KEYSER – With gavel in hand, Mineral County Commission President Cindy Pyles gave each of the nine people who had signed up to speak about the decommissioning report and proposed escrow agreement with U.S. Wind Force exactly five minutes to plead their case Tuesday.
Appointments for those who had asked to speak had been set up at 15-minute intervals, from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., taking up a large portion of the regularly-scheduled Mineral County Commission meeting. Pyles made it clear, however, that each speaker would be kept to a strict time limit.
“Let me make something perfectly clear,” she said before calling the speakers to the commission table. “You will not get 15 minutes; you will get five.
“If you go over that or if you start to repeat something that we’ve already heard, I’ll bang this gavel,” she assured them.
Three of the nine spoke against the project.
Frank O’Hara, chairman of the Allegheny Front Alliance, likened the decommissioning study – completed by G.L. Garrad Hassan and released to the public last week by U.S. Wind Force – to “nothing less than snake oil” and told the commissioners if they “buy into it … you could be taking something that
will make future commissioners and residents very ill.”
He urged the commissioners to seek at least two additional independent firms to “see if this study is valid,” and to also seek the opinion of the West Virginia State Attorney General’s Office before the agreement is approved.
Kolin Jan, a Lakewood resident, told the commissioners his goal in the ongoing debate “is about getting the agreement right.
“You need to have a determination from the attorney general to make sure you’re doing this right,” he said.
Greg Trainor, also a member of the Allegheny Front Alliance, took issue with the study’s determination that the scrap value would be worth more than the cost of dismantling the wind turbines once they have outlived their usefulness an estimated 20 years in the future.
Saying the study didn’t take into consideration the cost of “cutting the tubes up into manageable chunks,” he theorized that the scrap would be valued much less if it is not reduced into the form preferred by the buyers.
Six of the speakers, however, backed the project and urged the commissioners to move forward in approving the escrow agreement between the county and Wind Force.
“We overwhelmingly voted in favor of this project after much discussion,”Mineral County Development Authority President Rick Linthicum told the commissioners.
Commenting on the intense debate that has encircled this project, he added that, “If we’re going to subject every business that comes into the county with this same microscopic scrutiny, we’ll never get anyone to come here and bring in the jobs that the people are screaming for.”
Gary Wilson, who owns part of the property on which the wind farm will be built, told the commissioners he’s “looked at the decommissioning study really carefully.
“I’ve also looked at others, and this one is by far the most comprehensive.”
He urged the commissioners to approve the study and escrow agreement, and “the quicker the better.”
Jason Kitzmiller, vice president of All Construction, which he said was involved in the construction of other wind farms, including Ned Power in Grant County, called the decommissioning study “pretty solid.
“In fact, they went into far more depths than needed to be. I think they actually erred on the side of caution,” he said, urging the commissioners to move forward with the approval.
“This project needs to get on and get going,” he said.
Keyser City Councilman Ed Miller also spoke, delivering a letter from Mayor Sonny Rhodes, who could not be present for Tuesday’s meeting.
In the letter, Rhodes encouraged the commission to “proceed with expediency and take the necessary actions regarding the decommissioning study and escrow agreement to allow this important economic development project to proceed to construction.”
Mineral County resident Glen Howell spoke about the recycling issue, offering the viewpoint that the estimated value of the scrap in the study would probably be much more 20 years from now than what Hassan proposed in the study.
“Everything in them can be recycled,” he said.
Dave Friend, chairman and CEO of U.S. Wind Force, also spoke briefly, urging the commissioners to act quickly to approve the agreement.
“Garrad Hassan has presented a reasonable report,” he said. “We’d like to see the project more forward so we can see some jobs come into Mineral County.”
Friend was visibly disappointed, however, when the meeting concluding with no official action by the commissioners on the proposed escrow agreement.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding