In response to Nebraska Public Power District President and CEO Pat Pope’s most recent letter regarding the 345kV R-Project I would like to thank him for reiterating my point that the R-Project according to Southwest Power Pool[SWPP] documents from 2012 “…has been proposed chiefly to provide access for wind development in Cherry County …” From the Cherry County Wind LLC website, we see that as early as February of 2011 the Cherry County Wind Energy Committee met with NPPD CEO Pat Pope “to discuss the potential for wind energy in the county… . Mr. Pope gave the committee direction on working with the Southwest Power Pool to help facilitate transmission lines in Cherry County to export energy produced by the area.” Additionally, “in order for wind energy to work in Cherry County the SWPP has to agree to move a proposed transmission line north so electricity can be transmitted out of the county to other parts of the country that need it.”
Clearly, siting of the R-Project is directly related to wind energy development.
Pope points out the secondary goals of the R-Project, those being to increase reliability and relieve congestion. No one has disagreed with the necessity of the project to meet these goals; however, this can be accomplished with alternative routing avoiding the environmentally sensitive and pristine Sandhills of Nebraska altogether. Connecting with the Thedford substation on the 115kV Thedford-Ainsworth line seems to have become a “necessity” when the “necessity” for wind energy development was found to be publicly unpopular. None of the SWPP planning documents indicate a need to connect to the Thedford substation.
Pope seems to have an unrealistic opinion of eminent domain which is seizure of private property with no regard for property rights. Pope states that most easements are obtained “voluntarily” when, in fact, they are mostly garnered from landowners who feel an intense sense of hopelessness and helplessness given the ever-present threat of condemnation and seizure under eminent domain. This is not a willing seller and willing buyer scenario.
NPPD’s one-time payment for a “perpetual” easement is frequently not fair compensation to landowners whose ranching operations are frequently significantly impacted. He states that damage is fairly compensated, however, damage in the fragile Sandhills can last for decades. Their standard easement contracts are much more beneficial to NPPD than to landowners.
NPPD and the SWPP produce electricity in excess of the needs of our state. This excess is pooled and sold out of state to the benefit of public and for-profit utilities of other states. Seizure of private property from Nebraska citizens for the benefit of for-profit entities outside of Nebraska should be repugnant to us all.
Pope also seems to have the opinion that their outside hired easement contractors who pass themselves off as NPPD employees while driving NPPD vehicles, using NPPD business cards, and NPPD letterhead stationary are not using tactics that are deceptive and dishonest. You be the judge.
Pope leaves unsaid the fact that at the multiple public meetings held by NPPD there has been strong and vocal opposition both to siting this massive structure through the Sandhills and to the exponentially compounded damage that will occur to this unique, fragile and ecologically vital area associated with future wind energy development.
There has been strong grass roots opposition to this project since its inception with many, if not most, of the residents of the Sandhills feeling that industrial energy development is entirely unsuitable for this fragile, pristine, and undisturbed wetland ecoregion. U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Nebraska Game and Parks, the Sierra Club, and the Nebraska Historical Society have all suggested alternative routing during the planning phase.
Pope seems to be more intent on “servicing” the public than he is on serving the public. I would suggest to Pope and the NPPD Board of Directors that they not cling to a mistake simply because they have spent a long time making it.
Brent L. Steffen, M.D., Kearney