After more than an hour and half of discussion about the future of May’s Lick and Mason County if a proposed wind farm becomes reality, a compromise of sorts was reached between county officials and concerned citizens.
Nearly 40 May’s Lick citizens attended Tuesday’s meeting of Mason County Fiscal Court to once again voice their opposition to the project, which is centered in southwest Mason County and northwest Fleming County.
Judge-Executive James L. “Buddy” Gallenstein opened discussion by reminding the crowd that at last month’s meeting, he committed to coordinating a conference call with Duke Energy officials. He said the call involved himself, County Attorney John Estill, Assistant County Attorney Jackie Sue Wright, Fleming County Judge-Executive Larry Foxworthy and Fleming County Attorney John Price. As a result, Duke Energy representative Graham Furlong will attend fiscal court meetings in Mason and Fleming counties on Sept. 10.
Gallenstein said everyone from the state Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, to the branch of Duke Energy involved in developing alternative energy through wind turbines agree the project would not be regulated as a utility by the PSC. It was also noted by Estill recent discussions with East Kentucky Power Cooperative officials revealed the utility has not been contacted by Duke Energy about hooking up to its grid line and EKPC is in no way involved in the project.
“We need to know the scope of the project … we need to know the specifics,” Estill said to the crowd, which has been pushing for a county-wide moratorium on the project since May. During the meeting, Estill reminded commissioners and citizens more than once the fiscal court has no authority to pass a moratorium.
“I’m not going to let you do something illegal,” he said at one point.
At the heart of the discussion was how to prevent Duke Energy from making official application to the state and any other government entity to move forward with the project before setbacks and other restrictions could be established within the county.
Estill recommended allowing Duke Energy to speak at the September meeting before commissioners vote to refer the issue to the Maysville-Mason County Joint Planning Commission, which is charged with matters of zoning and planning.
He explained once the matter goes before the JPC, discussion by county commissioners would cease, Duke Energy would not attend the September meeting and formal testimony would be presented by those in favor of, or against the wind turbines at a public meeting as a matter of record, or evidence on the issue. Once the JPC conducts its due diligence and makes its ruling, the fiscal court then would vote to accept or deny their findings.
“I think we are poised and ready to refer it to the Joint Planning Commission,” said Estill.
Joe Pfeffer, May’s Lick resident and chairman of the recently formed Citizens Voice of Mason County spoke on behalf of the group.
“We see now the wheels may be turning,” Pfeffer said in his opening statement, adding answers are still needed on “how tall, how close and how come?”
He encouraged commissioners Pat McKay, Annette Walters and Phil Day, along with Gallenstein to continue research on the topic of wind turbines, beyond the realm of flicker, noise and affects on property values.
“Are these things green energy?” he asked, to which he answered, “Absolutely not.”
He said wind turbines as an alternative energy source are funded through government subsidies, with incentives of carbon credits, and some research shows wind farms produce only 2 percent of electricity.
He also said the turbines themselves use electricity; they leave a carbon footprint due to destruction of property to construct the turbines; and decommissioning of a wind turbine farm could take up to 50 years before the company is required to disassemble them.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions that need to be asked,” he said.
Pfeffer said questions should be asked about how the turbines would affect local law enforcement repeater systems; the flight patterns for law enforcement helicopters searching for marijuana; flight patterns for medical helicopters; the flight pattern of the Fleming-Mason Airport; and telemetry.
“Folks, we are in uncharted waters, why do our elected officials not know this? The stealthy approach is exactly how they (Duke) are operating,” he said.
“Everybody in this county should be concerned, it’s going to be a life changing situation,” Pfeffer said, adding in one Indiana county, a wind farm went from less than 100 turbines to 500 in a very short time span.
“There are so many issues that have not been addressed,” he said.
After further discussion, Walters made a motion to put the matter before the JPC now versus waiting until September. McKay seconded the motion with a call for discussion, which was received with loud applause. McKay advised the audience not to get to excited, because he may not vote in favor of the motion after discussion.
“I’ve heard no facts from Duke Energy on this issue. I want to hear what they say … we’ve only got one side of the story,” McKay said.
“There’s no way we need their plan to establish set backs,” Pfeffer countered.
The tide of discussion appeared to turn in favor of the opponents when Sheriff Patrick Boggs asked why the issue couldn’t move forward versus waiting 30 days.
“Send it,” said Estill, adding the court already seemed predisposed to sending the issue before the JPC in 30 days anyway and it would speed up the process.
Discussion turned more into a negotiation with Pfeffer asking Gallenstein if he could assure him there wouldn’t be an application submitted by Duke Energy that would allow the project to gain final approval. Gallenstein said he could give him that assurance.
McKay then withdrew his second to the motion, ending the courts action to move forward now instead of next month.
“If it pleases you all to hear more information, if this (sending to JPC) prevents you from learning more information … we don’t want to play hard ball, we just want to be protected,” Pfeffer said.
“I guarantee you, next month we’ll take action,” Gallenstein said.
McKay withdrew his second to the motion, ending the courts action to move forward now instead of next month.
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