I live in the southwest corner of what will be the Walnut Ridge Wind Farm. Up until mid-February 2011, I was all for green energy (wind power). Yes, I was willing to put my way of life on the line for the greater good of clean energy. I trusted my neighbors, my friends, my local zoning boards, my county board to look out for my best interest. I had seen maps of the coming wind farm in the spring of 2008. I knew it would take some adjustment on my part, but the good things this brought to our communities would be well worth it. No, I didn’t stand to make any money, but my good friends and neighbors did, and I was happy for them.
I went to my first Bureau County zoning meeting on Feb. 17, 2011. I hoped to be reassured at that first meeting that my property values were going to be OK with the coming turbines. Nothing I learned in the last two months has been at all reassuring. Our property values will likely go down. A study done in Dodge and Fond de Lac counties in Wisconsin showed a 12 to 47 percent decline depending on proximity of turbines. The property value was not even the worst of what I learned. What I have seen and learned since the middle of February would make you all sick no matter what side your are on.
We were sold this whole idea of wind power with lies and half truths. Yes, wind power will bring tax dollars to your area (schools and fire departments, etc.) It is a short-term, decreasing tax. There is big money to be made by these wind farm companies. A lot of the money they make comes from you, Joe Taxpayer (stimulus money, green energy bill, tax credits, extra cost on your electric bill). The list of how WE, the taxpayer, pay for this is very long. I am still learning, but the money trail out of our pockets is beyond comprehension. As a taxpayer, I am enraged. You may say, “I don’t live by a wind farm; this does not effect me,” but you will still pay the taxes and the higher costs. So far, what I have learned is this looks like a shell game, and we all got took. These big corporations are coming in all over the country splitting communities and walking off with our cash. Illinois is not even rated a good wind state. It is inefficient; that means lower profits. Wind farms are business like nothing we have ever seen before. Our local wind farms are bought and sold regularly by people who will only obey our state and local laws if pushed by loss of profit.
As for jobs, they are mostly temporary, with the exception of a few people left behind with no authority to fix problems we may encounter. The money all these jobs bring to our community (even at union wage) will pay less than one or two big farmers will lose in property value.
The actions of Big Sky Wind Farm up by Ohio are appalling at best. No, I am not repeating hearsay; I have watched them in action at our county zoning meeting. Sixteen families have had problems; they have been in mitigation for months. Only when it looked like the Walnut Ridge Project might be in trouble did Big Sky try to address problems and months of so-called mitigation. These 16 families received letters stating that they may get money and resolution only if they sign. Company spokeswoman Karen House said in an open meeting, this is not called a gag order. But when questioned, she admitted it to be the same. Karen House of the Edison Mission Group (from Big Sky) told us at that meeting that signing this paper to keep quiet is standard procedure within the industry for anyone they do business with.
This gag order concerns me no matter what name they put on it. I believe the gag order practice is why people in our communities are not speaking up, neighbors and fellow church members and even families have stopped speaking. Because lease owners signed this confidentiality statement, they are at the mercy of whoever owns the wind farm on their land. These are not good people; you do not want to be at their mercy.
Shame on us all, for putting the Bureau County Board in such a lousy position. As taxpayers and rural residents, we should have all been paying more attention. No matter what side we are on, we are all taxpayers. Legal expenses for all this will be another taxpayer’s nightmare. Our county board can’t please everyone on this issue. If they stop everything now and rewrite the zoning rules for wind energy, maybe they can plug enough loopholes to protect us all. Because our county board was trying to encourage new business, they now have their hands full. None of us could have predicted the push that is presently going on to get the last of the stimulus money before the Congress tightens up. To protect all the citizens of Bureau County, our zoning rules must be tighter; big business is too good at finding loopholes. Promises have not been kept, property values need to be protected, and people’s constitutional rights are at stake. Reports are coming in from all around the world on human and animal health and safety issues due to living near large turbines. These health and safety reports have to be checked out. Another fear is wind farms will be left standing with no buyers when the money stops. We need to update our decommissioning plan to protect our farmers.
I still believe in wind energy, but whenever there is this much money involved, people have to be watched. Green energy should be responsible as well as profitable. Please encourage the Bureau County Board to take the time it needs to protect us all. As a lease owner you may think you don’t need protection, but from what I have seen, you may not need it now, but you will.
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