takes into account the practical realities associated with any decision, at this time, to replace the existing provisions in the Zoning Ordinance relating to utility grid wind energy land uses with more comprehensive substantive regulations and more detailed application/review procedures. As any such new ordinance provisions would be drafted and reviewed over a period of several months it is simply impossible to complete the legal procedures prescribed by the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act for any such Zoning Ordinance amendments before expiration of the moratorium. The choice of this path at this time would therefore necessitate some consideration of a further lengthy extension of the existing moratorium; or, the alternative, completing the required procedures associated with Zoning Ordinance text amendments without a moratorium remaining in effect.

In my opinion both of these scenarios have serious pitfalls. I am not comfortable advising the Township that it may once again extend the moratorium for any significant period of time, due to the lack of solid legal authority to do so. The latter scenario also does not strike me as viable, as it would create an opportunity for the filing of an application for zoning approval of a utility grid wind energy system pursuant to the existing provisions in the Zoning Ordinance regulating that land use, which the Planning Commission has already determined to no longer be adequate at this time to properly protect the health, safety, and general welfare of the property owners and residents of Arcadia Township.

The course of action I am recommending allows the Township to avoid disrupting the Master Plan update process with legally premature substantive amendments of the Zoning Ordinance and/or an application for development of a utility grid wind energy system pursuant to the existing ordinance provisions the Planning Commission has already deemed inadequate, without presuming what policy direction Arcadia Township may ultimately adopt with respect to utility scale wind energy land uses pursuant to guidance from the completed Master Plan update. The next segment of this memorandum anticipates and addresses a significant question associated with this recommendation.

Can the Township Legally Exclude Utility Scale Wind Energy Land Uses from the Township at This Time?

Existing Michigan law provides comprehensive zoning authority to Arcadia Township with respect to determining the permissible land uses in the various zoning districts established by the Zoning Ordinance, and further confers the authority to ensure that uses of land are situated in appropriate locations and relationships to promote public health, safety, and welfare. Utility scale wind energy land uses are subject to this comprehensive zoning authority.

Although the State of Michigan has determined, as a matter of general state policy, that utilities in the state should generate 10% of electricity from renewable sources by 2015 (2008 Public Act 295), no state law requires any such renewable energy generation facility to be located in Arcadia Township, and there is presently no demonstrated public need for a utility grid wind energy system within either Arcadia Township or the surrounding area within this state.

The special natural characteristics of Arcadia Township as a Lake Michigan shoreline community, the significant undeveloped natural resources within the Township, and the established relationship between these natural resources/shoreline community characteristics and the economic health of the community create a serious question as to whether there is any location within Arcadia Township where a large utility grid wind energy system may be appropriately located, based on the current technology (which it is appropriate to note continues to evolve rather rapidly).

The Michigan Zoning Enabling Act expressly allows a township zoning ordinance to totally prohibit the establishment of a land use within the community if there is “(no) demonstrated need for that land use” within the township or the surrounding area; or if “a location within the local unit of government does not exist where the use may be appropriately located”. MCL 125.3207. In my opinion either or both of these circumstances can be shown to be applicable at this time.

Although this memorandum is not intended to serve as a “legal brief” on this issue, in preparing this guidance to the Township I have prudently considered whether Duke Energy would be unfairly prejudiced by repealing from the Zoning Ordinance the existing provisions relating to utility grid wind energy land uses, pending completion of the Master Plan update process and consideration of subsequent amendments of the Zoning Ordinance in the context of implementing the updated Master Plan. It is worth noting in this regard that any specific proposal involving turbine structures exceeding the 300 foot maximum height limitation in the existing Ordinance provisions, such as the turbine structures associated with the Gale Wind project, would clearly not be approvable under those existing regulations.

One or more members of the Planning Commission, or perhaps the Township Board, may prudently inquire as to whether there is legal “risk” associated with this course of action. The answer to any such question will of course be “yes”. Any person or entity able to employ an attorney, and who has the nominal filing fee required to initiate a court case, can file suit against the Township on whatever grounds a lawyer may be able to contrive. However, the Township has its own attorney, and insurance coverage, to properly defend the interests of the Township against legal claims.

As virtually any course of action the Township may take on this subject matter could be considered to have some inherent risk, whether the risk of a legal action being asserted against the Township or the risk of a proposal to develop a land use presently understood to have unacceptable impacts on the Township, I respectfully suggest the real question is whether the Township is willing to accept whatever risk may be involved with such course of action as the Township determines to be in the overall best interests of the Township.

In my opinion all the above-discussed factual and legal considerations, along with others not noted herein, support what seems to be the most sensible option available to the Township as the expiration of the moratorium now rapidly approaches— remove from the Zoning Ordinance the existing provisions relating to utility grid wind energy land uses, which the Planning Commission has deemed to be inadequate to properly protect the health, safety, and general welfare of the property owners and residents of Arcadia Township, and defer any consideration of amending the Zoning Ordinance to include new provisions on this land use until the previously initiated Master Plan comprehensive update process has been completed in a deliberative manner consistent with sound planning principles, but without the intrusive implications of any particular siting proposal involving a utility grid wind energy system.

Timeline to Complete Required Legal Process to Repeal Provisions of Existing Zoning Ordinance Relating to Utility Grid Wind Energy Systems

If the Township intends to remove from the Zoning Ordinance the existing provisions in the Zoning Ordinance relating to utility grid wind energy land uses, before the expiration of the present moratorium, it will be necessary to follow a rigid timeline to complete all the required procedures associated with that type of action.

Removing those existing provisions from the Zoning Ordinance is accomplished by amending the Zoning Ordinance. The Michigan Zoning Enabling Act requires amendments of the Zoning Ordinance to be considered and acted-upon pursuant to the same procedures that apply to adopting a new Zoning Ordinance. This process begins with a public hearing held by the Township Planning Commission, preceded by proper Notice as required by the statute. Pursuant to this public hearing the Planning Commission makes a recommendation to the Township Board. However, in Manistee County such a recommendation must first be submitted to the County Planning Commission for its advisory input, or at least a 30 day opportunity to provide such input, before the Township Board may take formal action on the proposed amendments.

If the intended action is repeal of the existing provisions, that action is taken by adopting the appropriate repeal ordinance. Such a repeal ordinance would generally become effective on the 8th day after publication of a Notice of Adoption of the ordinance in the local newspaper. The necessary timeline for all of the steps of the process to be completed before the expiration of the current moratorium are as follows:

Posted in Arcadia, Process | Leave a comment

Allan O’Shea, Volunteer

One of the principal advocates for turning large portions of Benzie and Manistee counties into a large industrial wind generation facility is Mr. Allan O’Shea, who was until 2010 a member, and Chairman of the Manistee County Board of Commissioners. He has been aggressively advocating for Duke’s Gail Windpower Project since even before he stepped down from the County Board in December of 2010.

Mr. O’Shea is not just a former county official working on behalf of a utility company. Mr. O’Shea is a lifelong advocate of industrial wind energy. In fact, he is one of the founders of the American Wind Industry Association (AWEA), and its founding president.

The American Wind Industry Association is a Michigan nonprofit corporation. Mr. O’Shea was one of its incorporators and served as its original registered agent from 1974 to 1977. You can download the entire articles of incorporation here. We have excerpted the relevant portions below:

According to an article in Wind Systems Magazine:

Few members of the industry realize that AWEA was founded by a group of small wind enthusiasts in the seventies during a time of incredibly high oil prices. The first conference was timed to coincide with the World Energy Conference in Detroit, Michigan, and was attended by 20 people. AWEA’s first president, Allan O’Shea, reminisces about the early days when the industry focus was on small wind. “When we—me and 15 other founding fathers—started AWEA it was under the premise that small wind begets big wind,” he says. “We got together and put up a wind-powered billboard welcoming the World Energy Conference, because at the time they were only talking about oil.”

(Source: Amy Berry, “Small Wind, Big Potential”, Wind Systems Magazine, May 2010, at: http://www.windsystemsmag.com/article/detail/99/small-wind-big-potential)

Again, Mr. O’Shea has been a huge advocate, perhaps the principal one, for turning large portions (in fairness to Mr. O’Shea, he would probably say “selected”) of Manistee and Benzie Counties into an industrial wind generation facility, and Duke Energy’s Gail Windpower Project in general (or is it Gail Winds Power — they can’t seem to make up their mind on the name.)

For much of the last two years, Mr. O’Shea has been making statements to landowners, government officials, and the media about the Gail Windpower Project. For at least a year, Mr. O’Shea has held himself out as a “project coordinator” or “regional coordinator” for Duke Energy and its Gail Windpower Project. Material obtained by the AWSG through its Sunshine Project indicate that Mr. O’Shea was present at the original meetings between Manistee County landowners during the winter and spring of 2010, and that he was copied on the correspondence between the landowners and their attorney (that was paid for by Duke Energy).

On December 20, 2010, one year ago tomorrow, the Benzie County Soil and Water Conservation District held a public forum and panel discussion regarding wind energy at Benzie Central High School. Mr. O’Shea was one of the panelists and identified himself as a Project Coordinator for Duke Energy. At the beginning of the discussion the moderator asked each panelist whether or not he was going to benefit personally from the proposed Gail Wind Project. Mr. O’Shea indicted coyly that he had received “more than $500”.

You can listen to a news story about this event on public radio here:

(you can download an mp3 file of the story here.)

In January 2010, when a Joyfield township resident went to the Duke office in Beulah to complain about trash that Duke’s contractors had left on her property after installing a anemometer (also called a “Met”) tower on a neighboring property, Mr. O’Shea was the person in the office who dealt with her complaint. In fact, here is the business card that he gave her:

On March 29, 2011, Manistee County received a form letter letter from Mr. O’Shea on Duke letterhead asking to schedule a time to address the Manistee County Regional Summit Committee regarding the Gail Windpower Project.

In May 2011, Duke held its “contractor prequalfication” and “landowner appreciation” event at Grow Benzie in Benzie County. In video footage taken by a local public policy institute in Traverse City, a local landowner states that he first learned about the Gail Windpower project when Mr. O’Shea called him to talk about the possibility of signing a lease.

In June 2011, Mr. O’Shea delivered a powerpoint presentation to the Manistee County Board of Commissioners, a body on which he sat for 8 years and of which he served as its chairman, in which he discussed the status of Duke’s Gail Windpower Project. You can download the agenda for the meeting and the complete minutes of the meeting by following these links. Below are scans from the original minutes of this meeting. Here are images of the most important parts of the minutes of the meeting:

In July 2011, Duke Energy Vice President Milton “Milt” Howard, who is responsible for the Gail Windpower Project, came to visit Benzie County. During the same summer month, Duke’s lawyer, Christian Meyer, told the Joyfield township board that Mr. Howard would not be able to attend a public forum to answer questions about Duke’s proposed industrial wind project. (We wonder why?). Mr. Howard was nowhere to be seen outside the AWSG tent at Arcadia Daze. He could have bought a t-shirt.

However, Mr. Howard did have time to go golfing with Mr. O’Shea at the Manistee National Golf Club, as shown in this picture. Mr. O’Shea is on the far right. Mr. Howard is to his left, third from the left.

At an October meeting of the Manistee County Board of Commissioners, Mr. O’Shea declined to respond to statements that he was an agent of Duke Energy, or that the resolution supporting wind energy that he offered for consideration to the Board was written by Duke. In spite of the fact that those present in the board room were overwhelmingly opposed, the Commissioners voted in favor of the resolution.

Mr. O’Shea then took the same resolution to the Benzie Commissioners. It is ironic that Mr. O’Shea was able to get an item on the Benzie commissioners’ agenda on 72 hours notice, when he is not even a citizen of Benzie County; At the same time, citizens of Joyfield township (which is part of Benzie County) had not been able to get their township board to even discuss industrial wind energy in spite of the fact that they had been respectfully requesting the board to take up the matter for a whole year.

At the November 1 meeting of the Benzie County Board of Commissioners, Mr. O’Shea vociferously protested saying that he was not an employee of Duke Energy and had not received any compensation from Duke for his activities. After the meeting, when a resident of Benzie County asked why he had a Duke business card and had spoken to her as a representative of Duke, Mr. O’Shea became extremely flustered, refused to discuss things further, and drove away.

We are also aware that a county official later had a conversation with Mr. O’Shea in which Mr. O’Shea admitted to him that the real purpose of the “resolution in support of wind energy” was to help Duke Energy obtain a power purchase agreement from a utility company to buy the wind power that would be generated by its proposed Gail Wind Power project. Duke has been unable to secure such an agreement.

Make no mistake. The resolutions that Mr. O’Shea has brought to Benzie and Mansitee Counties, and a version of which will be considered by the Benzie Board of Commissioners tomorrow, Tuesday, December 20, are not a benign statements of support for renewable energy. They are a necessary precondition for turning our region into one giant field of 513-foot industrial wind turbines. A responsible utility company will not enter into an agreement to buy wind power unless there is local support and passing this resolution is part of creating a paper trail that Duke can put in its next proposal as it looks for a midwestern utility to enter into a power purchase agreement.

Following the successful recall in Joyfield Township, the Traverse City Record-Eagle interviewed Allan O’Shea for its article on the recall. Mr. O’Shea was identified and quoted as follows: “Allan O’shea, a former Manistee County commissioner who worked as a Duke Energy consultant, said the company played no role in the recall.”

Mr. O’Shea has made countless statements to citizens, landowners, and government officials about the Gail Windpower Project. In what capacity is he making these statements? If he is not working for Duke, to what extent can any of his statements be relied upon?

Again, if Mr. O’Shea is not an employee or an agent of Duke, how can he speak with any authority that Duke was not involved in the Joyfield recall supporting the board members who were eventually recalled? This is a very serious matter. If Duke Energy were have participated in Joyfield township politics by making a coordinated or undeclared expenditure on behalf of its lease signers who were facing a recall election, this could be a very serious violation of the law. If Mr. O’Shea is not working for Duke, how can know whether the statements he is making on Duke’s behalf are accurate?

We think that if Mr. O’Shea is being compensated for serving as an agent of Duke Energy before the Manistee and Benzie County boards, as well as township boards, the nature of his compensation should be disclosed.

If Mr. O’Shea is not an employee of Duke Energy or its subsidiaries, including DEGS Wind I, LLC, and has not been compensated by Duke in any way, then why has he held himself out as an agent of Duke? Is he being paid on a commission basis so that he will only receive something if the Gail Windpower project is built and enters into commercial operation? Alternatively, he could have “consulted” for Duke previously, but now is no longer be doing so. If this is the case, we wonder why?

If none of the above is correct, IS HE JUST A VOLUNTEER?

Either Mr. O’Shea is dissembling about his relationship with Duke Energy, or maybe he really is just a VOLUNTEER. Think about what this means.

Duke Energy prides itself as being among the most environmentally and corporately responsible of Energy and Fortune 100 companies. Duke is planning a wind power project in Northern Michigan, whose namesake is the grandmother-in-law of the lead executive of its wind power division, Milton Howard. (It really is named after his wife’s grandmother.)

Duke and its executive Mr. Howard have the privilege of working with one of the founders of the American Wind Energy Association, a lifelong advocate of wind power, who has a great deal of local knowledge and experience. What does it mean that Mr. Howard and Duke Energy can’t find in their huge budget a few thousand dollars a month to pay Allan O’Shea a consulting fee for all of the work that he has put into this project. Instead, Allan O’Shea is working as a VOLUNTEER.

If this is the case, if you are one of the people who has signed a contract to give significant rights in your land away to Duke Energy for 25 years, without any possibility to reconsider or cancel this contract, DO YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE GOING TO GET FAIR AND EQUITABLE TREATMENT FROM DUKE if Alan O’Shea, lifelong wind power advocate, and tireless advocate for this project, IS JUST A VOLUNTEER.

It makes you wonder what Duke is thinking. How many other “volunteers” does this Fortune 100 Utility have in its Wind Energy division? How much volunteering do you have to get a Duke Energy business card or Duke Energy stationery? What compensation are the rest of these “volunteers” hoping to receive? Are they going to get anything? Maybe Duke will throw them another barbecue, or bake them a cake. Or is Duke just going to hang them out to dry when Duke decides to go away?

It is worth considering.

The AWSG welcomes any further information regarding Mr. O’Shea’s relationship with Duke Energy, including his status as a consultant/employee/agent/volunteer.

Posted in Duke's Pressure Tactics, Raw Deal, This is a Regional Effort, We are not alone | Leave a comment

Wind Turbine Tax Law Change Cost Counties Millions

The article below describes the impact of a recent ruling by the Michigan State Tax Commission that will reduce the amount of property taxes paid by owners of large industrial wind turbines by increasing the rate at which property values are depreciated. As readers may know, Consumers Energy has recently broken ground on an industrial wind power project in Mason County.

You can read the original article here.

Cost of wind farm tax change to Mason County? $8 million

By SAM INGLOT, Capital News Service
and Steve Begnoche, Ludington Daily News, Managing editor

LANSING — Michigan counties with wind farms stand to lose millions of dollars in property tax revenue due to a recent change in tax policy. In Mason County, Lake Winds Energy Park being constructed by Consumers Power could see its tax bill reduced by about $8 million over the next 20 years.

Wind turbines are considered industrial personal property and taxed on their market value, said Rep. Kurt Damrow, R-Port Austin. Formerly each turbine’s tax liability was based on 100 percent of its value for the first year and depreciated over 15 years until bottoming out at 30 percent.

But the State Tax Commission changed the tax code in early December so that turbines are now taxed at 80 percent on the first year and that drops to 30 percent within five years, Damrow said.

The loss of tax revenue is significant in counties where large wind farms are under development.

In Mason County, construction has begun on Consumers Energy’s first wind park. Lake Winds Energy Park will consist of 56 turbines when it begins generating power in 2013.

The change will result in a loss of $7.8 million in once-anticipated tax revenues over 20 years, said Fabian Knizacky, county administrator for Mason County. Originally Consumers Energy said the county would receive $29 million over 20 years.

“At this point we’re trying to find out what the justification for the change is,” Knizacky said. “We have not received any justification from the tax commission other than the fact they said that they evaluate valuations from time to time and adjust to more current values.”

The State Tax Commission adopted a new set of equations for determining the value of property, said Terry Stanton, director of communications for the state treasury.

They were adjusted to reflect changes in market prices of turbines purchased in the past. He said replacement costs due to wear and tear and old technology were factored in as well.

Consumers Energy has told the county and the Ludington Daily News that they were unaware of the tax change until recently and that they were not advocating for the shift.

“We had no involvement in this. We had no request,” Dan Bishop, Consumers Energy spokesman, said Friday evening.

Bishop said, based on current tax tables, “We’re still talking about $21 million in new tax benefits for (taxing agencies) in the county.”

And, he said, the about $230 million project is only part of Consumers total of $1 billion in investment in Mason County in the coming decade. Starting in 2013, Consumers will undertake an $800 million refurbishing of the Ludington Pumped Storage Plant. Bishop said this is the biggest investment the company is making anywhere in Michigan.

“At this particular time we’re hoping Consumers Energy, through their good neighbor philosophy, will consider to reimburse Mason County at the full level that was anticipated,” said Lewis Squires, chairman for the Mason County Board of Commissioners chairman.

Squires said the money would go to schools, senior citizens and other community projects.

“That’s a sizeable chunk of revenue that we were looking forward to distributing to the necessary agencies that needed it,” he said.

While bothered by the change, county officials are still looking forward to the revenue that the wind park will generate.

“It may reduce the amount of money we’ll be getting, but it’s still new money,” said Joseph Lenius, vice chairman of the Mason County Board of Commissioners.

“It sounds like it’s somewhat of a compromise due to the fact that if they didn’t do that, they’re looking at doing away with the property tax on commercial personal property,” Lenius said. “That would have meant the wind turbines would not have paid anything.”

State Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama, said the legislature is trying to reform personal property tax law in Michigan and wind towers present a special case since the towers are personal property and their bases are real property. The thought now is to move them into the class of property called utilities and not include utility property in the personal property exemption, meaning personal property tax would still have to be paid on them.

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The copyright of this article is owned by the author or publisher indicated. Its availability here constitutes a “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act, as part of the Arcadia Wind Study Group’s efforts to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of wind power development to a global audience seeking such information.

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December Township Meetings

Arcadia
Planning Commission – Wednesday, December 7 – 7:00 pm
Board – Thursday, December 8 – 7:00 pm

Pleasanton
Planning Commission – Monday, December 5 – 7:00 pm
Board – Monday, December 12 – 7:00 pm

Joyfield
Board – Thursday, December 8 – 7:30 pm
*** Note change of day

Blaine
Board – Tuesday, December 6 – 7:30 pm
Planning Commission – Tuesday, December 13 – 8:00 pm

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