Letter to the Editor: January 29, 2018

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Resident says Rush Twp. trustees letting down their constituents

I am writing to voice my opinion on wind turbines coming into our community. I chose to live here with my husband in 2011 when we relocated from Massachusetts. We specifically wanted to be “far from the maddening crowd” of big city life. Rural Woodstock fit the bill. I only wish we had done more due diligence on the county before we committed as we did not realize the magnitude of the turbine projects slated to be constructed. My husband and I were appalled at the sneaky ways that Everpower used to get what they wanted from non-disclosure agreements, misrepresentation of facts, setbacks, and skewed data. Sadly, the once-friendly community has made enemies of longtime friends. Let’s not forget the few who spoke up in disagreement as abutters, only to be duped into signing a “Good Neighbor” agreement for a mere pittance. You cannot put a price on family, health, and community. But Everpower did.
Wind turbines do not belong in an area where there are homes in close proximity. Studies across the nation and globally have pointed this out time and again. Now that the project has been reduced by more the 50 percent – thanks to the efforts of UNU – the plan for the remaining turbines is to install newer, untested models that have a much larger blade span with above ground transmission lines. Let’s not forget that the installation requirement will impact and damage our roads. Then there is the issue of blinking lights, shadow flicker, and noise. These things are behemoths and to think they run silently is ludicrous.
A newly-formed group, named “Champaign County Townships United,” has been formed to continue where UNU left off and documents have been filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB). Of particular concern is that one township chose not to petition to intervene in the amended Buckeye Wind case – Rush Township. The trustees of Rush Township have chosen not to serve the community but to serve the few large landowners referred to in documents as “leaseholders.” I hope everyone remembers this when it comes time to vote.
Paula Higgins
Rush Township

Fighting Big Wind Continues: A New Opposition Group Forms in Champaign County!

Changes in the wind

By Brenda Burns - Managing Editor - Urbana Daily Citizen
January 25, 2018
Midge and Robert Custer stand near one of the out-buildings on their mini-farm on Parkview Road. The tongue-in-cheek message on the roof behind them could foreshadow Downsize Farm’s entry into the latest chapter of the Buckeye Wind saga. Downsize Farm is a Medicaid-certified facility for developmentally-disabled persons. The Custers are concerned about how the operations of a wind farm with turbines sited to the east and the west of them might adversely affect their clients. [photo credit: Brenda Burns of the Urbana Daily Citizen
Champaign County commissioners, several local townships, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and a new citizens group have filed notices to intervene in the amended Buckeye Wind/Champaign Wind project, according to case filings listed on the Ohio Power Siting Board’s website. The deadline for petitions to intervene was Monday, Jan. 22.
Named Champaign County Townships United, the new intervening citizens group formed shortly after learning that a previously-intervening group known as Union Neighbors United (UNU) had reached an agreement with EverPower in December. Neither side – EverPower nor UNU – has divulged the terms of the “confidential” agreement. READ MORE on the Urbana Daily Citizen website HERE:

Editorial in the Urbana Daily CItizen

Turbines imperiled by shifting political winds

After seven years of development, controversy and exhaustive legal examination, the two wind farms planned for Champaign County might soon be put on the scrap heap because of recent state legislation that discourages their construction.

It’s too soon to say for certain because the proposed projects continue to be affected by ambiguity on many fronts, but EverPower’s comments to the Columbus Dispatch on Sunday sounded like the beginning of the end of Buckeye Wind.

“It’s clear this development isn’t wanted here … and it gives us less confidence in where Ohio is moving forward,” Michael Speerschneider, EverPower’s chief permitting and public-policy officer, told the Dispatch. “We’ll take that message to heart.”

After Gov. John Kasich signed legislation on Friday that stops increases in requirements for the use of renewable energy, such as solar and wind, the prospect of any new large-scale wind development in the state probably is gone. The legislation also repealed a rule that had required utilities to get half of their renewable energy from in-state sources. That component has been key to making Ohio-produced wind energy competitive with that in cheaper markets to the west.

Making the wind farms appear to be even more of a long-shot now is an amendment to Ohio’s midyear budget-review bill that will lengthen the proposed setbacks between wind turbines and adjacent properties. The amendment fundamentally shifts where wind turbines can be built. State law specifies that turbines must be at least 1,250 feet from the nearest house. The new amendment measures that distance from the nearest property line rather than the building. Lengthening the setbacks makes it less feasible to concentrate turbines in one area and too expensive to connect them all to the power grid. Kasich’s office hasn’t said whether the governor will veto the increased setback amendment. Wind energy proponents say if Kasich allows the longer setback distance, it will be the end of the line for the wind industry.

Senate President Keith Faber, a Celina Republican, and Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, support the amendment and have said it is crucial to protecting private-property rights of people who do not want a turbine near their land.

According to the Dispatch, as written, the setback legislation appears to grandfather in approved projects such as EverPower’s Buckeye Wind project in Champaign County and its Scioto Ridge project of 176 turbines in Hardin and Logan counties. Both were designed with setbacks measured from neighboring structures.

But Speerschneider told the Dispatch it is unclear whether any of the approved projects can move forward after the renewable energy freeze; any deadline extensions or changes in plans might require the company to adhere to the new setbacks. He said it probably will take a legal challenge to sort the issues out and, after having spent an estimated $10 million to plan, design and engineer its projects, EverPower would have to decide whether the fight would be worth it.

These definitions for what should limit or encourage wind development in Ohio are particularly confusing and annoying for residents of Champaign County. Institutions here, including the Champaign County Prosecutor’s Office, the city of Urbana and the Urbana Daily Citizen, have incurred extreme amounts of staff time and expenses to continue participating in and covering the developments of these proposed wind farms since 2007. In addition, opponents of the wind farms have spent a small fortune attempting to either stop the wind farms’ construction or put severe limitations on them. EverPower has spent significant time and money lobbying in Columbus throughout this process in order to keep Ohio’s terms as friendly to their speculative venture as what was put in place under former Gov. Ted Strickland.

Speerschneider’s comments to the Dispatch are more of the same attempts to manipulate the message in the capital city’s major media in order to keep the project viable in Ohio. EverPower has a history of trying to broadly affect popular opinion by sounding the alarm about any limitations on its projects. Such activity is understandably aimed at preserving EverPower’s business model.

The sad reality is that Champaign County continues to be stuck in limbo as the legal boundaries change with the political winds. Whether or not the wind farms are built here, there will be a sector of this community that feels hurt, betrayed and bitter. It will be another finger-pointing chapter in Champaign County’s history, much like the folklore that surrounds whose fault it was the 68 bypass was stunted decades ago and why other major industries never located here.

The most painful question now is which sector of our community will consider itself the loser in this wind saga – an exhausting drama that has yet to result in any of the millions of dollars in local government revenue or private-sector economic activity that has been used throughout to sell it here. To date, the only measurable result of this seven-year process so far has been mounting expenses and acrimony. We would like to exit purgatory now. Perhaps our escape is nearer now.

County, three townships ask for wind amendment rehearing

From the Urbana Daily Citizen, March 21st, 2014

By Nick Walton


Four Champaign County political subdivisions applied to the Ohio Power Siting Board Thursday asking the board to rehear and reconsider an amendment to the first phase of the Buckeye Wind Farm project.

The four entities seeking a rehearing are the Champaign County Commission and townships of Goshen, Union and Urbana.

In their application for rehearing, the entities express concern about the board’s failure to set forth adequate protection for the county’s infrastructure and other interests related to the project’s development.

Last month the board approved the amendment filed by project applicant EverPower last March.

The amendment to the first phase of the turbine project proposed to adjust the project’s construction staging areas, move one staging area 1.3 miles west, shift the project substation by 1,000 feet, add a new access road, modify four previously approved access roads and move the electric collection line system underground.

In December, EverPower withdrew its request to move a staging area from the intersection of U.S. Route 36 and state Route 814 to the intersection of Route 36 and Three Mile Road. Prior to the withdrawal, the city of Urbana expressed concern about how moving the staging area could affect a sewer line extension to Rothschild Berry Farm on East U.S. Route 36.

In their application, the county and townships contend that the board approved the amendment without hearing about adjustments to construction staging areas, modifications to four previously approved access roads and the movement of the electrical collection line system underground.

“The OPSB erroneously found in its Feb. 18 order that portions of the amendment application regarding adjustments to the construction staging areas, modification of four previously approved access roads and the movement of the electric collection line system underground did not require a hearing because they did not result in a substantial change in the location of all or a portion of the facility,” the application states. “The boards believe that such amendments do result in a material increase in any environmental impact of the facility or a substantial change in the location of all or a portion of the facility.”

When an adjudicatory hearing was scheduled for the amendment last November, the administrative law judge cited the movement of the U.S. Route 36 and state Route 814 staging area, shifting the project substation and the addition of the access road as reasons that a hearing was necessary as the additions could result in a substantial change in the location of all or a portion of the project facility.

During the Jan. 6 hearing on the amendment, legal representatives for citizen petitioners Diane McConnell, Robert McConnell and Julia Johnson objected to the scope of the hearing and moved to allow questions regarding the portion of the amendment application regarding the relocation and burial of electrical lines. This motion was denied.

The county and townships argue that the amendments that were not heard by the board will have significant impacts on the county that were not foreseeable at the hearings on the first phase of the project in 2009.

The local entities specifically state that adjustments to the construction staging areas for utilization in both phases of the project are significant changes and could bring forth traffic concerns.

“In utilizing the same staging areas for not one but two projects – essentially doubling the estimated turbines and construction traffic – there certainly are significant impacts which were not foreseeable in the the approval of the original certificate or in the Buckeye II Wind project and therefore could not be addressed at that time,” the application states. “Also, the relocated staging area may affect the infrastructure in the abutting rights-of-way due to the same concerns.”

Unlike the second phase of the project, the application states there is no condition for the negotiation of a Road Use Maintenance Agreement to the original certificate.

The county and townships also argue that due to the lack of a hearing about some of the changes and additions, relevant testimony was not presented about the positive and negative effects of the amendment’s changes. An example of this would be having the Champaign County sheriff and engineer testify regarding traffic safety and right-of-way concerns not present in the project originally.

Thursday was the deadline for intervenors in the amendment phase to file an application for rehearing. At the time of press, the county and township’s application was the only one that was filed on the board’s website.

In addition to the county and townships, the city of Urbana, citizen petitioners and Ohio Farm Bureau Federation were granted intervenor status in the amendment phase.

The county, townships of Goshen, Union and Urbana and citizens group Union Neighbors United filed motions appealing the board’s decision to grant certificate in the second phase of the Buckeye Wind project last November.

Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 220 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.