Editor’s note: The following letter was written to Mark Christie, chair, State Corporation Commission, and shared with The Recorder.
Dear Judge Christie:
In 1972 while on the staff of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., my wife and I began a search for a place where our four children could have an experience of living close to Nature. Fortunately we discovered a farm in the Blue Grass Valley of Highland County.
Inquiring into the history of the area we learned that the first pioneers came into the county around 1745. The county is the source of the Potomac and the James Rivers. The pioneers coming up the James were primarily of Scotch-Irish and English extraction, and the ones descending the Potomac were predominately Germanic in origin. Both were of sturdy, independent, self-sufficient, resourceful and industrious stock.
Highlanders are proud of their heritage and the land, as attested by the fact that the majority of the current population are descendants of the pioneer families that first settled the county. They are justly proud of the county’s natural beauty with is bluegrass meadows and its awesome forested mountains with a rich, abundant biological diversity.
Highlanders are also acutely aware that they live in one of the last great places, due largely to the diligence paid to the stewardship of their environment. Consequently, Highland is the kind of pristine place in which Sen. John Warner and Sen. Lamar Alexander are on record as opposing the placement of wind turbines.
That was also the opinion of 1,200 residents and landowners who signed petitions [see enclosures] plus 300 persons who had an interest in the county. There were names of 153 persons in favor of the wind development project, compiled by chairman of the board of supervisors. On July 21, 2005 the board of supervisors voted 2 to 1 in favor of the Highland New Wind Development project. It seemed patently unjust that two people could override a vast majority of the people of Highland County.
If the State Corporation Commission grants permission for HNWD to site wind turbines in Highland County a door will be opened for an invasion of developers with subsidies and tax credits. This will lead inexorably to the siting of wind turbines along the Allegheny Front, constituting the first step on a very slippery slope, down which will be a cumulative decline in species population and disruption of delicate relationship among species, culminating in an impoverishment of the bio-ecosystem and increasing species endangerment and extinctions.
It seems to me that we already have sufficient data to justify nullification of the HNWD project based on the post-construction avian studies conducted at the wind facility in Tucker County, W.Va., which revealed large bird and bat kills. There is no reason to think that the results would be any different in Highland since both sites are on the Allegheny Front. Species do not respect political boundaries.
Few people now doubt the reality of global warming and the necessity of reducing fossil fuels. But it does not follow that wind power is a good alternative source when compared with solar with its greater reliability, efficiency and lesser adverse effect on the bio-ecosystem. Would it not be better to use an energy source that does not destroy what it attempts to save?
You and your fellow commissioners have an opportunity to save one of the last great places from what would be tantamount to a rape of Nature, and by so doing you could set an example of reasonableness for others who make decisions concerning the energy crisis.
Let your legacies you leave to your children, grandchildren and to children as yet unborn be that they shall not be deprived of a place where they can experience Nature in all her beauty and complexity.
Orren L.Royal, M.D (Biol.) Capt. [MC] USN [Ret.]
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