On Feb. 8, my wife and I attended the public hearing on Empire’s request to build a wind farm in Southwest Missouri. This was held in Cornell Auditorium on the campus of Missouri Southern State University, and it was well attended. There were two parts to the hearing with the first being questions asked of Empire’s representative and of an official from the public counsel.
Both were informational, but there were problems with the content. It is that content I have problems with, and I will address each individually.
First, the questioners in the first segment seemed to have a conflict of interest as they had a financial stake in the outcome. Mainly, some represented special interests and not the residents of Southwest Missouri. We are talking about individuals who would gain by installing wind turbines or by the lease of land to Empire.
Others represented the Asbury Plant employees, as they would stand to lose if the wind farm goes into production mode by 2020. It was during this discussion that the price tag of $1.5 billion to build the wind farm was brought to light. Empire, with the help of third parties, would have an outlay of $700-750 million, and the rest would be picked up by third-party equity partners. We the residents of Southwest Missouri would have to pay off those parties plus pay off the remainder of the Asbury plant upgrades. The Asbury plant is good for 15 to 20 years of operations and personally is the best option at this time. Asbury is a sure thing, while the wind farm could become a severe liability to the ratepayers of Southwest Missouri.
The second segment was testimony under oath before a commissioner and a judge. It was dominated by individuals who do not like coal. Most stated opinions as fact, and all of it was slanted toward shutting down Asbury and letting Empire build the high-priced wind farm. There was even a Green Party state senatorial candidate, and this debate should not be politicized.
The debate should be about what is best for the ratepayers of Southwest Missouri, and they did not address this issue. It was bash the Asbury Plant, coal and anything else but the ratepayers concern. One lady did address this concern, and she got the loudest ovation from those in attendance. We should pay off one problem before adding more debt onto the ratepayers, but Empire wants to put the cart before the horse. All ratepayers should address their concerns and can do so by e-mail at email@example.com.
One final point was not addressed by the supporters of the wind farm: the ugliness of wind turbines. These structures will tower 250 feet into the air with blades of 100-150 feet, and there will be many of them to generate 800 megawatts of power. Migrating geese, ducks and birds of all kinds will be killed by these blades, yet the environmentalists were in support of this proposal. I would remind them of their initial purpose, and that was to take care of the animals that are here, not to erect structures that will kill more.
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