A public hearing at Tiffin University’s Marion Center was hosted by the Ohio Power Siting Board Thursday afternoon to hear public testimony from area citizens about Republic Wind LLC’s application to develop a 200-megawatt wind turbine farm in Seneca and Sandusky counties.
The wind farm would be made up of 47 turbines placed in Adams, Pleasant, Reed, Scipio and Thompson townships in Seneca County and York Township in Sandusky County.
OPSB staff conducted an investigation of the proposed wind farm and reported 57 recommended conditions to become part of certification issued for the facility if the board decides to approve it, a release from the OPSB states.
Administrative law judges Jay Agranoff and Anna Sanyal presided over the public hearing Thursday, and OPSB chairman Sam Randazzo was present and opened the night with a few short remarks.
“Thanks for coming to this hearing, and I recognize some familiar faces here,” Randazzo said, referring to people who had also testified at the Seneca Wind LLC public hearing in July.
“Regardless of which side you’re on, we know how important this issue is,” he said. “So thanks for taking part in this process.”
After these remarks, members of the public began addressing the board with testimony, while a court reporter transcribed the proceedings and accepted written notes and written testimony on the behalf of the board.
Kathy Yost of Tiffin and Seneca Township spoke about abandoned wind turbines throughout the United States.
“Wind companies’ promises to decommission wind farms have not always happened,” Yost said. “I’ve read testimony from people in other areas who say their well water is almost black from turbine pollution.”
Yost also shared other testifiers’ concerns about the impact that wind turbines would have on local wildlife populations, especially bald eagles, other birds and bats.
“We’ve re-introduced endangered bald eagles to Seneca County, and I worry about how the turbines will affect them,” she said. “And bats are useful to area farmers.”
“I can assure you none of the people living in these areas ever thought they’d be living in an industrial zone,” she said.
Linda Kaufman, who lives in Eden Township, said she was opposed to the project and especially concerned for the people living within the footprint of the proposed wind farm.
“These families would be the ones to bear the heaviest burden and pay the largest price,” she said.
Kaufman also was worried that Apex Clean Energy, Republic Wind’s parent company, would try to reduce the distance wind turbines must be built from properties even further, though she believed the legal distance is insufficient already.
Cathy Limbird of Reed Township focused her testimony on something she said was important to her – possible health effects that industrial wind turbines could cause to residents.
“My background as a nurse involves trying to better the quality of my patients’ lives,” Limbird said.
“I’ve found research done by a cardiovascular physician in Germany where they’ve had turbines for 20 years,” she said, “and they discovered a distinct effect on heart muscle tissue caused by symptoms brought on my wind turbines, which decrease the heart’s function and presents a host of cardiovascular problems.”
Limbird said she was also very concerned with Life Flight’s ability to make emergency landings in the area, a common issue voiced by others at the public hearing Thursday.
“I’m very aware of the golden hour a trauma victim usually has after being involved in an injury accident,” she said. “Without Life Flight, we here in our rural area will take huge steps backwards when it comes to treating victims.”
Dustin Austin of Bellevue spoke about the dangers of developing wind turbines close to sinkholes present near his family farm and other areas in the region, and Lori Riedy concurred that the possible pollution caused by building turbines near karst-heavy land such as that in the areas proposed could be detrimental to her floral business.
William Seaman of Bellevue testified that the backbone of this area’s economy has to do with the electrical grid which provides “reliable and reasonably-priced electricity” for businesses to use, and that he’s concerned what wind energy will do to that electrical grid.
“Companies come to Ohio because we have a reliable electrical grid – we don’t need intermittent sources,” Seaman said.
“At the heart of this is the marginalization of the rural residents of northwest Ohio,” he said, citing other wind project applications submitted in the region along with Republic Wind’s application.
“They hope rural communities don’t have the energy or means to fight the development of these projects,” he said.
Jim Feasel of Tiffin also spoke about concerns for public safety regarding the development of the wind turbines, saying that the safety manuals for the turbines “should be made public without having to reveal trade secrets.”
“Perhaps in the near future local residents will be able to vote on these types of developments, but until a better method for local control of these projects arises, the board should not vote for this,” he said.
There were some speakers who testified in favor of the wind development as well. Roger Walters who lives within the proposed Republic Wind farm development zone said he is happy to see how money from the project can benefit local schools, townships and counties.
“We’re all different, and we look at these things differently,” he said. “I’d rather look at a turbine than a new cell phone tower personally.”
“And my wife and I did a tour of the wind turbines in Paulding County and we found no dead birds and heard no noise from the blades turning underneath the structures,” he said. “I think the birds flying around the turbines made more noise than the noise I wasn’t hearing the turbines make.”
Kip Siesel of Toledo also spoke in favor of the Republic Wind project on behalf of Local 18 operating engineers, who he said have “benefited greatly from these wind projects in northwest Ohio over the past several years.”
“These projects create jobs, and there’s the opportunity for benefits and wages to continue to grow for us because of the wind industry,” he said.
The next step for Republic Wind, LLC’s application is an adjudicatory hearing which will take place Monday, Nov. 4 at the Offices of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, 180 E. Broad St., Columbus. The date of the adjudicatory hearing was moved to November from its original October date.
At the November adjudicatory hearing, Republic Wind, OPSB staff and official intervenors to the case will present pre-filed testimony supporting their positions and will have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses.
After the adjudicatory hearing, the OPSB will schedule a decision for the project at a later date, a release from the OPSB states.
For more information and to view documents filed in the case, including Republic Wind, LLC’s application and the OPSB staff report regarding that application, visit OPSB.ohio.gov and search for case number 17-2295-EL-BGN.
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