May 9, 2012

County workshop on wind energy ordinance set for May 11; Planners to hear expert speakers

By Miriam Raftery, East County Magazine, 9 May 2012

(San Diego’s East County)—The County’s Wind Energy Ordinance & Plan Amendment Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) will be reviewed at a special San Diego County Planning Commission Workshop at 9 a.m. on Friday, May 11 at 5201 Ruffin Rd., Suite B. The workshop is a response to Commissioners’ request for more information after evidence presented at an April 13 hearing indicated that wind turbines can result in negative health impacts from audible and sub audible noise, vibrations, and dirty electricity/stray voltage.

The wind industry denies any health issues—but some medical experts and residents living near turbines in other areas contend the health impacts are real.

Barb Ashbee, Coordinator for Victims of Wind, based in Ontario Canada, and Samuel Milham, MD, MPH, author of Dirty Electricity, will be among speakers sharing first-hand knowledge at the Workshop. Milham has taken measurements documenting dirty energy levels 1,000 times normal in buildings near one local wind facility.

The ordinance proposes changes to the newly adopted General Plan Update, Boulevard Community Plan and Zoning Ordinance to facilitate the placement of hundreds of industrial scale turbines in close proximity to homes, businesses, and sensitive resources in the San Diego’s scenic fire-prone and biologically sensitive backcountry–with Wind Resource Areas designations proposed from the Mexican border to the Riverside county line.

Additionally, the Planning Commission hearing on the Major Use Permit for Iberdrola’s 15,000 acre Tule is set for 9 a.m. on May 18. The County could choose to either rely on the CPUC/BLM environmental document to meet their CEQA requirements for its discretionary action under CEQA in consideration of issuing a Major Use Permit (Major Impact Service Utility), as portions of this project are within the County’s jurisdiction, or amend, supplement, and/or prepare additional documentation to meet its environmental compliance needs.

Two residents’ groups, The Protect Our Communities Foundation and Backcountry Against Dumps, recently put San Diego County and the California Public Utilities Commission on notice that placing large wind turbine projects without proper regard for the public health and safety and financial impacts could make the taxpayers liable for harm to residents and the surrounding environment.

Globally renowned wind turbine noise expert, Richard James previously submitted extensive comments on the Tule Wind project recommending a redesign or denial of the project.

The companies building these industrial wind turbine projects are receiving billions in taxpayer-funded benefits for these not-so-green projects, which also lead to rate increases to cover the expensive and intermittent energy, new backup peaker plants, and related transmission infrastructure upgrades, opponents contend.

Iberdrola insists the turbines do not pose hazards. Harley McDonald of Iberdrola Renewables states that “wind power is safe for humans, and provides vast health benefits through reduction of toxic emissions.”

Both sides cite studies that they claim bolster their case.

Opponents of industrial wind facilities in San Diego’s East County contend that not only are such projects eyesores and potential health risks that would destroy public lands, but that they are not necessary to meet renewable energy goals.

For example, PG&E now pays less for power from moderate-sized rooftop solar projects than it does for wind energy, according to the California Public Utilities Commission.

“Point of use generation is a better, less expensive and less destructive solution,” Tisdale concludes.

“Our rural East County communities are facing industrial transformation with the potential for hundreds of towering and churning industrial wind turbines surrounding, and looming over, virtually all of our residential neighborhoods and along most of our ruggedly beautiful ridgelines.” – Donna Tisdale, Protect Our Communities Foundation

View a map of industrial-scale renewable energy projects proposed for East County, including many at formerly protected Cleveland National Forest and Bureau of Land Management public lands.

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