The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, Jun. 19, 2024

Pros and cons of wind energy

Editor’s note: Mr. Kitson invited me to refute any part of his letter I could, so I have added my comments in italics under each paragraph of his letter, to make it simpler and easy to read.

To the editor:

In your article you said that people who want to live in the rural community in peace and quiet is “sentimental claptrap”.  Would you approve if I brought a huge subwoofer and a bright strobe light and blasted both into your house hours on end while you try to live peacefully?  Would you call the police and ask them to remove the issue? Now imagine me doing that day in and day out and all through the night. That is what you insist on bringing to me and my family.

That’s not what I said. I said a statement the commissioners made in their op-ed piece, and I quote: “My family has lived here for generations and now the rural life we have grown to love is entirely destroyed” was sentimental claptrap. It’s probably exactly what older farmers who were still using horses to plow said when loud and smelly, polluting tractors and combines were purchased by their more technically-astute neighbors. The idea that our rural life would be destroyed by wind turbines, any more than by the invention of tractors and other technology, is hyperbolic, at best. As to the noise of the wind turbines, just about anybody who lives on Washington Street in Van Wert probably hears several times more noise from the traffic that goes by at all hours of the day.

Next, you cite property devaluation as some sort of hoax in industrial wind project footprints. Then you mention the testimony of local realtor Chet Straley as your source. If Chet Straley is right, then why don’t you and Chet advocate for a property value guarantee for everyone in the footprint?  Clearly if I am so wrong about property values then this shouldn’t be any type of issue with Apex. By the way, are land values and home values the same thing? If you want more property value information here are various links that prove depreciation (1, 2, 3, and 4.).  Wind cites the Lawrence Berkley Lab for their study and the slander Michael McCann, an independent property appraiser from Chicago.  The Berkley study can be refuted in multiple sources (1and 2).

I did not call property devaluation a hoax. What I did say is that, although the commissioners cite a fear of declining property values as something they should look at, local realtor Chet Straley testified that, at this point, property values are not declining. I really don’t care whether studies from somewhere else cite declining property values. That’s not relevant to local property values and they seem all right. Furthermore, the idea of guaranteeing property values is ludicrous. So many factors go into valuation of property that only a fool could, or would, do that. Another recession could decrease property values as it did in 2008, and could be totally unrelated to wind energy.

Of course, city leaders that you cite support wind energy. Where do they live? Why is it the city votes down all kinds of tax measures and levies? The rural community could benefit from a city pool for exercise couldn’t we? But we didn’t get to vote on that. The rural community could benefit from proper police and fire services when we are in town, but we didn’t get to vote on the city income tax issue that failed twice. The city school district people voted overwhelmingly to save the football stadium. And now a city leader hints at wind money helping with ballfields. So overwhelmingly the stadium is to be saved, but pay for it on the backs of the rural citizens. Would these city leaders allow a group of investors to buy up plots in their neighborhood and construct a large casino, off track betting, and nightclub? After all, it’s economic development and I assure you the investors would love to donate to the schools. Again, we know what they would say as soon as you bring something controversial to their neighborhood that would impact their quality of life.

First of all, at least two of those business people who signed the letter, Kim Braun and Mark Hiegel, actuall live outside Van Wert. Second, cities such as Van Wert have borne the brunt of economic development forever. If there was land available in Van Wert, we’d likely take on wind turbines as well, since the construction phase alone provides millions of dollars in revenue, and schools and other entities would also gain tremendously from having them. Many rural citizens, like yourself, a local teacher, benefit from city economic development and city residents’ taxes, as well as rural residents’ taxes. If everyone who lived in the rural areas had to find a job there, most of you would be out of work. The Crestview school district is looking at an athletic facility and classroom expansion, much of which could be funded by the more than $2 million the district gets annually from the Blue Creek Wind Farm and the Robert P. Mone Power Plant together. In fact, Crestview could pay for the renovation of Eggerss Stadium with a little more than two years’ revenue from those two sources alone. That’s the power of economic development!

Let’s talk about Blue Creek. It’s a $660 million project; $173 million of that was provided by the American taxpayer in the form of a 1603 construction reimbursement. Thankfully, that no longer exists. Now we just need to get rid of the PTC (production tax credit) that hurts the treasury equally. After all the nice gifts from us, they have the audacity to ask for PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes). This is a straight rip off on the backs of our own community. You want to know how PILOT works? Essentially taxable property is assessed at 25 percent of the full value. That leaves $165 million in taxable capital. The pro-wind crowd will say that’s not how an entity like Blue Creek will work. Why not? Now apply the local township tax rate to that $165 million. On average that is around 6.5 percent or so in Van Wert County. So at that rate Blue Creek, without PILOT, would be paying the county entities between $10-11 million a year. They pay between $ 2.1-2.7 million. Great, an 80 percent tax break and the rural folks get unbearable noise, shadow flicker, infrasound, tile, and drainage issues, and home value depreciation. That tax break does depreciate over time because the value of the project depreciates. So over the life of the project we are talking around a 50 percent tax break on top of the other subsidies and tax incentives our government gives wind. Boy doesn’t that just sound great for us. It’s great if you are a landlord getting paid or a city resident that won’t live under it.

Yes, let’s talk about Blue Creek. The 25 percent assessment of the project is about the same as was done for the Mone Power Plant. However, the Mone peaking plant (which is likely less efficient than wind turbines), had a 95 percent property tax abatement the first 10 years, when it paid less than $300,000 in PILOT revenues annually for a facility valued at $85 million at the 25 percent mark. Now, the plant pays more than $1 million a year in taxes, which seems pretty similar to the wind farm, which pays about twice as much in PILOT revenue and is valued at about twice as much for tax purposes. As to the federal subsidies, that’s a federal legislative issue we can’t impact here. The good news is we’re getting that federal tax money back, as well as other peoples’ federal taxes paid to wind energy companies, because we have a wind farm.

Of course the citizens who stand to be directly and negatively impacted deserve a say. You want to site industrial electric generators in areas that are purely zoned agricultural/residential.  That is why they call it a wind “farm”. What an oxymoron. This isn’t agriculture plain and simple. When you live in the city limits, you willingly live next to areas that are zoned for industry. When you live in the rural community you willingly live next to areas zoned agriculturally. Nothing in the rural community is zoned industrial.

I disagree strongly with this argument. No local resident who is not a government official currently votes on economic development issues. City people don’t vote on whether to locate a plant here, and city residents don’t likely willingly live next to a plant or other business, which may or may not have been there when they purchased their house. Did the rural residents who live next to the Cooper Farms Cooked Meats plant vote on it being there? No, they did not, and while the odor from plant can be unpleasant, it is more than offset by the jobs and tax revenues the plant provides to the county. Also, Cooper Farms likely received a substantial tax abatement to locate the plant here. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), while technically agricultural, are, in my mind, quasi-industrial facilities that include a number of negatives for their neighbors, but those neighbors didn’t get to vote on whether they should be there or not.

Finally, nobody can answer this for me from the pro-wind crowd. One, name any type of zoning where an industrial structure is measured to the foundation of another person’s home. There isn’t any type of zoning like that where agricultural/residential zoning exists. Two, prove with independent, peer reviewed science, that 1,125 feet to a property line is safe even though the wind industry cries that it is restrictive. Here is a studythat proves that a 300-foot turbine can sling debris over 1,700 feet from a physicist.  Other recommendations based on safe setbacks can be found in many other places too (1, 2, and 3).  Would you or city leaders allow this unsafe setback to threaten your property or family? Finally, wind constantly discredits health effects that people complain about. Why are all these effects listed in their leasing agreements admitting they are true? When you sign the contract you have now agreed to be “gagged” into not speaking negatively about the turbines. What blatant hypocrisy. Independent studies show wind turbines do affect people’s health and you can read that in many places (1, 2, and 3).

The only thing I will say about setbacks is that Ohio, unlike a number of other states, has a fairly involved permitting process for all energy generation facilities, including wind turbines. State officials or those they contract with have looked at a variety of potential issues, such as noise, blade vibration, etc., before establishing the setbacks. Now politicians have decided those setbacks are too small. Are they more qualified than the OPSB to decide that?

Do these things sound like “sentimental claptrap” to you now? Since when did money and greed trump everything else in our community? Since wind deviously invaded six years ago, that’s when. This community is beyond repair. And now we have clear collusion and corruption to elect a candidate that has significant personal money to gain. And we trash the honest men who think the citizens should have a say on what affects them the rest of their lives. Choosing to live in a city or the rural community comes with different expectations, industrializing the rural community isn’t one of them.

Don’t for a minute believe that revenues just became important with the wind farms; that’s what economic development is all about. Clear collusion and corruption? Not sure what that refers to, but I know that the pro-wind candidate has already stated that, if voting for wind projects was a conflict of interest, she would abstain from voting on such issues. From what I know, it likely would not be an issue if she does not receive more in compensation than anyone else leasing land for a wind project.

Jeremy Kitson

Citizens for Clear Skies

Dave Mosier

Van Wert independent

POSTED: 04/20/18 at 7:41 am. FILED UNDER: Letters to the Editor