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Wind firms can’t expect indefinite patience from county

It’s not surprising that a plan to install wind turbines in Northumberland County has stalled out amid a tough economy and the nation’s slow acceptance of alternative energy.

Still, Northumberland County can’t be expected to continually renegotiate deals and wait indefinitely to earn anything on behalf of the taxpayers for its part in the investment.

Sunbury-based Penn Wind LLC got a sweetheart deal originally in signing a $1 per year lease for 900-plus acres on which it intended to build the turbines on county land south of Shamokin. When he got in office, Vinny Clausi saw to it that a new lease was negotiated that promised the county $56,000 per year – the first payment due this April 20 – until the windmills were operating, and then switching to 6 percent of the gross revenue – expected to be $120,000 to $150,000 per year – going forward.

County officials were told Tuesday they most likely wouldn’t get the $56,000 in two weeks, and it seems Clausi and fellow Commissioner Stephen Bridy are in agreement that the lack of payment spells an end to the lease, although the third commissioner, Rick Shoch, seems amenable to working a new deal.

At the time of the last renegotiation, Penn Wind said it was considering sale of its project to a firm for $1 million. That lucrative dollar amount, in part, is what drove Clausi to get more for taxpayers. Now, Penn Wind says a different firm is invested in the project, but it wants to renegotiate the lease for $2,000 per year for what is now 400 acres. Clausi and Bridy, knowing the potential windfall for the owners should these turbines eventually begin spinning and generating electricity, is great, and that a $5 per acre offer on the lease is a slap in the face to taxpayers.

We agree.

Perhaps there would have been room for negotiation if, after all this time, a company involved in a multimillion alternative energy project could have come to the table with a modest $56,000 “down payment.” The wind firms still offering peanuts to the masses while trying to build their own profitable enterprise is a stance that is only going to prolong the stalemate.