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Pattern Energy: “The bad stuff just goes on and on” 

Credit:  by Andrew Walden | Hawai'i Free Press | www.hawaiifreepress.com 19 August 2012 ~~

Pitching the Big Wind project for Molokai in the pages of the August 15 Maui News, Grant McCargo, Chief Executive Officer and founder of Bio-Logical Capital LLC ratted out his partner:

“Pattern Energy is a leader in environmentally responsible wind energy development and a respected partner. Pattern has led the industry with groundbreaking mitigation measures to protect the environment and cultural resources at other projects. Its management of cultural resource issues at the Ocotillo wind project in California and elsewhere is first rate and is supported by many Native American individuals and groups.”

Pattern’s “first rate” Ocotillo wind farm “supported by Native Americans”? Perhaps McCargo thinks people in Hawaii are too dumb to find out what Native Americans have to say about Pattern’s Ocotillo Wind Farm?

John Bathke, a historic preservation officer for Yuma’s Quechan Indian Tribe told the San Diego Union Tribune May 12, 2012:

“(Pattern) want(s) to put up turbines and destroy and interfere with that reverence and the serenity of what the creator gave them. We’re going to pursue every avenue open to us to fight this.”

A petition signed by over 1500 people reads:

The public land chosen for the project was a migration route for native Americans and is filled with unstudied artifacts. Most of the tribes of the area are opposing this project. Botanists have commented that in few places in the world have such a variety of desert vegetation. And the project area is also a habitat for big horn sheep and golden eagles.

Do we need renewable energy? Of course we do! In Ocotillo the sun shines 360 days a year, but winds are only seasonal. The amount of energy that can be produced at this facility does not justify the destruction of an established community and its surroundings. Alternatives such as solar rooftop are not even being discussed in Imperial County. This project is being undertaken because Pattern Energy is planning to build on our land and with our money–many millions of dollars in grants, loan guarantees and tax credits.

Sound familiar? There’s more.

East County Magazine March 23, 2012 reports:

Speaking at a renewable energy conference March 16 at the U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego, Viejas (tribal) Chairman Anthony Pico voiced frustration and outrage at a fast-track process (to approve Ocotillo) that he believes has violated numerous laws.

“A fast-track process favoring renewable energy projects without regard to all classes of environmental impacts will result in irreparable harm to federal public lands that are sacred to tribes,” Chairman Pico warned. He added that pressures from the highest levels of the federal government “has caused those engaged in the management of public lands to abandon all common sense, their responsibilities to tribes pursuant to the United State trust obligation, and the duties and responsibilities delegated to them under relevant law.” …

More than 400 archaeological sites and six burial sites have been documented on the project site thus far, as well as ceremonial sites, agave gathering sites, and more. An ancient spokes wheel geoglyph is listed on the National Register of Historic places. It is slated to be destroyed, along with additional geoglyphs and other areas dear to Native Americans’ hearts and spirits.

Congressman Bob Filner, speaking at the energy conference hosted by Sycuan (tribe) at the U.S. Grant Hotel, also denounced the project. “I’ve stood with tribes and those who have a more intelligent approach to energy projects intruding on our environment and destroying sacred lands,” he said.

Experts retained by Viejas have called the Ocotillo wind project “the worst example that they have ever seen,” Pico revealed.

In April, Imperial County Supervisors approved the project 4-1. East County Magazine April 23, 2012 explains:

(Imperial County) Supervisor Jack Terrazo, who cast the sole “no” vote, said the project “scares me” because he fears Pattern may abandon the project if it proved unprofitable and leave the turbines. Pattern has a checkered record that includes being thrown off a project by the Hawaiian Public Utilities Commission, reportedly for acting under false pretenses. A Campo, California wind farm built by Pattern blew apart in a storm and needed all 75 blades replaced; litigation ensued and rusted turbines continue to litter the site two years later. Pattern’s parent company, Riverstone, and its founder paid $50 million to settle a public pension fraud case in New York. Terrazo wanted to be sure that they had a bond to cover decommissioning the project….

Abandon the project? Rusted turbines? That surely would fit the “patternin Hawaii.

Pattern Energy is the former North American wind farm division of Engineering firm Babcock and Brown. International Energy investment fund Riverstone Holdings financed Pattern Energy’s emergence from the bankrupt B&B group in July, 2009. Pattern’s top executives come intact from the old B&B operation. Pattern’s website doesn’t seem particularly proud of the Babcock and Brown connection, but they do portray themselves as pioneers in tax equity investing—the system by which tobacco companies, Wall Street brokerages, banks and insurance companies legally avoid paying income taxes by ‘investing’ in wind farms.

In 2001, our executive management team started developing wind and transmission projects under a previous employer. A year later, Pattern’s management pioneered a financial structure that enabled institutional tax investors to invest efficiently in wind projects developed and owned by companies like Pattern, which had a small tax base. Prior to this new structure, operating assets in the U.S. wind market were owned predominately by utilities – companies that could use the long-term tax benefits (production tax credits). The majority of wind companies in the U.S. followed Pattern’s lead and have used the same or a similar financial structure.

Is Ocotillo a sign of things to come on Molokai? Behind the name lies the answer:

Our name, “Pattern”, reflects our approach to what we do. We actively seek and find patterns in all aspects of our business: wind currents, electrical grids, risk mitigation, site locations and financial models. These patterns help us identify opportunities, build tools, select technologies, and create solutions that yield successful, high performance projects.

By re-examining established practices, we discover new ways to approach them. We discern patterns through a systematic and scientific approach, but we count on our practical know-how and industry experience to convert them into projects that perform. When we find profitable patterns, we repeat them. This cycle of discovery, deduction and development is a pattern we plan to keep repeating.

That begs the question—what pattern can be discerned in Pattern’s other US developments?

Regarding Pattern’s Northern California Hatchet Ridge Windfarm, Indian Country Today June 20, 2012 reports:

Geothermal and wind power are good, right?

You might hear a different reaction if you broach the subjects with members of the Pit River, Modoc, Shasta, Karuk, Wintu and other Tribes who hold sacred the region northeast of Mount Shasta, in California. That’s because one project there, a geothermal power plant, threatens to alter the landscape of the Medicine Lake Highlands. And another project, the Hatched Ridge Wind Company, has already affected the Hatchet and Bunchgrass Mountains.

These sites are among those being prayed for during the Morning Star Institute’s National Sacred Places Prayer Days. Numerous tribes use the area as a training ground for medicine people. Additionally, the Pit River tribe believes that the Creator and his son bathed in Medicine Lake after they created the earth, and the Creator imparted his spirit to the waters….

Meanwhile, on nearby Hatchet Mountain, Hatchet Ridge Wind Company has built 44 wind turbines on land sacred to the Pit River Nation. Nearby Bunchgrass Mountain is used for vision quests. Though construction has been completed, the Pit River Nation feels the turbines and other structures are in violation of federal law, and continues to protest.

The Las Vegas Review and Journal April 17, 2012 reports that lawsuits blocking Nevada’s Spring Valley wind farm have been settled …

…but environmentalists still aren’t happy with the arrangement.

Rob Mrowka is Nevada public lands conservation advocate for the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity. He said they were forced to settle and try to get as much mitigation as they could once the judge in the case denied a motion to halt construction.

Mrowka said the site is riddled with problems, including its proximity to Rose Cave and to known nesting and brood-raising areas for sage grouse. The wind farm also abuts a sacred Western Shoshone swamp cedar site where Indians were massacred during the Goshute War of 1863.

“It’s just a bad spot,” Mrowka said. “The bad stuff just goes on and on.” ….

In 2010, planners said they expected fewer than 203 birds and 193 bats to die from turbine encounters each year.

The first few turbine towers are being erected near the heart of the vast Spring Valley, which runs north-south for about 110 miles between the Schell Creek and Snake mountain ranges in eastern Nevada.

Each 262-foot tower will hold a rotor with three blades the length of a football field.

Biologists think as many as 3 million Mexican free-tailed bats roost in Rose Cave, about five miles from the wind farm, for one to three days while on their southern migration to Central America from late July through early October. At peak times in August as many as 2,000 bats per minute have been counted leaving the cave, where guano was mined in the 1930s for use in fertilizer and possibly gunpowder.

The wind farm will cover 7,500 acres of public land

Birds and bats are also dying by the hundreds at Pattern’s Gulf Wind project on Texas’ historic Kenedy Ranch. The San Antonio Express News February 27, 2011 explains:

For the first time, Pattern Energy, which owns 118 turbines on the ranch, and Iberdrola Renewables, which owns 168, voluntarily released results of their first yearlong studies.

Pattern estimates up to 921 birds and 2,309 bats were killed between Aug. 24, 2009, and July 31; Iberdrola’s estimates: 1,812 birds and 3,087 bats for the same period.

While the bird killings match the national average, one researcher found the bat killings much higher than expected.

Those who opposed the wind farms are not convinced the studies are credible or conclusive.

The work was paid for by the companies and not peer-reviewed. In their reports, biologists wrote about the challenges of collecting good data with rattlesnakes biting their search dogs and cows that would not leave. The researchers estimate scavengers removed half of the bird and bat carcasses before they could be found.

They also could not get federal permits to collect the species they did find, so many had to be marked as unknown.

After more than a year of submitting forms, the companies received a collection permit last month, said Rick Greiner of Pattern Energy.

After receiving an invitation to Neil Abercrombie’s June 21, 2012 Birthday Fundraiser, Friends of Lanai’s Sally Kaye wrote:

I bet Bio-logical Capital and Pattern Energy, the outfits sniffing around Molokai to profit from building hundreds of wind turbines (and lay cables to and from … well, somewhere), have already signed up. Perhaps Bio’s CEO, Grant McCargo, great grandson of the Pittsburgh “grease magnate” who made a fortune selling out to Standard Oil in 1929, will get a table, maybe even invite Robbie Alm and Keiki-Pua to join him? Grant #3 probably has a little trust fund money to spend on Neil’s birthday. And Riverstone Holdings, parent company of Pattern Energy, that manages something like $17 BILLION in OPM (other people’s money)? I bet they could buy the ballroom.

That’s a ‘Pattern’ too.

Source:  by Andrew Walden | Hawai'i Free Press | www.hawaiifreepress.com 19 August 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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