I commend Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson for recently expressing his opinions about the proposed Pantego industrial wind project. This is an extremely significant Beaufort County matter, and the decision about accepting it should indeed be made on the facts.
My position is simply this: When faced with such important technical matters, county representatives should thoroughly and objectively look at the Big Picture.
Let’s review some aspects of his article that need a bit of clarification:
1 – Mr. Richardson rightly said that there would be some tax money from this development, coming to the county. The first point is that there is absolutely zero dollars guaranteed here. What the developer has said so far is all sales talk. In other communities that wind developers have gone to, developers have ALWAYS finagled a deal with the legislators (e.g. a PILOT) whereby they pay significantly less property taxes than their actual valuation warrants.
2 – More importantly, an objective Big Picture financial analysis is that the NET money coming to the community will be a LOSS. This was explained to the Commissioners over two years ago, and it is based on studies done by independent experts. I have not received scientific information from any Beaufort County Commissioner that disputes the validity of what was presented to them.
3 – The exact same things apply to the job claims: For several reasons, there will be a NET jobs LOSS for the community, due to the Pantego wind project. Why would any Commissioner support a NET LOSS project?
4 – Industrial wind is not “green energy.” That is a marketing slogan made up by the developer and their supporters, which is simply not true. The environmental downsides from the manufacture, assembly and operation of wind turbines are significant. For example, a species extinction expert concludes that wind energy is “among the most destructive” contributors to killing threatened wildlife. There is no confusion here at all: True environmentalists acknowledge these realities, and oppose such industrial wind development.
5 – Mr. Richardson says that this is a “property rights issue.” Do property owners have a right to make a buck while the rest of the community loses money paying for it? Do property owners have a right to make a buck by harming the health of nearby residents? Do property owners have a right to make a buck by undermining the local environment? We are all part of the “community” so we need to make decisions based on what is good for the community as a whole (again the Big Picture).
6 – Mr. Richardson wrote: “John Droz criticizes the Public Utilities Commission for not making a strong case against wind mills… It is not up to this public agency to set policy or to try to defy the legislature.” What he is confused about is that my criticism was primarily against the NCUC Public Staff. This is a special part of the NCUC, which is hired for ONE reason: To represent the NC public. They have zero obligation to satisfy political agendas. Their job is to bjectively speak about such issues as true costs, reliability, etc. When it came to the Pantego application, they did NONE of that.
7 – The Department of Defense Clearinghouse has one primary goal: To promote wind energy. A careful reading of their authorization makes it clear that it is NOT their priority to prevent military base operational issues, or to preserve military readiness. It is all about a political mandate to constrain the military to accommodate wind energy. That is exactly what happened here: The wind developer’s concerns trumped Seymour-Johnson’s. In my opinion, that is a very disturbing state of affairs.
8 – Mr. Richardson is absolutely right when he says this issue is all about greed. Since the community will have a NET economic LOSS, plus a NET Jobs LOSS, we are appealing to the commissioners to take a strong stand against the special interests of a few, and instead represent the best interests of the public.
The ideal thing that Mr. Richardson and his associates can do is to follow the example of Carteret County Commissioners. When they were faced with a proposed industrial wind project in late 2013, they decided to update their Tall Structures Ordinance.
The changes they made were not against wind development, but rather focused on providing protections for the community. The same perspective should be taken for Beaufort County, i.e. their law should be updated to have adequate:
Protections for the health and safety of local families.
Protections for residents near the proposed wind project, to be allowed the quiet enjoyment use of their property.
Protections for the home values of hard-working citizens.
Protections for existing local businesses.
Protections for Beaufort County taxpayers and ratepayers.
Protections for the birds, bats and wildlife in the community.
Protections for the natural coastal resources. And,
Protections for our military brethren, who put their life on the line to defend the very rights that are endangered here…
Once we are clear about the importance of these protections, and what the NET Big Picture actually is, there should be no confusion on this matter.
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