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Editorial: Supervisors should deny Pattern Energy application for Ocotillo Express

In San Diego earlier this month, the county’s planning commission heeded concerns of residents, environmentalists, tribes and health experts who voiced alarm over harmful impacts of industrial wind turbines. Planners voted to postpone enacting a wind ordinance and more fully study the issues. Their remarks made clear that most planners had serious reservations about potential impacts on human health, wildlife, cultural resources, environment, character of rural communities and public lands. http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9354

This was not the case with planners in Imperial County, who ignored a mountain of evidence as well as legitimate community concerns. Their zeal to rubberstamp a project that promises tax revenues and temporary jobs, along with renewable power, clearly came at the expense of public health and safety, protection of resources on public lands, and the long-held rights of Native Americans. http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9173

Imperial Valley Supervisors should reverse their planning commission’s decision and reject Pattern Energy’s proposed Ocotillo Express wind project. Here are compelling reasons why.

· Setbacks are inadequate and fail to protect public health: Around the world, evidence is amassing of serious health problems in residents living near wind turbines, from heart arrythmias to ear pain. Health issues can be linked to infrasound, dirty energy or ground currents. Public health officials in impacted regions now recommend setbacks of a mile or two. http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9425. On the Manzanita Indian reservation, stray voltage at levels 1,000 times normal have been measured–including inside the tribal hall and tribal church–by an epidemiologist who concluded the harmful voltage is from the nearby wind facility developed by Pattern Energy on the Campo reservation. http://eastcountymagazine.org/sites/default/files/wind-manzanita%20dirty%20energy.pdf and http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/9439 .

PuSafety of workers, motorists and the public are at risk: Turbines have thrown blades and debris capable of crushing a person up to a mile. This project has turbines less than half a mile from homes, some surrounded on three sides. It’s irresponsible to even consider such a thing. Road setbacks are also not enough in the event of a turbine failure. In addition, there have also been 99 deaths, hundreds of injuries and thousands of accidents involving wind turbines worldwide. Now, the wind industry in California is facing scrutiny from OSHA for violating worker safety standards with turbine nacelles that are too small for safety: http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9238, and http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9162, http://www.fairwarning.org/2011/12/wind-industry-accused-of-blowing-off-worker-safety-rule/

Pattern has refused to answer media inquires from ABC 10 News and East County Magazine regarding serious seismic safety questions. Map overlays appear to show the Elsinore fault beneath or extremely close to turbines. A seismic expert we consulted says this site could be capable of liquefaction in a quake. According to the USGS the odds of a 7.0 quake or higher occurring within 50 miles of Seeley (17 miles from Ocotillo) is 23% and a 6.0 quake has an 89% chance of occurring. Building bigger foundations as Pattern now suggests means more habitat destruction and should trigger a new EIR, and it’s questionable whether even that would prevent these 450-foot high turbines with blades the size of a jetliner wingspan from toppling in a major quake. http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9303

· Pattern has a checkered history. Hawaii’s PUC kicked Pattern off a Molokai wind project and ordered Hawaiian Electric to start over with new bidders. According to Molokai News, Pattern acted under “false pretenses.” In Texas, the San Antonio News concluded that Patterns claims about radar reducing bird kills were “neither credible nor conclusive” with no peer review. In Campo, the Kumeyaay Wind facility developed by Pattern blew apart in a storm; all 75 blades on all 25 turbines had to be replaced and many still lie rusting in the field over two years later. Pattern’s parent company, Riverstone, had to pay $30 million in New York for its role in a pension fraud scheme in partnership with the Carlysle Group. Riverstone’s founder, David Leuschen, a former Goldman Sachs executive, paid $20 million for his role in what the New York Times described as a “pay to play corruption scandal.” Carlysle, Riverstone’s joint venture partner, was founded by Frank Carlucci, former Deputy Director of the CIA and ex Secretary of Defense. A book titled The Iron Triangle: Inside the Secret World of the Carlysle Groups, claims that Carlucci and/or Carlysle entities have been accused of wrongdoing ranging from arms scandals to bribery. Are these the kinds of neighbors Imperial County wants or should trust? http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9431

· Pattern Energy has faced lawsuits and protests at projects in multiple states over proposed wind projects. With major tribes, environmentalists and residents organized against this project and filing appeals, the County appears likely to face legal bills to defend against multiple lawsuits if this project is approved. http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9292 and http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9431

· Pattern has been deceptive about the jobs it will create. Initial project documents spoke about 20-30 permanent jobs. A video of Pattern’s executive speaking with your local planners clearly shows him agreeing to guarantee exactly ONE permanent job. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=L05h7XpxMdE&feature=youtu.be . Short-term construction jobs, while appealing in a county with high unemployment, should not come at the expense of long-term harmful consequences to a community.

· Pattern’s bird radar is unproven technology. A careful read of the EIR shows even Pattern admits this is a test. I interviewed an Iberdrola executive, the world’s second largest wind energy developer, and when I asked if radar is effective on individual large birds such as eagles, he replied, “No.” http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9424

Infrasound, dirty energy and ground current can be harmful to animals. There have been die-offs of entire herds of goats near wind farms; chickens lay eggs with shells like jelly, wildlife “disappears” in some areas, noise can interfere with animals communication and force animals to leave their habitat—but where can bighorn sheep go? Photos document endangered bighorn sheep with radio collars on the project boundary. Cattle, sheep and horses have had high rates of miscarriages near turbines. Nobody has studied impacts on human fertility—will pregnant women near turbines have these problems, too? http://www.fws.gov/windenergy/docs/Noise.pdf , http://www.windturbinesyndrome.com/category/what-effects-do-wind-turbines-have-on-domestic-animals-wildlife/?var=aa ; http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/discoblog/2009/05/21/are-wind-turbines-killing-innocent-goats/ ; and http://www.epaw.org/documents.php?lang=el&article=a0

· There seem to be no requirements to hold Pattern responsible if harm occurs such as health issues. In this case, some can be fatal. What if spores for Valley Fever, a deadly disease, are stirred up? Who will pay for loss of life, health, property values—Pattern? Or Imperial County?

· Turbines will overshadow Anza-Borrego State Park, which shares a five-mile border. The former Superintendent, a whistleblower, says State Park employees were muzzled from speaking out about negative impacts though many have serious concerns. Destroying views and recreational areas could also negatively impact tourism. Putting over 120 turbines, each roughly 450 feet tall with wingspans the size of commercial jetliners, is not compatible with a wilderness experience in a state park or a back-to-nature experience in a federal recreation area. http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9161

· Fast-tracking has trampled the rights of Native Americans, who are deeply concerned over destruction of significant cultural resources and sacred sites, and the rights of other citizens. A tribal attorney as well as residents and environmentalists have said they received reams of documents—hundreds of pages—too late to read and respond, in one case on the same day as a key hearing. Federal and state laws designed to protect long-held rights of Native people appear to have been violated. No reasonable person would believe this process is fair or transparent. http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9104

· A poll of our readers found that 86% oppose the Ocotillo Express wind project–and San Diego is where this power would be going via the Sunrise Powerlink: http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9163

· There are safer, cleaner options to “go green” and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E is now paying less for moderate-sized rooftop solar power ($114/MWhr) than for wind energy ($118/MWhr). Solar is dropping to price parity or nearly so. Given the vast hidden costs of wind energy’s harmful impacts, solar on roofs and parking lots–in the already built environment–is by far the better option for the people of California. http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9319 , http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9283 and http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9063.