NPPD recently released an eight-page insert in many Nebraska newspapers regarding the NPPD R-Project. It seems to be intent on restoring its tarnished public image. The insert contains many statements that are misleading or not factual.
The R-Project will tear through the heart of the Nebraska Sandhills. The Sandhills are a unique and environmentally sensitive area that support a vast array of wildlife, including a number of endangered species. They are unique to Nebraska and most would agree they are our state’s most magnificent natural resource.
Size does matter! NPPD belongs to the 14-state Southwest Power Pool that oversees electrical transmission. SPP documents from 2012 reveal that the R-Project “… has been chiefly proposed to provide access for wind (energy) development in Cherry County …” The cumulative impact of wind energy development will be devastating to the Sandhills’ fragile environment and wildlife. Of great concern is the effect to the whooping crane.
NPPD’s data, created by Idaho consultants who focus on promoting these types of projects, supports the idea of minuscule risks to whooping cranes. However, other experts using more recent telemetry data have shown significant risk to this critically endangered species while engaged in daily low-level foraging flights. Power line impacts are the main cause of whooping crane mortality. NPPD ignores this better science.
The Sierra Club supports wind energy but strongly opposes the R-Project and wind development in the Sandhills. NPPD ignores these concerns.
NPPD touts its public meeting process for the R-Project. What it fails to disclose is the strong opposition by state and federal agencies and private organizations. NPPD ignores the public.
NPPD states that the Power Pool would have another entity build the project if NPPD doesn’t and that Nebraskans would rather that NPPD build it. The Power Pool wants NPPD to build it because NPPD has eminent domain – almost unlimited condemnation authority leaving landowners with significant line-related liability and minimal options. After five years of efforts at easement acquisition, more than 80 miles remain to be acquired. NPPD says most easements are obtained voluntarily. There is nothing voluntary about eminent domain. NPPD ignores this truth.
Siting of the R-Project through the pristine Sandhills is not necessary to achieve enhanced reliability, congestion relief and weather protection. The only goal is wind energy development in the Sandhills with its compounding damage to this vital and fragile ecoregion. Other siting options are available. NPPD ignores this truth.
NPPD spoon-feeds its elected board members. They know what NPPD wants them to know, but the board has done poorly representing constituents. NPPD ignores this truth.
The R-Project now is $5.5 million over budget for the pre-construction phase and projected to be $50 million to $100 million over budget for its construction. NPPD and other Nebraska utilities already produce energy in excess of our state’s needs. NPPD is functioning as a minion of the Power Pool, which is not focused on Nebraska’s best interests. Tax dollars could be better spent. NPPD ignores this truth.
NPPD and its board need to listen to and serve the public, but NPPD ignores this truth.
The author, Brent Steffen, is a retired surgeon from Kearney and landowner and cattle producer near Thedford in the Sandhills.