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Wind turbine proposal for Puget metro area could show hypocrisy

Green energy is very popular these days with this state’s politicians, as demonstrated this week by Gov. Chris Gregoire in granting final approval for a wind power farm in central Washington’s Kittitas County.

For sure, cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels, such as wind power, certainly are desirable to meet part of our growing energy needs.

But the NIMBY (not in my back yard) opposition of local folks seems to carry less weight with those who have the final decision when the proposal is for green power projects in relatively sparsely populated areas.

The cross-Cascades “wind funnel” over Snoqualmie Pass and along the Interstate 90 corridor doubtless makes the Kittitas Valley a good location for the wind power project, with its 65 or so wind turbines. Anyone who has lived in Ellensburg can vouch for the nearly incessant wind blowing in across the pass and down the valley.

The wind turbines will likely be humming nearly every day to produce the anticipated 100 to 150 megawatts of electricity by Houston-based Horizon Wind Energy. But strong local opposition to this project ought to have counted for more than it did with the governor and the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which preceded her in approving the project.

The Kittitas County commissioners voted unanimously against the project last year. Neighboring residents have argued against it for several years.

They all contend the wind farm will have negative environmental and visual effects. Maybe their environmental objections don’t count as much as those of others.

The project was also opposed by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., in whose congressional district the site is located. ‘This decision is the governor’s alone to make, and the governor seems very confident she’s right and the local elected leaders are wrong,’ Hastings said this week.

Gregoire, while acknowledging the local objections, said those were outweighed by benefits to all Washingtonians. Hmm. We wonder how she would have come down if such a wind power project had been proposed for sites nearby the heavily populated Puget Sound metro area for example, where there’s lots of wind off the ocean and where strong local government and NIMBY opposition was encountered.

We suspect that wind power projects in more sparsely populated Eastern Washington will generally have decidedly more chance of approval by politicians because there are fewer voters affected. And that folks in the Seattle area, for example, will always prefer benefiting from wind turbines that are located in the hinterlands so their aesthetic sensibilities aren’t offended.

Wind power is a good thing, if done right, as a supplement to the fossil fuels we will continue to need for a long time to come. Hypocrisy stinks.

The Chronicle

20 September 2007