To: Mark David Goss
Counsel for NextEra Energy Resources
2365 Harrodsburg Road
Lexington, KY 40504
Re: NextEra Energy Resources
Dear Mr. Goss,
I am in receipt of a copy of your letter of May 13, 2014, addressed to John F. Estill, Mason County Attorney. That letter is reproduced on this page.
While I cannot answer for Mr. Estill (he answers very well for himself), for the Mason County Fiscal Court, the Planning and Zoning Commission or the citizens of Mason County – either in favor of or opposed to wind energy in our area – I can speak for myself.
I find the tone of your letter to be contentious and condescending.
I congratulate NextEra on its success in the wind energy field and appreciate your sharing with us the leadership role NextEra has played in the spread of clean energy generation.
The fact that NextEra has spent the better part of four years and considerable resources analyzing the possibility of a wind energy project in Mason County is evidence of your commitment to researching carefully and with due diligence the viability of such a project.
I hope you understand our community has been on a similar journey: studying, investigating and weighing the consequences such a project would have on our economy, our infrastructure and our quality of life.
While you can reduce your calculations to a profit and loss spreadsheet, our determinations involve much more of the human element.
I also appreciate your forecasts of the dollars and jobs that may have come to Mason County had your project been realized. Those jobs and those tax dollars are desperately needed in our area, and certainly would have been a consideration had our community been given an opportunity to fully discuss the pros and cons of wind energy.
Where you lose me, is in your attack on HB 291, legislation regulating the wind energy industry in the Commonwealth, and your subsequent jabs at “certain public officials” who “conceived, encouraged and sponsored” the legislation. Although you named no names, I am going to assume that your reference was to State Representative Mike Denham, some members of the Mason County Fiscal Court and perhaps members of the Maysville-Mason County Joint Planning Commission.
You attribute their support of HB 291 to pressure from “a very vocal group opposed to wind-generated power in the County.”
You may be correct. Indeed, Rep. Denham and members of the Mason County Fiscal Court reacted to the concerns of their constituents. They listened to folks who had signed leases for turbines on their property and support wind energy development here, and they listened to neighbors who would have turbine generators near their homes and farms.
Simply put: that is their job.
As to the various requirements in HB 291 – including requirements that you disclose certain facts about your project in a public hearing early in the process – the bill was fully vetted in committee and in both houses of the General Assembly. The bill passed on a vote of 38-0 in the Senate and 90-0 in the House. The fact that our esteemed representatives in Frankfort can hardly agree on the time of day would suggest that a slam dunk in both houses reflects a clear intention of our Commonwealth to regulate the wind energy industry in Kentucky.
If you believe the legislation was unfair or overly restrictive, we assume you had an opportunity to say so prior to these lopsided votes.
In fact, there was virtually no law in the state of Kentucky which covered wind turbine construction prior to HB 291, and such projects could not be controlled at the local level. We understand the concept of commercially sensitive and proprietary information on this and other projects, and we understand NextEra’s desire to maintain a certain amount of secrecy. But when companies such as NextEra and Duke Energy come into an area and begin signing landowners to lease contracts and bind those landowners to secrecy clauses, you set the stage for Sunshine Laws such as HB 291 that require public hearings and demand certain information be shared.
Two separate projects in Mason and Fleming Counties have pitted neighbor against neighbor and have challenged all of us to consider the property rights of an individual versus the rights of neighbors to be safe and secure in their homes and to maintain their quality of life in the face of a changing world.
That argument is fundamental to the concept of planning and zoning, and to the ability of a community to set parameters on the acceptable ways an area develops.
Those neighbors – many of them friends for generations – will move past this controversy. Heated rhetoric on both sides will cool, and friendships will be patched.
As to the Planning and Zoning Commission, you may be getting ahead of yourself in predicting what that body of distinguished Mason Countians may or may not have done.
I’ve been at this game a good long time and find such predictions are difficult to make at best and often embarrassing in hindsight.
Like the P&Z commission, this newspaper had not taken a stand on the NextEra project or on the Duke Energy project. We were content to listen carefully to arguments on both sides, gather information and wait for a time when an informed and carefully considered opinion could be offered to our readers.
As it stands, there is no project (at least no project of which we are aware) currently under active consideration in the area.
We appreciate your statement that a reconsideration of the provisions of HB 291, and a more pro-wind stance on the part of officials in Mason County could cause you to revisit your decision to cancel the project.
As in any relationship, there is a get to know one-another stage. Perhaps, like many couples, the more we have learned about each other, the less interested we have become in forming a more permanent bond.
Wind energy development may be right for mountaintops in West Virginia or the windswept plains of the upper Midwest. That does not mean it is right in every location.
We wish you and your client well.
Robert L. Hendrickson
CC: Duke Energy