Imagine looking out the window one morning and seeing a herd of elephants in your yard. They say, “Hi, we’re now part of your garden.” Or coming home and finding the entire roster of the Pittsburgh Steelers crammed into your house. They announce, “Hi, we’re now part of your household. What’s for dinner?”
That’s kind of how I felt when I saw the AES advertisement announcing they were part of the community.
At the public forum held by the Randolph County Commission back in September, an AES representative told us to check their Web site to see what good neighbors they were in Cumberland, Md., where they have a coal-fired generating facility.
Some people went home and looked at a lot of Internet sites about AES – not rumors and hearsay, but wire service news stories, litigation, the CEO’s salary and what they tell stockholders. When I looked, AES had just sold a coal mine and a coal-fired plant. They were telling Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski that her constituents would be sitting in the dark if she didn’t push for the construction of a huge port at Sparrow Point to accommodate huge AES liquid natural gas tankers.
At the commission’s forum, someone told us that if the Laurel Mountain project were stymied, we’d all be complaining when we were sitting in the dark. Remember back in 1978 when we were told the same thing for the Davis Power Project?
So look for yourself. Why were 5,000 people marching against AES last August in Costa Rica? Why did AES and Enron turn off the electricity to a million people in Brazil?
It seems to me that if AES and other giant wind turbine companies wanted to be part of a community, they would arrive in a straight forward manner and give people the opportunity to get a lot of information before being handed lease and ground water rights contracts. According to the AES proposal, they began signing contracts in 2005. I hope the holdouts never sign. According to assorted others, AES began speaking with selected individuals, agencies and officials at about the same time, making the pitch for tourism, jobs and money. Who knows?
Another AES ad touts tourism. This tactic was discussed, and I hope debunked, in an earlier letter to this paper.
Another AES ad touts jobs. AES has always been careful to say that they would not be building the proposed project. It would be bid out and that entity would be providing jobs. Limestone and cement might be the only West Virginia input.
The acquisition of a handful of permanent jobs would seem an unfair return to the community to compensate for traffic inconvenience for residents and travelers, destruction in the old Weaver Road and landfill areas, construction of a 36-foot wide road up the mountain (wider in steeper places) and across the ridge to accommodate the cranes, tractor-trailers and equipment, difficulties with air traffic and a long list of noise, temperature, geologic, hydrologic and ecologic consequences.
The giant wind turbines on Backbone Mountain provide no electricity to Tucker County, just as the proposed Laurel Mountain project would provide no electricity to Barbour or Randolph counties.
Currently, we have just started the 20-year payoff of .0044 cents per kilowatt (it’s labeled “environmental fee”) for the installation of scrubbers on the Fort Martin power plant. Allegheny Power has proposed meandering high voltage power transmission lines to carry more electricity out of the state. Should it be approved? Will it add to our bills? Which legislators told the West Virginia Public Service Commission that the line would be OK if the fees were postponed?
In September, AES said one reason for proposing the Laurel Mountain project was the existence of a high voltage line across the mountain and the fact that they would be able to feed into the Belington substation. But, in the proposal to the PSC, AES has a brand new substation adjacent to a brand new Allegheny Power “Leadsville switching station” and a new connecting line to the Loughs Lane-Pruntytown circuit. Now, who do you suppose would be asked to pay for that?
As for the tax credit question, the giant wind turbine and giant solar array developers are banking on Congress to continue their tax credits. They have millions to spend on lobbyists. You can send you message. The entire carbon cap and carbon trade scheme is a giant shell game run by corporations.
Another AES ad I recall said, “Who is AES?” And therein lies the basis of our problems. “Who?” In his column, perhaps David Turner can address the amendment which gave corporations the same rights as individual citizens. Some citizen groups are out to repeal that amendment.
Regarding Mr. William L. Edmonds’ statement about the PSC extending the deadline for comments, the PSC didn’t. In their Jan. 3 letter to the PSC, AES lawyers requested “that the commission waive hearings if no substantial protest is received … .” That was the initial 60-day period, the PSC did receive substantial opposition letters and so the procedures, set by law, continue. This current phase of comments runs until July 23.
I agree with Mr. Edmonds that people should read all they can about these projects. The reading should not be restricted to information from Allegheny Power, AES, other similar corporations or their American Wind Energy Association. Groups of citizens around the state, country and world have spent millions of dollars and hours trying to get information on giant wind turbine facts and problems out to the general public. It is difficult. Look at two local Web sites, www.laurelmountainpreservationassociation.org and www.windtoons.com. Friends of Beautiful Pendleton County, of Blackwater, of the Allegheny Front, etc., have Web sites. See www.windwatch.org, wind-action.org, responsiblewind.org for news, many links, slide shows and videos. Keep checking up-to-the-minute news and the PSC Web site to see what’s happening.
Some viewers think the giant wind turbines are beautiful. That’s fine. It’s a personal opinion, a value judgment. It’s not a reason to build them. See information on “aesthetic dissonance.” Talk to the people who live with them.
Regarding forests, West Virginia forests, despite arson, wooly adelgid, gypsy moth and beech bark disease, are still in pretty good shape. Our trees and mountains are our identity. They sequester carbon, produce oxygen, keep the water cycle going, prevent drought and provide jobs, hunting opportunities, nuts for our cookies and food for wildlife.
If we were to cut swaths for proposed giant power lines to service the thousands of AWEA giant wind turbine sites, our forests would be dramatically altered forever. Many people are already dismayed by the increasing proliferation of wide cuts through the forests.
No one is saying Laurel Mountain is pristine wilderness. It’s not. It is a mountain. It doesn’t deserve to be turned into an industrial site. Aside from a corporation’s quest to make more money, there is no need for the giant wind turbines. I’m not a NIMBY. I’m a NIABY – not in anybody’s backyard. But mostly, I’m a YIMBY. Be positive. Put your government stimulus money into further weatherizing your home and continuing on the road to energy independence.
4 July 2008
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